By Ayodeji Ake
To grow the economy and encourage Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs), a cleric has urged government at all levels to enunciate policies that will enable entrepreneurs below five years, to have the opportunity of handling a minimum of five per cent of government contracts.
Addressing journalists at the church premises in Gbagada, Lagos, Senior Pastor at Harvesters International Christian Centre (HICC), Bolaji Idowu, made the call at the seventh edition of the church’s quarterly free skill acquisition programme, Harvesters Skill Acquisition Programme (HSAP), aimed at empowering over 6,000 Nigerian youths in Lagos State.
He urged government to provide start-ups the needed support, saying: “People can’t do business without money; first of all, loans are hardly given to start-ups; we understand that most start-ups lose the money, but government must be willing to take the risk. The government must be able to invest in start-ups genuinely.
“If bank loans cannot be given to SMEs, government can devote a policy that five per cent of its contracts must be given to companies that are below five years in operation. That will change a lot of things; doing that will make money to be trickling into a sector for the future.”
In the past three years, the church has trained thousands in the areas of App Development, Digital Marketing, Graphics Design, Make-Up, Pastry and Mixology, Photography, Videography, Video Editing among others, and another 1,500 targeted during the forthcoming three days programme.
Idowu said: “As a faith-based organisation, we have a firm belief that Christianity in its pure form should not care only about the human spirit, we should be concerned about the financial and marital aspect and the community we live in.
“Nigeria has a growing alarming rate of unemployment, which is currently at 23 per cent. The rate of unemployment is massive so, the initiative of our church is to curb poverty, empower people, improve the community.
“Our approach is very simple, and tremendously impactful. We are providing people with skills, easy to learn and we also provide start up capital. This is not a skill where you need a million naira to start. So far, we have trained over 10,000 people over the past six editions”.
When asked if the programme was meant solely for Christians, he said, “social intervention cannot be meant for people of certain faith, because the problems we are facing are common; both Christians, Muslims, idol worshippers face poverty so, it’s not peculiar to Christians.
“And in this year’s programme, 822 have B.sc or HND, 86 have MBA or M.Sc., and we have 1,021 who are not members of our church, and 1,053 are attending the programme for the first time.
“We have another social intervention called Harvesters Entrepreneurs Forum. Attendees are taught how to have skill in HSAP but in Entrepreneurs Forum, they are taught how to do business; the two is what you need have to become successful so, you can have skill and don’t know how to do business.
“Our church provides people with capital in the Entrepreneurs Forum. We have between 100,000 to 250,000 naira capital for participants for now. Some will get equipment as a form of capital.”
On support from the government, he said: “The Lagos State Commissioner for Youth Development came to one of the programmes and commended us; he was surprised at the efficiencies we have with our system, that even the government is unable to produce with theirs.
“The Lagos State Government also indicated interest in giving people that go through our programmes opportunity to be eligible for the State Employment Trust Fund.”
Source This Day Live