This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Country Now Leading Investment Destination, Says Okonjo-Iweala

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the weekend, said Nigeria had been widely adjudged the largest investment destination in Africa due to its high return on investment.

The minister also pointed out that many Nigerian businesses, especially the 32 million small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) in the country, were investing in the economy.

Okonjo-Iweala spoke at the Creative Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (CEAN) and British Council awards night in Lagos, where the federal government's Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN!) programme was recognised as "the best overall contributor to the development of the Nigerian creative industry in 2013."

According to her, many businesses, particularly those owned by young entrepreneurs, face major challenges, prominent of which she identified as access to finance.

She said: "Sadly, this constraint has turned many of our enterprising youths into 'job seekers' rather than 'job providers,' and has restricted the scope of innovation within our economy today. "It is in response to this problem that President Goodluck Jonathan launched the YouWin programme in 2011, as a business plan competition, to identify 1,200 young aspiring or existing entrepreneurs each year that can be supported with grants of up to N10 million, mentorship, and training, to start up a new business or expand an existing business, so as to create jobs for their fellow youth."

Okonjo-Iweala also stressed the need to prioritise entrepreneurship as a solution to Nigeria as well as Africa's high youth unemployment.

According to her, entrepreneurship education should be promoted in the continent by linking curriculum and training of entrepreneurship skills to young African's early in the system, and by getting the private sector involved in entrepreneurship training in African schools, colleges and universities.

Recounting the success of the YouWiN! programme, she said: "So far, about 2,400 young Nigerians have received grants under the programme, with another 9,600 undergoing training in business plan development, which will enable them access financing from other sources.

"These beneficiaries, some of whom are here with us this evening, have created nearly 27,000 jobs as at the last survey in November 2013 and I'm particularly delighted that many of these beneficiaries are engaged in one of my favourite sectors of the economy - the creative industry."

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