The Nigerian Entrepreneurs Forum (NEF) has enjoined students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria in general, and the University of Abuja in particular, to embrace entrepreneurship, as the key to sustainable economic growth and development of the nation.
President of the Forum, Dr. Sidney Inegbedion, stated this in a paper presentation titled: 'The Impact of Entrepreneurship on a Nation's Economy', while sensitising Uni-Abuja students on the need to engage in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), even as students.
He spoke during the institution's recent Entrepreneurs Club Week, held on the university's temporary campus, in Gwagwalada, Abuja.
According to Inegbedion, the hydra-headed economic problems of Nigeria can no longer be left to the government. He noted that with the recent unemployment rate in the formal sector put at 23.9 per cent, the country is obviously yet to combat the unemployment question, adding that out of six million employable young people that enter the job market, only 10 per cent get a job.
He also pointed out that mining, largely represented by the exploitation of oil and gas, accounts for about 95 per cent of Nigeria's revenue while its contribution to employment is less than one per cent as stated by the National Bureau of Statistics. Furthermore, he said with total unemployment figure standing at 49 million, 52 per cent of this figure is unemployable, due to lack of skills.
According to him, the issue, therefore, is no longer to blame government bureaucracies but to assist in identifying not only the challenges, but in finding sustainable solutions to combat unemployment adequately.
At the forum, he expressed belief that entrepreneurship was the only answer, stressing that the small business started today stands to grow big tomorrow to absorb the labour force. He said the NEF believes also that Nigeria's problems would continue to be the entrepreneurs' opportunities, adding that the Forum believes the problems confronting the country are just issues that require fresh thinking and entrepreneurial solutions.
Inegbedion said the money and support resources to tackle these issues have never been more abundant, stating, however, that if not available locally, they are available internationally.
"This is why NEF wishes the Federal Government to unbundle bureaucratic procedures that complicate business registration process as well as develop systems to promote greater ease of doing business and improve the process of enforcing agreements entered into by businesses and enterprises, and this regulatory role can be enough for government", he said.
He explained that students' entrepreneurship club, which focuses on building the entrepreneurial capacity of its members before they enter the larger society upon graduation, was a step in the right direction, which is not only pragmatic but futuristic.
Stating the impact of entrepreneurship in any nation's economy, the Forum president cited the sudden rise of China, Brazil, India and Singapore, among others, and the Asian Tigers, as well as the tremendous social and economic growth of developed nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, USA and Italy, among others.
He added that the growth or advancement being witnessed in these countries was a reflection of the greater acceptance of entrepreneurship, stressing that small businesses are the bedrock of any economy as they provide employment, reduce poverty, contribute to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provide antidote for rural-urban migration, even as they pay taxes and serve as sources for innovation, technological change and competitive advancement.
He further said for small business owners, entrepreneurship promotes self-esteem, financial freedom and the patriotic feeling that he/she is contributing to the economic growth of his or her fatherland.
Among other reasons listed on why the would-be entrepreneur should embrace entrepreneurship include: to make money after comparing with other options you could channel your energy and resources; to get out of professional boredom; to be his or her own boss and control his or her own destiny; to advance technology or unique expertise for the betterment of the society; to prove that he or she can compete; and to extend life by getting involved in post retirement new adventures.
Speaking on challenges likely to confront an entrepreneur in this part of the world, Inegbedion pointed out that lack or paucity of capital can impede the progress and efforts of a budding entrepreneur, adding that even when many of such entrepreneurs are able to raise the initial venture-capital, they soon experience challenges in financing the day-to-day operations of the business and that raising funds to expand is much more challenging.
Lack of access to credit, he noted, also hamper the existence and operations of many small businesses, as they are unable to obtain credit facilities from financial institutions, adding that many are even discouraged with the interest rates and requirements for collateral.
In his remark, a lecturer in the Accounting Department, University of Abuja, Abuja and one of the staff advisers to the Entrepreneurship Club of the university, Mr. Onuh Emmanuel Okpe, said the essence of the club was to inculcate in the students the driving philosophy of being a job creator rather than being a job seeker, who would roam the streets all day, after the completion of their studies.
He stressed that, in being self-employed, one has assisted even the government, instead of being assisted by the government, in the area of employment creation.
He further said that the Entrepreneurship Club partners Entrepreneurship Development Centre of the university and other notable entrepreneurship development centres, such as Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development Agency of Nigeria's (SMEDAN) Entrepreneurs Forum, with a view to exposing members of the club further to entrepreneurial ideas and world.