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African Youth, peace and entrepreneurship: Notes from GAIN Youth Summit 2021

GAIN programs include training, advocacy, mentorship, and youth events, designed to help achieve sustainable development by igniting the positive energy of the greater segment of Africa’s population – the youth.

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GAIN Youth Summit 2021
Cross section of speakers and attendees at GAIN Youth Summit 2021

Grand Africa Initiative (GAIN), a Pan-African non-governmental organisation with a distinct mandate to groom, empower and mentor (GEM) the youth to explore their unique talents and abilities to enable them reach their full potentials, on the 29th and 30th October, held the second edition of her annual youth summit tagged GAIN Youth Summit 2021.

This pan-African summit held virtually and had Prof Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of Nigeria, as the Special Guest of Honour.

Osinbajo, GAIN

VP, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

Mr. Sunday Dare, minister of Youth and Sports, and Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of Tony Elumelu Foundation, as keynote speakers; High Commissioners of UK and South Africa to Nigeria Catriona Laing and Mr Thami Mseleku respectively, Ambassador of Angola to Nigeria, Dr Januario Q. Eustaquio as Guest Speakers among others. Partners include Afrexim Bank, Development Bank of Nigeria, and Embassy of Guinea in Nigeria.

The theme of the summit was “The Africa We Want: Nexus Between the Youth, Peace and Entrepreneurship.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo called for the promotion of youth entrepreneurship by African governments as the solution to the problem of youth unemployment on the continent.

The Vice President made this call while delivering the keynote speech at the summit.

The Vice President who was represented by the Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, emphasized this as the path to economic prosperity and conflict resolution on the African continent.

According to him, GAIN focus areas align with those of the Nigerian Government as well as other African government “Your key focused areas resonate with us in Nigeria and resonate in other climes across Africa. The GAIN masterclass on Entrepreneurship is critical, The GAIN Youth Summit, a platform for engagement, for conversation is critical; The GAIN Mentoring program is critical because we need to mentor our youths to prepare to take positions of leadership”.

“It is clear from the experience of Asia, that no country, no continent can fight its way out of unemployment when it comes to the youth, without deliberately towing the part of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is critical and you can draw the linkage between entrepreneurship and MSMEs. Access to credit has been the bane of MSMEs, but yet they remain a disincentive to innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria and other part of Africa”.

“The question of illegal immigration, the issue of drug abuse, the issue of conflicts that we see can easily be traceable to the problem of youth unemployment. Is there a silver bullet? There is non, but are there opportunities, are there models and are there things we need to do on a consistent basis to start to bring down these numbers and to start to engage our youth? Yes there are, and I think GAIN, organizations like Grand Africa Initiative- GAIN are on the right path with the right visions, right goals and objectives”

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In her opening speech, Chinwe Okoli, the executive director of GAIN, framed the dire unemployment and limited economic opportunities situation facing African youths as an existential challenge to the continent and potent threat to the global efforts to curb illegal migration.

Chinwe Okoli, GAIN Youth Summit 2021

Chinwe speaking at GAIN Youth Summit 2021

In her words, “the issues overwhelm a young person trying to get a head start in life. This results in their taking several actions which may further fuel insecurity or result in a desperate search for greener pastures abroad through illegal migration. From what we see, it is no longer just Africa’s problem.

The world has a problem. Urgent attention is required to help reverse the trend and restore hope to the young people in Africa and solving this problem means advancing our collective interest-a prosperous and safer world.

“We are grateful to our partners Afrexim Bank and Development Bank of Nigeria for their support towards ensuring that African youths have this opportunity to interact with key political and business leaders from across the continent.”

Catriona Laing, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, who was represented by the British Deputy High Commissioner, H.E Mr Ben Llewellyn-Jones spoke on curbing illegal migration in Africa through Youth Entreprenuership.

British Deputy High Commissioner, H.E Mr Ben Llewellyn-Jones

H.E Mr Ben Llewellyn-Jones

She emphasised that Africa’s young population presents great opportunities to make technology a big employer.

In Laing’s words: “Issues arising across the continent are driving a lot of youth out to other continents. To address this, countries across Africa must create opportunities and develop policies for its youthful population to stay and contribute to the development of the continent. The digital space is growing at a rapid speed – creating jobs, providing opportunities for empowerment through digital access, increasing investment opportunities, and making tech-entrepreneurship an enabler for all sectors of the economy.

“In addition, the increasing number of young people working remotely for global companies is an indication for how Nigeria can retain talent and skills here in the country. It is important for governments across Africa to embrace the benefits of technology not just for consumers but for government services – EGovernment, EdTech, Health Tech, Fintech and voting tech.

Governments should reduce the bureaucracy around trade, including the paperwork around customs and taxes, and implement policies that support the growth of exciting new businesses and entrepreneurs; and create the enabling environment to retain and attract talent”

Advising youths on the best step she said, “So, don’t reach for the immigration form, do go to the tech coding class, and do seek out your local business association and think through how you can make things better so that not just you, but your children, play a part in improving the enabling environment. I am confident that entrepreneurship has a key role to play to ensure that Africa becomes a destination for talent and money, not a place to emigrate from.”

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Afrexim Bank represented by Babajide Sodipo, Senior Manager in the AU/AFCFTA Relations and Trade Policy, Afreximbank, Egypt commended Grand Africa Initiative- GAIN for an excellent program and an excellent initiative.

“I am quite impressed at the breadth of people and participants and members that you have drawn across the continent, it’s truly a pan-African spirit and I believe that as you harness and channel this energy, you will be able to do great things. The bank was very happy to partner with Grand Africa Initiative in this very important event and we have been extremely pleased with an excellently prepared and executed program so far.

And the bank remains committed through such specific initiatives such as the support that we are providing for the creative sector, for SMEs development. We remain committed to doing all we can to support the spirit of enterprise and bravery that is quite particular about African youth”.

Mrs Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, the CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation who was the keynote speaker on the second day of the summit, “If you can succeed as an entrepreneur in Africa, you can succeed anywhere.

CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation speaking at GAIN Youth Summit 2021

CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation; keynote speaker at at GAIN Youth Summit 2021 Day 2

It is critical that we all work together to create an enabling environment for our youth and entrepreneurs. However, while we continue to centralize Africa’s youth in their role as the key drivers of growth and development of the continent, it is equally important for all relevant stakeholders at all levels to continue to play their part in supporting the entrepreneurial aspirations of the youth”

Dr Januario Quibato Eustaquio, Angola Ambassador to Nigeria, advocates for partnership to promote sustainable agriculture among the youth as well as investment in research and development to support innovation to create employment opportunities for the youth.

Dr Januario Quibato Eustaquio at GAIN

Dr Januario Quibato Eustaquio

Mr Thami Mseleku, South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, emphasized the South African strategy of giving second chances to young entrepreneurs through effective institutions and education set up to support he youth who may have missed the first chances at getting the right education, to get a second chance, become empowered and contribute to the economy.

Professor Joseph Nnanna, Chief Economist, Development Bank of Nigeria Plc speaking on access to finance for MSMEs, emphasised the need to trust in creating access to finance.

Professor Joseph Nnanna, Development Bank of Nigeria Plc

Professor Joseph Nnanna

He said “Trust remains the necessary ingredient in achieving greater access to finance and global acceptance. On the global scene there is an undertone of “distrust” in Nigeria and dare I say Africa more broadly speaking and the “perception” has ultimately become a reality” MSME ecosystem, some of the experiences shared in their journey to access credit have been nothing short of heart-breaking.

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“For instance, there are individuals who have taken loans and have fully repaid, but due to lack of the required increased collateral from the bank to enable secure a higher loan amount for the expansion of their business, these individuals were unable to grow their business and have unfortunately remained in the “Micro” segment’”.

Prof Nnanna proposed providing capacity building for MSMEs, cashflow lending as a model as against just collateral lending, psychometric assessment especially for female entrepreneurs and provision of advisory Services –to bolster and promote the economy in general by aiding small businesses, provide counselling to aid individuals trying to start and grow businesses with offices in public universities across the country to lend support to respective businesses who have taken loans.

Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, Lead Faculty, Tekedia Institute, U.S.A. speaking on Accessing Funds for SMEs and Social enterprises in Africa, explained the key elements a startup seeking to access funds needs to include Knowledge, Entrepreneurial Capitalism, Capital and Labor.

Joycee Awosika, a young American trained Nigerian and the founder of a beauty and wellness brand Oriki Group shared her drive for building her business in Nigeria instead of America is aimed at creating impact on the continent through her enterprise.

Oluwamuyemi Orimolade, marketing and communications Coordinator, Microsoft philanthropies, Middle East & Africa & Philanthropies Lead for Nigeria, Microsoft spoke on many opportunities Micrososft provide to non-profits and small businesses across Africa through their various initiatives.

“The biggest spender or stakeholder at every given conversation like this is the government, that should be part of this new direction in terms of ensuring that our young people upskill. We need to do more collaboration. Things you need to look at, policies, what are the policies to enable, what are the policies that will ensure that people in underserved communities will have access to the same knowledge and skill sets”

The event attracted over 4,000 participants from 63 countries across the world.

GAIN is a youth-focused pan-African non-governmental organization which comprises young Africans between 15 and 35 years drawn from within and outside the continent, who are passionate about promoting entrepreneurship as a means to reduce conflict, promote peace and economic revival of the continent.

GAIN programs include training, advocacy, mentorship, and youth events, designed to help achieve sustainable development by igniting the positive energy of the greater segment of Africa’s population – the youth.

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