By Adewale Sanyaolu
To address the increasing rate of youth unemployment and poverty in the country, the Bank of Industry (BoI) and Oduduwa Foundation have floated a N1 billion financing scheme for youths and small businesses within Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the bank will provide loans to youths and businesses in Ile-Ife, Osun State, as well as other beneficiaries outside Ile-Ife, subject to the mutual consent of both parties as long as they meet the prescribed criteria.
Furthermore, the N1 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises’ (MSMEs) fund would be made available for on-lending to entrepreneurs within the agric, agro-allied, solid minerals and services sectors at a concessioned rate of 7.5 per cent.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement in Ile-Ife, Osun State at the weekend, the Acting Managing Director of BoI, Waheed Olagunju explained that the initiative was aimed at reducing youth unemployment in Ile-Ife communities and the country.
According to Olagunju, a substantial part of the loan will be disbursed to women, youth and businesses that show high potential for job and wealth creation along the value-chain of the identified sectors, as well as capacity to repay the loans.
He said: “We have been partnering with multinational and corporate companies, but today we are collaborating with traditional rulers.
These are people who have access to the grassroots. Partnering with them is a way of democratising entrepreneurship. We identify areas in which communities have comparative advantages and invest in them. The beneficiaries will be selected using the global best practices.
“For this edition, about 15 to 20 per cent of them will be those who deal in local production, especially value-addition. We are working with the Entrepreneurship Development Centre of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Applications are expected to be submitted and a joint committee of BoI team, the Oduduwa House and OAU team would access it. They are to be monitored by members of the committee and elders, especially the traditional rulers”.
Olagunju added that the first batch of potential beneficiaries have been trained by the EDC, as the bank is now building capacity of entrepreneurs before disbursing the funds to them, adding that an at least 5,000 youths will benefit from the initiative.
He also noted that the bank is developing partnerships with unconventional stakeholders as part of measures to further improve access to finance to Nigerians and aid industrial development.
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, emphasized the need to get youths empowered, saying that was necessary for the nation’s continuous growth.
He subsequently challenged monarchs across the country to be dedicated to developing youths in their communities, saying that monarchs do not have tenured terms, therefore initiate and implement consistent policies that can impact positively on the lives of their communities.
Oba Ogunwusi said: “I would not mind going hungry to empower the youths. If the youths of today are empowered, many generations will benefit from them and poverty will be abolished. Today’s event is another giant step in the history of Ile-Ife.
“We are moulding the future of our youths in the areas of agriculture and agro-allied industry. I put a challenge to other monarchs to engage in community partnership. We should stop relying on government.”
There are so many initiatives that community leaders can tap into. Community leaders should go into partnership with multinational companies and financial institutions to benefit there people.”
The monarch also said the N1 billion funding would help the youth of the entire House of Oduduwa and beyond, while urging government at all levels to set up a body that will give emphasis to local contents development.