By Ayo Akinola
YES, you heard it right, entrepreneurial revolution has began in Nigeria, and the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, are leading the revolution. One of the major challenges facing developing and underdeveloped countries of the world is poverty. It has been so endemic as a result of the high rate of unemployment that has become the major characteristic of the developing and underdeveloped countries of the world.
Although the level and magnitude of poverty and unemployment has been observed to be different within and across nations, it still remains the major obstacle to the success of the struggle for the optimum utilization of human resources for both social and economic development of nations. Africa entered the 21st century as the poorest, the most technologically backward, the most debt distressed and most marginalized region of the world. With the position Nigeria occupies in Africa in terms of the share of population, one cannot but imagine the percentage of Nigerians that are affected by this debilitating monster called poverty and hence making the war against poverty one of the cardinal policies of government in Nigeria.
Figures from the Bureau of Statistics show that about 67 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. The data further reveal that only 50 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water, while 38 per cent cannot avail themselves of primary health care. It is estimated that about 70 per cent of Nigerians consume less than one third of the minimum protein and vitamin intake due to low purchasing power. This statistics shows the very depth of poverty in Nigeria. It is dehumanizing and can be rated as a killer disease which has assumed an epidemic state. Any responsible government will not go to sleep with such a terrible situation.
The government of Nigeria through most of her policies and programmes has made tremendous effort towards changing the scenario in the country. Despite the effort of government in this direction, the “poverty virus” is getting more entrenched and spreading wider among the populace. This incidence is higher among the youths who fall within the age bracket of 15-35.
The untrained and unskilled youth grows into an unemployable man who cannot be employed because of his lack of marketable skills to be engaged in a job that can adequately support his family. This makes it impossible for him to provide for his children in terms of education both at the formal and informal level to guarantee his wards self sufficiency. Thus, the cycle continues with generation after generation propagating this vicious cycle of poverty.
Economic growth is seen as a sine qua non for sustained progress in poverty and unemployment reduction. As Sachs (2005) opined, poverty cannot be reduced except there is economic growth. To him, it is a fact that has been proved by both historical and comparative studies. Empirical facts also exist to show that countries that have reduced poverty are the ones that have grown the fastest.
On the other hand, poverty has grown in the countries that have been stagnant economically. Ajegi, (2002) observed that since poverty is a situation in which the victim is subjected to economic, political, social and environmental depreciation, it carries with it the potential for all forms of resentment and quite often, such resentment could be violent and destabilizing. This view can be used to explain the rising cases of violence in Nigeria as it is evidenced in the insurgency called “Boko Haram”, kidnapping and militancy across the country.
In the words of Adam Smith, (1776),” no society can be flourishing and happy, of which by far the greater part of the members are poor, unemployed and miserable.” These views have created a growing awareness and an unprecedented global consensus that poverty is the greatest threat to peace, stability and the entire human race. The 1995 world economic summit offered a resounding expression of this with the identification of poverty eradication as a political, economic, social and moral imperative for social development.
Keying into this expression, the Nigeria government has introduced and established various programmes and agencies saddled with the responsibility of alleviating poverty in the country. The Goodluck Jonathan Administration has done a lot in this case, culminating into his Transformation Agenda. Evidence exists as to the stimulation of growth in many sectors of the economy as a result of some of the programmes of government aimed at alleviating poverty.
In the view of Osunde, (2003) and Nwagwu, (2005), a better approach to the eradication of poverty should be to break the generational chain of poverty by empowering the youth to be self reliant through vocational skill acquisition programme targeted at the youths. The difference lies in the presence of a critical mass of entrepreneurs that triggers an entrepreneurial revolution with all its multiplier effect.
It is this entrepreneurial spirit that is empowering China, India, along with Russia and the former Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, to rise above the gravity of years of underemployment.
The entrepreneurs in these societies are creating new wealth and generating income-yielding opportunities for so many with their vision, daring, sense of innovation and passion for results.
Even in the United States, which has been the world’s leading economic power for so long, the new creators of America wealth are the young entrepreneurs in the realm of information technology
There is, you see, a valuable lesson here that we should never miss. The most effective way to get closer to the threshold of prosperity and to be removed farther from the weight of poverty is through an entrepreneurial revolution.
Yes, an entrepreneurial revolution. Such a revolution requires a point of convergence when and where a great number of entrepreneurs will set into motion an irreversible chain reaction of productive ventures outside of the limits of cynicism and fear.
Of course, as true of any successful revolution, no radical changes happens overnight. No society can leapfrog from a stage of being a mere supplier of raw materials to one capable of orchestrating great tasks and events. There are no shortcuts.
To develop a nation of entrepreneurs, there must be a multi-sectoral, multi-level and multi-phase undertaking that begins with a collective resolve to get out of the old mould of doing things.
We need passionate promoters of the entrepreneurial spirit that can inspire others.
This is what the Transformation Ambassadors are engaging in. we appreciate that government, too, is equally entrepreneurial in its outlook and in overall economic policy framework, and is creating an atmosphere that inspires and makes it easy for ordinary Nigerians to start their own enterprises, large or small.
Such an entrepreneurial revolution can make winners of everyone. Think of what you can do for yourself and the country and not what the country can do for you. With the help of TAN, we can go and together we will win.
Putting into practice this vision for entrepreneurial development in Nigeria, TAN will establish cottage industries like turning waste to wealth in the six geo-political regions of Nigeria. This is aimed to eradicate poverty by empowering citizens with the right skill, and through the development of an entrepreneurial spirit.
TAN believes that the present economic problems and restiveness in Nigeria can be significantly addressed by growing the numbers and strengthening the capabilities of local entrepreneurs who pursue the business opportunities available in our country. This entrepreneurial development will create self-employment and grow the labour market helping to alleviate poverty and social unrest.
For example, there is a strong potential for developing new niche markets of the 21st century – green, organic, fair trade, our overseas communities.
In order to widen private-sector employment opportunities, we must improve the access of rural and low income women and youth to business development resources; improve the abilities of entrepreneurs to manage their business and market their goods and services; grow agriculture-based rural business pursuing opportunities for value-added processing, and expand government assistance programs for MSMEs.