TechnoServe, an international nonprofit organization that promotes business solutions to poverty in the developing world, has reiterated its commitment to partnering with relevant bodies to provide support for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
The Country Director, Technoserve Nigeria, Adesuwa Akinboro stated this during a stakeholders engagement and close out event of the Pan African Youth Entrepreneur Development Programme, PAYED, a model the company had implemented in Nigeria for the past six years, with funding from Citi Foundation.
Akinboro said the need to reflect on and celebrate the success recorded by entrepreneurs through the efforts of the Technoserve team, it’s partners and supporters, informed the event, adding that it is fulfilling to see the lives that had been transformed as a result of the programme.
She said TechnoServe operates in 30 countries across the world and 10 states in Nigeria but has been working in Delta State for the past 4 years, adding that in Delta State alone, 1,073 entrepreneurs benefited from the programme.
The Country Director said Technoserve believes in business solutions to poverty and has been supporting small businesses to grow and create jobs not just for themselves but for others, increasing the income of thousands of entrepreneurs they have worked with, and reducing the unemployment rate in the country, stressing that they mainstream the support of women, people living with disabilities and the marginalized.
” And we have also supported people living with disabilities. We have heard stories from those who are visually impaired. Like Nneamaka, who produces beautiful bags even when she can’t see them, and as a result of the PAYED program, she has been able to expand her business. It’s the same with a large number of entrepreneurs that we have been working with, “she said.
Akinboro said although PAYED project was closing out, Technoserve will continue to work with the government of Delta State and private sector companies to support young entrepreneurs, adding that the company is supporting smallholder farmers, food fortification in Nigeria, improved productivity, improved yield, improved access to skills and markets across all of their work.
The Deputy Country Director Technoserve Nigeria, Ayokanmi Ayuba said the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) remained the engine of the economy and their success depends on their ability to grow, make money, expand their businesses and create more jobs, adding that PAYED was Citi Foundation’s way of addressing youth unemployment, through it’s intervention in the micro-retail space.
Ayuba stated that micro retail owners were targeted to build and increase their income, adding that over 2,000 entrepreneurs benefited from the trainings in merchandising, customer service management, supplier relationship management and bookkeeping, to enable them to formalize their businesses and earn actual income.
She said for the past 6 years, the company has graduated participants in different cohorts, with 400 persons graduating this year, adding that in cohorts 5 and 6, they worked with 35 persons living with different forms of disabilities.
“They are hard workers. It was a privilege for us to be able to work with them and support them. For us, that was the cherry on the icing of the cake of PAYED – to be able to make so much impact in the lives of people, their families, and members of their communities.
The Project Manager PAYED, Mr Kazeem Omiyale noted that a lot of reviews and efforts were put in to select only a few participants that have excelled in the areas of operation, teaching, adoption of best practices, and building a sustainable business model for themselves.
Mr. Omiyale said in-kind grants and awards were given to persons living with disabilities, following findings from a review of their growth rate, in order to reduce their dependence on support systems.
“We reviewed our impact on a global level. We were able to improve revenue by 54% and best business practices by 74%. The improvements for women alone was about 42%. For men alone, improvement in their revenue was about sixty percent. But when we now scaled down on persons living with disability, we realized that of all the efforts and commitments that were put in, we were able to improve their revenue only by 6%. That got us thinking… their businesses are being sought, but restocking becomes a problem. “
He called on other agencies to pay more attention to people living with disabilities, especially with the present global economic hardship.
The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Mind the Gap, Mr Tayo Olosunde commended the PAYED project and the Technoserve team for setting a standard model for engaging entrepreneurs beyond business skills and connecting them to opportunities to carry out self paced learning, where they could train themselves and train others, using digital platforms and leveraging technology.
Mr. Olosunde recommended among other things, that all content used in the programme be put on a dedicated YouTube channel for easy reference, a system of follow up, set up on a quarterly basis, participants of the programme engaged as mentors in other programmes, while the aggregate of all beneficiaries be collated in a website for greater impact.
Participants including Mr Toju Tuoyo and Akaeze Nneamaka thanked Technoserve and their partners for the opportunity, noting that since their encounter with PAYED, they had learnt how to better manage their finances, relate with customers, access business loans, give visibility to, and expand their businesses.
The event, which was attended by dignitaries, including the member representing Oshimili North in the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Frank Esenwa; featured testimonies from some PAYED project clients and presentations on “Collaborative efforts – A path for sustainable impact in project implementation. Challenges, Opportunities, and Potential Solutions”, “The PAYED concept and model – Relevance in Enterprise Development”, as well as “the impact of social media and digital advertising on the visibility and profitability of entrepreneurs”.
The high point of the event was the presentation of awards to persons living with disabilities and to partners, including Mr Tayo Olosunde of Mind the Gap, Bitebo Gogo of Keeping it Real Foundation, as well as Hon. Frank Esenwah, representative of the Delta State government.