AN Oxford University scholar James Burton who recently conducted a research on the success of Jonathan administration’s Youth Enterprise with Innovation (YouWin) programme has recommended it as a model for Africa and other developing countries, for enterprise growth.
He added that the World Bank and many other organizations are now looking to replicate YouWin’s success, in other countries.
Burton described YouWin under Jonathan as a highly efficient economic programme, that even out-performed the United States fiscal stimulus, quoting a World Bank-funded study, led by senior economist David McKenzie. Citing the McKenzie report, he wrote: “YouWin even compared favourably with United States fiscal stimulus, proving 44% more efficient than government spending and 130% more efficient than tax cuts.”
The study further emphasised that YouWin performed better than similar initiatives when compared with efforts specifically targeted at employment generation around the world, the affirming that the numbers were deeply impressive.
“McKenzie found that YouWin was two and halftimes as efficient as a 2013 management consulting program in Mexico, four and a halftimes as efficient as a 2014 wage subsidy program in Jordan and almost ten times as efficient as a 2011 vocational training program in Turkey.”
The report which is contained in Reno Omokri’s new book ‘Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years, Chibok 2015 and the conspiracies’ quoted the World Bank study to have “found that by the end of the programme’s third year it had directly generated approximately 7,027 jobs.”
Espousing the success of the programme Burton noted McKenzie confessed in the study that his “extremely conservative” assumption that all YouWin firms would close-down in one year was proved down. “In fact, YouWin surveys taken in October 2016 show that YouWin-1 awardees currently employ 7951 people, Youwin-2 awardees employ 6572 people and Youwin-3 awardees employ 11,816 people. My in-depth interviews with over 50 Nigerian entrepreneurs, half of which are YouWin awardees and half who applied for the program unsuccessfully, has suggested several clear reasons for the programs success in facilitating business growth.”
He noted that primarily, YouWin effectively gave awardees the resources to overcome key barriers to growing their businesses and helped them to mitigate the risks of operating an early stage venture in Nigeria’s challenging business environment.
“When the Jonathan government first proposed YouWin, it was heavily criticized and many still doubt its efficacy despite clear evidence in its favour. Giving such large sums to so many early stage firms in a country like Nigeria was unheard of five years ago and, though the World Bank and many other organizations are now looking to replicate YouWin’s success, the model remains rare. Hopefully, future African heads of state will see similar potential in their own entrepreneurs and have the courage to support it.”
According to him, the programme succeeded because former President Jonathan took special interest in and personally supervised its processes.
“Beyond financial support, the president (Jonathan) also took a special interest in the YouWin awardees, many see him as the father of their businesses and display pictures of or with him in their offices. In 2014, Jonathan called for an exhibition in Abuja which allowed many of the successful awardees to model their products. He went around to each stall individually, meeting the entrepreneurs and admiring what they had produced.
“After the event, he asked for sit-down meetings with a sample of the awardees. One such entrepreneur remembers the experience vividly. He describes Jonathan’s protocol staff prepping the awardees on what to
say and what not to say to the president. They were to be entirely complementary about their experience. However, as the young business owner tells it, the president immediately threw protocol out the window, dismissing his staff and requesting one-on-one meetings with each participant.The president asked them what barriers they faced and how he could help.
“In this case, the entrepreneur explained that he had been having great trouble getting approval for his products from the National Agency of Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). He complained that small businesses could not afford to jump through endless hoops, wait months for feedback or pay consultants to help them navigate the process.
Within weeks, the president had mandated
that there be an expedited NAFDAC process for Small and Medium enterprise and a specific desk was set up to service their needs. Some YouWin awardees even had their application fees waived entirely.
“One awardee, the founder of a robotics company that went on to produce everything from hand held consumer devices to military grade drones, complained that financiers did not understand what a robotics company did in the early days and largely still don’t. He applied to several banks before YouWin and despite showing clear market need and healthy financials, he was unsuccessful in every case.
“The founder of a recycling company tells a similar story. He approached all the major banks for loans before YouWin and was turned away. As it happened, his wife worked behind the desk of a microfinance institution at the time and he recalls how dejectedly he approached her with his hat in hand, only to be denied equally quickly. The equipment he purchased with his YouWin grant helped him to grow the business from an annual turnover of around 500,000 Naira to 50 million Naira in just under 2 years.
Burton further affirmed that YouWin supported many entrepreneurs that were not independently wealthy and could not have simply borrowed necessary capital from friends and family. “Without such financing, most respondents felt that their firms would be years behind in growth or have been forced to close their doors by now. Though many of them overestimate this impact, the McKenzie data shows that plenty of them are right.