By Gabriel Chy Alonta
The massive graduate unemployment crisis currently rocking the country’s economy has been cause for worry as tertiary institutions in the country unrepentantly churn out large numbers of graduates annually.
With the situation looking far from being effectively tackled overtime, different institutions of higher learning have been calling for strong entrepreneurship courses and programmes that would equip their students with requisite skills for self-reliance upon graduation.
The different entrepreneurship programmes – youth entrepreneurship in uncertain environment, identifying business opportunities, how to develop entrepreneurial mindset, among others, formed the crux of discussion as the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies (COCES), in collaboration with Chike Okoli Foundation organised the 9th edition of ‘From Rags to Riches”, aimed at exposing participants to the benefits of entrepreneurship.
The event, which took place last Tuesday at the COCES Auditorium of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state, was themed ‘Entrepreneurship… making your passion your paycheck’ and attracted dignitaries from all walks of life, Orient Education reports.
Delivering a lecture titled ‘Youth entrepreneurship in an uncertain environment’, the founder and chief executive officer, Roban Group, Sir Robert Anwatu, said that real entrepreneurs thrived more in uncertain environment, remarking that nothing was impossible to achieve when one set one’s mind on it.
Anwatu encouraged students and youths to identify unmet needs or value to add before venturing into any business idea, while reminding them that money-making was never the sole aim of establishing businesses, rather to solve needs of the customers.
Regretting that Nigerian workers were, most times, unwilling to work, unlike their counterparts in nations like America, the renowned business tycoon said nothing paid more than hard work, even as he added that vision, knowledge, desire, independence and risk-taking were pivotal for successfully starting and running a business venture.
He lamented that the weak/inconsistent policies of the federal government were doing great harm to the nation’s economy, causing increase in poverty ratio as well as lack of economic direction.
According to him, things were different in the 1980s. He said the exchange rate was making Nigeria struggle instead of thriving and that the common man was finding it difficult to think of exporting.
“We have a costly loan system that makes entrepreneurs unable to raise capital for business. Nigerian banks don’t add value to what we do here. They are only interested in collecting your deposits.
“The truth is that the government alone cannot save our already shambled economy. All hands must be on the desk to get Nigeria working again”.
The CEO said that foreign entrepreneurs should not be given favourable policies over and above the local entrepreneurs, stressing that local entrepreneurs already had some challenges to contend with in their bid to succeed in business.
He further recommended that the federal government introduce entrepreneurship programmes into the secondary school curriculum and encouraged the students to pick up mentors whose experience and story would help them carve a niche for themselves in any business initiative they have passion.
In a remark, the executive chairman, Chelsea Group, Chief Patrick Chidolue, encouraged the students and other participants to cue into different entrepreneurship programmes saying that, without risk, there would not be success.
Chidolue, who also chaired the occasion, advised the participants to ensure they were prepared before venturing into any business, stressing that opportunity must meet preparedness for any tangible outcome.
“Attach responsibility to yourself. Know what is right and do it. Don’t hesitate to take risk but you must, as well, discipline yourself”, he said.
Cross section of participants at the 9th edition of ‘From Rags to Riches’ seminar, organised by the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies, UNIZIK.
Also speaking, Mrs. Uzoma Ezeoke, the executive director, Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, encouraged the students to go after their passion, remarking that it was dangerous to try copying others.
“Your passion will take you to enviable heights. Know what is important and what is not. You will make a difference with your passion. Your passion will propel and position you”, Ezeoke said.
Contributing, Dr. Friday Okpara, director, policy, partnership and coordination, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), told the students to start up any business where they had interest, noting that they should not rely on white collar jobs that were not anywhere.
Okpara, who spoke on the title, ‘Identifying business opportunities and generating viable business plan towards a successful business venture’, said a lot of opportunities abounded from every sector notwithstanding what he called ‘the consistently inconsistent policies’ in Nigeria.
He urged the students to “Think big, start small and start now.”
Also speaking, Mr. Muyiwa Kayode, managing director, USP Brand Management, emphasised the importance of developing brands that would guarantee competitive advantage.
While speaking on product branding and marketing, he listed vision, value, identity and promotion as essential ingredients that make a product stand out in the market.
The vice chancellor of UNIZIK, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, while describing the theme of the 9th edition of ‘From Rags to Riches’ as quite germane to the extant economic realities of the country, noted that the organised public and private sectors were unable to absorb the prospective employees in the labour market.
“To effectively tackle the attendant unemployment, youth unemployment, self employment becomes the desideratum. The corollary to this, is thus to equip the youths with the necessary tools: vocational and entrepreneurial, to gainfully engage in self-employment”, Ahaneku, who was represented by the acting dean, School of Post Graduate Studies, Prof. Philo Igbokwe said.
Earlier in an address, the director COCES, UNIZIK, Prof. Ngozi Anyikwa, noted that the event was primarily to instill in students, a sense of self-confidence as well as awaken them to the reality that entrepreneurship was a potential career path in the face of bulging youth unemployment crisis in Nigeria, particularly graduate unemployment.
Prof. Anyikwa said that it laid a solid framework that transforms the mindset of participants from ‘take-a-job mentality’ into ‘make-a-job mentality’, while disclosing that the centre provided comprehensive and highly qualitative entrepreneurial training for students.
She extolled the benefactor, Dr. Stella Okoli, who is the founder and CEO of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited and chairman of Chike Okoli Foundation, for her audacious support to the centre, urging her not to rest on her oars.
The director, who noted that there was huge decline in the ready-made-jobs available in Nigeria compared to the large number of graduates churned out annually, stressed that the marketable skills so acquired by the students, can easily be mainstreamed into economic activities.
“To the students, the knowledge gained would help you become entrepreneurs in the future, to reduce poverty fuelled by unemployment and its vices among students”, Anyikwa said.