How to Cope with Entrepreneurship in Nigeria: For Youths
With a population of over 170 million people, Nigeria is the most populous African nation in the world. It is believed that one out of every four Africans is a Nigerian. Rather than be a problem however, this high Nigerian population, could be a plus. It could be a ready market for innovative goods and services provided by the youth.
Estimates show that young people constitute over half of Nigeria’s total population. Yet despite this pool of active human resources, not much has been successfully done to channel this resource towards positive economic development. New business ventures are relatively seldom created, while Nigerian youths pursue scarce white-collar jobs, and the unemployment rate continues to skyrocket.
For poverty to be reduced and economic development to be fast-tracked, this trend must be reversed. Attention should be paid to how young people can be actively, and holistically, engaged in the development process.
Deterrents to Entrepreneurship
Some of the problems that are deterrents to youth entrepreneurship in Nigeria include:
Most youths are not motivated to start and manage businesses because of the supposed harsh environment affecting business growth in Nigeria.
2. Lack of Finances
Even when motivated, young people are usually frustrated by a lack of funds and an inability to access start–up capital or seed grants.
3. Lack of Basic Management Skills
Most youths do not have the basic skills needed to manage a small business, and many choose to engage in businesses different from their area of academic specialization. But even when they are the same, the skills for being a successful entrepreneur differ from those required for academic study. So young people still need to learn the techniques of managing a business effectively.
4. Inadequate Infrastructure
The infrastructure that necessarily supports business is inadequate in Nigeria. Such amenities include electricity supply, motorable roads, potable water, effective transportation and communication amongst others.
5. Dearth of Information
Vital information about the availability of raw materials, required technology, effective business management, access to capital and other capacity building initiatives are sorely lacking.
6. Scarcity of Mentors & Coaches
Recent studies have revealed the importance of having someone more experienced to look up to, in our endeavours. The outcome of mentoring and coaching programs has been tremendous because it provides mentees with the opportunity to share their challenges with more experienced persons who can guide them and offer assistance.<
This is usually a win-win situation as the mentor also stands to benefit from the mentee’s past experience.
7. Government Policies
For a budding enterprise to blossom, it needs an enabling environment to grow. The role of the government in facilitating this environment is crucial. The Government can achieve this by deliberately formulating policies to stimulate entrepreneurship and economic growth. Such policies must also be effectively implemented to achieve the required results.
Success Factors for Entrepreneurship
Despite the above limitations, young people may still succeed with:
1. A Definite Vision
A definite vision will guide an aspiring entrepreneur towards greatness. Having a well-defined vision is like having a road map. It boosts morale, and it provides an avenue for self-assessment. A vision should be well written and communicated, so that others can run with it if need be.
2. Self Motivation
A notable motivational speaker once said that, it is your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude. Nigerian youths must develop a positive attitude towards alternate means of livelihood beyond the white-collar job.
There is no doubt that capital is a crucial factor for business. In Nigeria, both the government and the organized private sector (OPS) should be involved in making funds available to budding and existing entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses.
Government should make available more intervention funds through micro-credit and commercial banks. It is heart-warming that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has licensed more Micro Finance Banks (MFBs) to serve the micro and small enterprise sector.
In the absence of these funds, youths can explore alternative sources of funding such as loans from friends and family.
Failing in a particular venture or endeavour does not make a person a failure. Youths should view failure positively because there is no crime in failing, and failure is part of growth. The only crime would be in not learning from such failures.
We can learn from John Maxwell by learning to fail forward. Failure should make youths learn a better way of doing things. Many great men failed several times before getting it right and the world is better for it now. Youths should stay true to their dreams!
5. Growing Steadily
Some youths are so eager to make millions in the first few months of venturing into business, that they sometimes lose focus and put quick money-making first. This attitude should be discouraged – as the saying goes Rome was not built in a day.
The first few years of starting a business are usually used to create the right systems and consolidate on one’s achievements. Youths need to know that success is gradual and should be willing to pay the price by giving it all it takes to reach the zenith.
6. Getting Requisite Business Management Skills
There is more to managing a business than personal interest and friendly advice. There are global best practices that young entrepreneurs must know to create a niche market for themselves.
Most young Nigerians looking to start a business are unaware of the purpose and importance of a business plan. They have never tried to prepare one for their business nor sought assistance to do so. Youths should avail themselves of such knowledge and skills through available institutions that offer it.
Studies have shown that entrepreneurs (including youths) feel more comfortable working alone as sole-proprietors. This is not suitable for all cases. Youths can pool resources together by forming a partnership thereby positioning themselves to achieve more with their complementary skills. Success is more likely this way, than if they operated as individual entities.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has changed the face of business in both the developed and developing world. ICT is a useful tool that youths can leverage to expand their businesses. With just a click of a button, youths can access a wide range of useful information on the internet, for their businesses. They can trade beyond their national boundaries with e-commerce and can also exchange information with others.
9. Mentoring and Coaching
There are a lot of people who have trod the paths that young people desire. By carefully seeking them out, youths can afford themselves the opportunities of gaining experience and first-hand assistance from notable entrepreneurs who have succeeded in murky waters and risen to the top. This provides an opportunity to learn to avoid the mistakes and the pitfalls that such people experienced.
Youths can achieve more if they make time to identify like-minded people to engage with. This provides a forum for learning and sharing with others.
This is an area that Nigerian youths should really explore. There are times young people might need to offer their services for free to gain experience, by volunteering in some organizations (especially the ones they intend to focus on later). Youths can gain a lot of experience that will be useful when they eventually start their own enterprises. They can learn about basic structures (financial, administrative etc) that an enterprise needs to put in place for it to succeed.
12. Investing in Oneself
Growth is continuous. The moment one stops growing, one starts dying. One of the ways by which youths can continue to be relevant is by investing in themselves. Youths should not limit themselves to the basic education they have acquired in school, but should aspire to learn and make a conscious effort to know more. We live in a dynamic, fast-paced world and only those who are ready for change will be poised to succeed. The people who invest in themselves have a better competitive edge than their counterparts in the near future.
13. Contributing to One’s Community
It is high time that Nigerian youths start giving back to their community and country. There should be less focus on what one can get. We need to ask ourselves, how much have we contributed to the growth of this nation to expect something from it. Giving should be mutual, that is, symbiotic and not parasitic. To succeed in business in your community, you should give in return. Youths can start from their locality.
14. Government Policies
Government needs to include entrepreneurship in the academic curricula. From the primary to the university level is an area that the Nigerian government should consider. This will stimulate more participation in entrepreneurship, which in turn will have a long-run positive multiplier effect on the economy.
When policies are well implemented and monitored they hasten the development process and alleviate poverty. Young people should speak up, so that there will be a strategic plan to make funds and/or seed grants available to them. This will encourage more youths to start their own businesses.
The capacity of the various financial institutions should be strengthened so that they can serve their target market better. This will contribute towards the reduction in the current high unemployment rate and decrease the ‘mad chase’ for scarce white-collar jobs.
Similarly, since it is the responsibility of government to provide infrastructure, the unavailability or inadequacy of these will not be helpful in achieving the required results. Government should adopt a holistic approach to solving problems and youths can serve as a pressure group in achieving this.
Published in remembrance of the author, Yemisi Joel-Osebor, Founder, Life Impact Foundation International