Oluwatobiloba Ogunbowale is a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member with a passion for fashion. He is currently on his one year compulsory service in Ibadan.
This fervour led him to acquire skills in shoemaking before his admission into the university in 2011.
Tobi’s desire to look good and quest for self-reliance metamorphosed into replicating his shoe designs for others, aquest that has resulted in his setting up a shoemaking factory in Lagos.
He creates quality and trendy shoes for men and women under the brand name — “Bowal Royal Footies’’.
He said: “I discovered that young peopleentering the labour market today are less likely to secure a decent job after years in school because of the harsh economic climate of the country.
“I want to make an impact in the society and I know that I can achieve this with my skills.
“Initially, when I started making shoe in 2010, nobody wanted it even my parents were against it. I persevered, honed my skill and the demand for my footwear increased within and outside the country’’.
While entrepreneurship is not new, the increased momentum behind its promotion and growth is indicative of unanswered needs in the global economy.
It is probable that increased insecurity, diminished prospects for obtaining gainful employment and the realisation that the economy does not have the capacity to create a sufficient number of jobs have all contributed significantly to the noticeable upsurge in the entrepreneurial aspirations of youth.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) unemployment and underemployment report released in May shows that out of ayouth labour force of 38.2 million (representing 48.7 per cent of the 78.48 million labour force in Nigeria), a total of 15.2 million of them are either unemployed or underemployed in the first quarter of 2016, representing a youth unemployment rate of 42.24 per cent.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an estimated 600 million jobs will need to be created over the next decade to absorb the current number of unemployed young people and provide job opportunities for the approximately 40 million new labour market entrants each year.
Youth demanding change have responded to this reality by becoming proactive in addressing the challenges themselves.
Noticeable, through various entrepreneurial endeavours, youth are actively creating their own employment opportunities where governments have failed.
Their efforts are being bolstered by the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and social media to drive and effectively promote their products and ideas both within and across borders.
The International Youth Day (IYD), observed annually on Aug. 12, is an awareness day designated by the United Nations to promote active youth engagement towards positive socio-economic contributions in their communities. The first IYD was celebrated in 2000.
The theme for 2016 is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production’’.
It focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production.
Sustainable consumption entails the use of products and services that meet the basic needs of communities while safeguarding the needs of future generations.
Investing in sustainable production creates new markets, employment opportunities and helps ensure the social inclusion of everyone in the society.
The Acting Managing Director, Bank of Industry (BoI), Mr Waheed Olagunju, says funding young entrepreneurs with viable business plans will improve the quality of life of many youths, while creating a sustainable business that will add values to lives.
According to him, addressing youth unemployment has become priority for governments worldwide.
He notes that most countries have developed youth employment policies and strategies aimed at promoting job creation, poverty eradication and strengthening youth skill acquisition.
Olagunju says that the bank’s N10 billion Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) Programme and the N2 billion Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund (GEF) address the worrisome phenomenon of youth unemployment and financing in the country.
He explains that the utilisation of the fund in inculcating a culture of innovation-driven entrepreneurship ethics will promote self-employment and deepen financial inclusion by de-risking the young aspiring entrepreneurs and making them eligible for small business loans.
He notes that improved investment targeted at young entrepreneurs will catalyse the nation’s economic recovery that has been in a state of decline.
Consequently, capacity building and mentoring of the young vanguards through the various business consultants of the bank will equip them to navigate the challenges in the business world in their quest for success.
Notable efforts at promoting entrepreneurship in the country are not limited to government’s fund.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) is an initiative devoted to entrepreneurship and represents a 10-year, 100 million dollars commitment to identify and empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs, create a million jobs and adds 10 billion dollars in revenues to Africa’s economy.
According to Mr Tony Elumelu, the founder of the foundation, cognisance should be given to entrepreneurs as key drivers of development in Africa and prioritise them in policy and philanthropy.
“We have funded entrepreneurs, established pan-African networks and helped extraordinary people take control of their destinies.
“At the end of our 10-year commitment, Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs will becomea generation of dynamic African business owners, who will prove that local business growth will drive Africa’s economic and social transformation.
“I believe that by the end of this “Decade of African Entrepreneurship’’, thousands of businesses will grow and flourish, driving sustainable prosperity across Africa.
Furthermore, they will create ripples and waves of economic transformation across the continent. This is my vision,’’ Elumelu said.
To underscore the importance of mentoring for youths, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), through its Business Education, Services and Training (BEST) enhances the transference of knowledge and skill from experienced professionals to young entrepreneurs for business growth.
Mrs Nike Akande, President of LCCI, notes that mentoring facilitates high impact and quick connections across enterprises. She says that the connections transcend location, vocation and generations.
“To us at LCCI, focusing this corporate social responsibility initiative on the youth is a means of investing in their future, thereby guaranteeing better tomorrow for our country,’’ Akande said.
Afolabi Abiodun, Chief Executive Officer of SB Telecoms and Devices Ltd., says many young entrepreneurs are leveraging on ICT to build world class solutions and investment opportunities amid global economic challenges.
“Challenges should not serve as an excuse for ideas not to evolve. They should be seen as opportunity to evolve new products and services that will be beneficial for socio-economic development.
“What is important for an entrepreneur is to be able to work within his environment and develop solutions that stand out,’’ he said.
Abiodun is one of the 26 CEO’s invited from Nigeria by President Barack Obama to showcase TAMS Solution at the just-concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) at Silicon Valley, U.S.
The TAMS solution, which is a product of the company, came out of the necessity to address the problem of time theft, absenteeism, ghost workers, among others, which are pervasive in both government and private establishments.
Business experts are of the opinion that government should address the challenges affecting businesses in the country.
They claim that young entrepreneurs are not insulated from the challenges of poor infrastructure, multiple taxation, unfavourable regulatory policies, insecurity, limited market opportunities and corruption.
They note that the government should also not play lip service to “Buy Made in Nigeria’’ products and services but support local entrepreneurs through patronage of their products to stimulate economic growth.