The federal government of Nigeria has approved the establishment of a N75 billion Youth Investment Fund. This was disclosed on Wednesday by the minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, after the Federal Executive Council meeting.
Dare said the fund is to help entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 foster their businesses. He said that anyone who falls within the age bracket and has a genuine business is welcome to pitch for a grant from the fund.
He said any of the 125 micro credit banks across the country is ready to accept pitches and grant candidates access to funds.
“For the first time in the history of Nigeria, the federal executive council today approved the establishment of the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) to the tune of N75 billion.
“This fund is meant to create a special window for accessing credit facilities and financing on the part of our youths that will help to fund their ideas, innovations and also support their enterprise.
“The best way to call it is that for the first time, the country will have a youth bank; a fund that will cater specially for our youth within the stipulated age band, which is going to be between 18 and 35 years.
“The second approval that was secured was for the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to play a lead role in working on necessary steps that need to be taken in terms of legislation, organization and other aspects of financing.
“The federal ministry of finance, budget and national planning will take the lead when it comes to the aspect of financing, working with the CBN, the ministry of youth and sports development and other relevant MDAs,” he said.
The Minister explained that the NYIF will serve as a Youth Bank that will fund and support their innovative ideas, skills, talents and enterprises. It will also serve as a loan and credit pathway dedicated to enabling access to credit and soft loans.
He further disclosed that the NYIF N75 billion will last for three years, while he praised President Muhammadu Buhari for using the approval to demonstrate his “unflinching support for the Nigerian youth” and show his “implicit confidence in their innovative talents, potentials and industry.”
Dare said the development has fulfilled Buhari’s assertion that “it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we provide adequate resources to meet the basic needs of our teeming youth.”
While the development appears ideal, especially in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, it breeds some concerns. The Nigerian youth appear worried that the fund may not be accessible to those who need it unless they bribe their way to it. A claim they made pointing at the Credit Targeted Facility, approved earlier in the year to help SMEs to stay in business against the strains of the pandemic. The fund became inaccessible to a teeming number of entrepreneurs who needed it.
But it goes beyond that. Nigeria has similar banks for many sectors of the economy that have failed to yield the needed result. And for many, it is a reason to believe that the youth investment fund will make little or no impact apart from providing funds for public office holders to loot.
The Nigerian Export and Import Bank (NEXIM) was created in 1991 to provide credit facilities for the exportation of Nigerian goods and services, especially in the arts and entertainment industry. The objective was to foster the growth of the industry through credit and risk bearing facilities.
It’s been 29 years since then, and players in the arts and entertainment industry are still pointing at poor financing, and lack of access to funds as the bane of the industry’s growth.
The Bank of Industry (BOI) was also developed to provide access to funds for startups, SMEs, and large enterprises. The BOI, if effective, would have eliminated any need for a new entrepreneurial bank, as it was designed to cover all industrial sectors of the economy.
The prevalent need for funding in all entrepreneurial sectors of the economy proves how effective the banks have been in executing their mandate. It is based on the existing condition of the special banks that many believe the youth bank will have little or no success.