The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is continuing in its efforts to tame the unemployment menace. It is reaching out to the fiscal authorities to create an enabling environment for youths to own businesses, reports, Group Business Editor, SIMEON EBULU
Two areas the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has persistently focused in its avowed support for youth empowerment, notably, are agriculture and entertainment.Agriculture because it believes agribusiness has the proven potential to lift a sizeable number of the younger folks out of the labour market, and entertainment because it is seen as an industry where youths have proven and demonstrable passion to engage in its many viable tested fields.
Since the CBN turned its attention to intervening in the different segments of the nation’s manufacturing and productive sectors, with a view to rescuing the economy from collapse and stagnation, it has never looked back, nor paused in its determination to ensure a rebound of the economy. And so over time, it has fanned its assistance to the textile industry, while not leaving out power. Aviation has been a beneficiary, as well as the health sector.
Other critical sectors are being sustained by the CBN’s financial lifeline, not the least are banks and financial institutions, education, oil and gas. Nigeria’s youthful population of between 18 and 45, put at above 60 per cent of the nation’s estimated 200 million, forms a critical mass that the apex bank believes should be harnessed to enable the country derive maximum economic benefits therefrom.
Youths in agriculture
Historically, agricultural practices in sub-Sahara Africa and indeed most of the third world, are known to be the special preserve of the illiterates and the rural folks. It was basically done just to survive, to live from hand to mouth. It was never understood to be a business, and so the youths kept it at bay, with virtually no interest in getting involved at any level. Cultural practices, land ownership structure and poverty, among other factors, have mostly accounted for this.
Agriculture, or farming of any type in our clime, has never been regarded as a business in the real sense of it, rather, it’s been treated more as a peasant engagement fit only for those at the lowest strata of life and meant primarily to satisfy subsistence living.
The CBN, determined in its drive to give agric its pride of place and as a vital contributor to economic growth, as it ought to be, has continued to churn out enticing agric schemes that appeal, not just to the youths, but also as a vital empowerment and job creation value chain entity in line with the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), that has proven, doubtless to be a booster in food production and at the same time provided raw materials and feed stock for industry, as a foreign exchange (FX) earner and contributor to the nation’s GDP.
Agribusiness for youths
Only recently, the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, reechoed his often repeated support for youths that are willing to engage in agriculture and agribusinesses.
Emefiele, who spoke in Katsina during the inauguration of the first maize pyramid and kick off of the Maize wet season farming under the CBN-Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said the youth can leverage their talents along with technological tools to improve farm productivity and delivery of agricultural produce to markets, stressing that agriculture offered significant benefits for youths.
He said the CBN has put measures in place to improve access to credit for youths interested in Agriculture under the ABP and the Agribusiness Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS). He said groups of youth with contiguous land for farming are eligible to seek the bank’s support through its prime anchor arrangement, saying the bank will provide access to credit for these youths, and as well guarantee that their produce will be purchased by a prime anchor at agreed prices.
He said the bank’s strategic intervention in the value chains of focal crops is being kept alive so as to ensure that its efforts in leading the agricultural revolution remain impactful.
Specifically, he said the CBN’s intervention was in line with its mandate and aims at ensuring price stability as well as improved availability of staple food items.
He said the CBN and MAAN would increase the target per hectreage for the year to 500,000 hectres from last year’s target of 250,000 hectrs, adding that to achieve the target, the CBN will introduce the use of contiguous land, high yielding seeds, mechanisation, leveraging technology for land mapping and monitoring as well as expanding the Strategic Maize Reserves.
Emefiele said the CBN has released 100,000 metric tonnes of maize to the market, through the major producers and urged all stakeholders, including youths to sustain the current efforts to galvanise agricultural production to meet the requirements of Nigeria’s growing population, pointing out that the nation could not continue to dwell on the neglect of past years if it was determined to realise the national target of producing what Nigerians eat and eating what is produced in locally.
NBS’ data on youth employment
The National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) data put Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work at about 40 million. It revealed that out of this, only 14.7 million are fully employed while the other 11.2 million are unemployed. This has been a concern for authorities as there have been various suggestions on what needs to be done to reverse this trend.
Emefiele, while addressing the concerns of unemployment recently said: “Some Nigerians have argued that the CBN policies are targeted against the youth. Let me say that we are doing everything possible to put in place policies that will benefit all Nigerians
“CBN is very conscious of the fact that our youth population of between 18 and about 45 years, constitute close to 60 per cent of our population. We are doing everything possible to ensure that we take them into account in all our policy decisions.
“The level of unemployment is regrettable. But I am saying everything is being done to redress that situation. I will give an example. I read how much we have granted in loans under our creative industry financial initiative, which is primarily for the youth. Almost close to about N3.5 billion has been disbursed. Our AGSMEIS fund is substantially being disbursed to people in this age. Almost close to about N150 billion has been disbursed to nothing less than 60 per cent of the people in this bracket.
CBN’s youth, job creation schemes
In chronicling the actions of the apex bank in taming unemployment, we bring to the fore the revelations of the then Director, Banking Supervision Department, CBN, Mr. Ahmed Abdullahi, Giving details about the initiative at a press briefing after the 342nd Meeting of the Bankers’ Committee in February 2019, stated that one of such interventions is in the creative industry. He said the decision to support the creative industry was born out of the Committee’s conviction that the sector holds the key to job creation, poverty reduction and inclusive growth.
He said the CBN’s initiative, is aimed at enabling businesses to obtain loans up to the tune of N500 million, is targeted at four different pillars that cut across different fields, including fashion, information technology, movies and music. The bank also indicated that eligible businesses in these fields could access loans under the scheme at a maximum interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
Rehabilitation of National Theatre
The CBN’s focus to get the National Theatre back to form, is another bold and strategic move to create an environment for youths focussed businesses to thrive. The concept which will involve a complete overhaul of the theatre and construction of support structures and edifices around the superstructure, is being undertaken in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee.
Emefiele, at a news conference during the ceding of the complex to the CBN and the Bankers’ Committee last July, said the country had the potential to earn over $20 billion yearly from the creative industry, adding that the National Theatre is expected to serve as the initial pilot for the nation’s creative industry centre. He said when the upgrade of the facility is completed, it would have been transformed into Nigeria’s creative industrial hub that will be comparable to other world class entertainment and convention centres in any part of the world.
He said: “The creative centre, which comprises music, movies, fashion and ICT can be a key source of growth for our economy, creating up to one million jobs for our teaming youths,” in addition, he said, “t will also aid our objective of reducing our dependence on revenues from crude oil.”
Emefiele mentioned that India in 2018 generated over $240 billion from exports of IT, movies, music and fashion related goods and services, pointing that “this amount is over five times our yearly earnings from the sale of crude oil. With our human capital resources and an enabling environment that will help harness the creative talents of our youths, Nigeria has the potential to earn over $20 billion annually from the creative industry.
“Our goal for the National Theatre is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses are rewarded for their creativity. The National Theatre when fully renovated will be able to support skills acquisition and job creation for over one million Nigerians over the next five years. These Nigerians will be empowered with funds at single digits interest rate, high level training using state-of-the-art tools, and networks that will enable them to turn their ideas into a reality,” he stated.
N75b Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF)
Among CBN’s offerings for youths is the introduction of a N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), which is designed to improve access to finance for youth and youth-owned enterprises as part of broader initiatives to stem unemployment and drive entrepreneurship.
This measure, which is being executed, in collaboration with fiscal arm under the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, is targeted at financially empowering youths to generate at the minimum, 500,000 jobs from the inception of this initiative leading up to 2023. Eligible businesses under the programme, the CBN said, include technology/innovation; agriculture and its related value chain; green economy and the renewable energy sector; logistics and supply chain; manufacturing; hospitality/tourism and construction.
Others are the creative sector, healthcare value chain, trading and services and as well as any other activity determined by the CBN itself and the affected ministry. The CBN further said that the global limit for loans under the fund was N12.5 billion, with a moratorium of up to 12 months, while the loan tenor and interest rate, is pegged at a maximum of five years and five per cent yearly.
Youths applying as individuals or non-registered businesses would be able to draw up to N250,000, while youth-owned registered businesses could apply for up to N3 million, he said. He noted that the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank was selected as a disbursement agency, given its reach and spread, which ensures that youths across the country had access to apply for the fund.