Delta Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, on Friday, reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to supporting the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) through entrepreneurship development programmes in the state.
Okowa made this known at the graduation of 437 pilot trainees of the state government’s Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training Programme (GEST) in Asaba.
He said that his administration would not relent in the endeavour until it achieved a critical mass of MSMEs that would drive economic diversification and business competitiveness in the state.
According to him, the results from other empowerment programmes of the state government such as STEP and YAGEP have fuelled the resolve of this administration to continue to invest in youths in the state.
Okowa said “six months ago, we began the journey of equipping our young women between the ages of 18 and 30 with the knowledge and skills to become self-reliant and wealth creators under the Girls Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (GEST) programme.
“Today, we are reaping the first fruits of our investment. Out of a total of 450 participants, 437 of them are to be resourced with the tools to start their enterprises.
“Thirteen of them could not make it for reasons ranging from truancy to flunking the proficiency test. Still, with an over 97 per cent success rate, it is a testament to the credibility of the selection process and quality of the training regime.”
He thanked the staff of the Girl Child Empowerment Office for their dedication and unwavering determination to see the young women succeed in life.
The governor stated that a lot of small businesses impacting directly on the family-economy were springing up across the state and were helping in addressing youth unemployment.
“Not only have the lives of these beneficiaries changed, they are also training others who then go on to become self-employed. In a few years to come, I am hopeful that Delta State will become the hub of MSMEs as these enterprises break new grounds in the export market.
“I expect this pioneer group of GEST graduates to continue in the same path of success and innovation. My confidence is based on the fact that the training template is the same and has proved to be very enriching, enabling and empowering,’’ he said.
While congratulating the young entrepreneurs on their graduation from the GEST programme, the governor urged them to make it a priority to set goals for their businesses, “define your markets, keep learning, ensure proper book-keeping, strive for excellence and be persistent’’, adding that they should also look for opportunities to develop multiple streams of income.
In his remarks, former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, who said he was delighted to be at the ceremony, lauded Governor Okowa for his inspiring achievements in infrastructure and human capital development.
Saraki urged the graduands of the entrepreneurial training programme to remain focused and committed to their respective enterprises, and called on other states in the country to emulate Delta.
Earlier, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Girl-Child Empowerment, Mrs Marilyn Okowa-Daramola, had said that Project GEST was an initiative of the state government aimed at creating a new and vibrant generation of empowered and skilled young women equipped with necessary skills to turn around current circumstances of their families.
She disclosed that no fewer than 6,000 applications were received when the project was announced, adding that 450 were selected across the 25 local government areas as pilot trainees of the programme, after sifting and interviews.
While congratulating the graduands, the governor’s aide urged them to understand that the new skills they had acquired attracted greater responsibilities, adding that they should remain firm in their business endeavours.
At the ceremony, Onyia Emmanuella, Ufuoma Erewhive and Chusunum Brenda received Dame Edith Okowa Most Outstanding Trainee Award (GEST Ambassador), Evelyn Oboro Most Resilient Trainee Award and Pat Ajudua Exemplary Leadership Award, respectively.
Highpoint of the ceremony was the presentation of starter-packs to all the graduands.