Story Highlight: The organization is partnering with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to provide financial facilities to aspiring youth entrepreneurs.
On Saturday, March 9, the annual Turning Point youth conference was held in Lagos. The event saw the gathering of some influential thought leaders and industry experts (including Helen Paul and Ubong King), who addressed some of the critical challenges facing Nigerian youths today. The conference was convened by Mr Olusegun Odufuwa of Superior Performance Global Network, and it had the objective of imbuing the youths with the necessary skills which they need to become successful young adults.
We had a sit-down with the convener and asked him specific questions about how his organisation is helping to solve the problem of youth unemployment in Lagos and Nigeria at large. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Nairametrics (NM): Please tell us a little bit more about the Turning Point annual conference.
Olusegun Odufuwa (O.O): The Turning Point annual conference is a programme designed for youths with the aim of teaching them the necessary strategies needed to succeed in their businesses and careers. In today’s Nigeria, a lot of youths want to become entrepreneurs, and so one of the things we do with this programme is to bring successful entrepreneurs to teach the young ones how they too can succeed in business. This is important because anybody who wants to become a successful entrepreneur needs a platform where they can be taught how to start a small business (with little or nothing) and grow said business into a big, global corporation.
NM: This training you have talked about. Is it merely theoretical or are there some practical aspects to it?
O.O: It’s a combination of both. The young people need both the theoretical and practical aspects to become successful entrepreneurs. That is why at Turning Point 2018, we are going to be sharing ten business ideas (free of charge) with our participants.
N: Does your company provide financial facilities to the youths? I ask this because it is one thing to have business ideas and another thing to fund it. Therefore, bearing in mind that most Nigerian youths are unemployed and financially incapacitated, does your organisation provide financial facilities to support their business ideas as well?
O.O: Yes, we do try to provide financial facilities to them. Let me just say it now that our conference does not just end at the venue. Instead, it’s a process. First of all, we get to teach the youths the basic mindset for making money and succeeding in either business or professional careers. And then there is the second phase, where we try to provide them with some financial facilities. This year, we are partnering with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) to access soft loans for some of our participants who want to establish their own SMEs. For the third phase, we monitor our participants as they start up their businesses, ensuring that they actually do scale through and follow through with the loan repayment process.
NM: Kindly expatiate more on this partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. We know that the agency has very strict criteria which aspiring entrepreneurs are required to meet before they can qualify to access the loans. Does this partnership you have with them make it easier for the youth entrepreneurs you represent to access loans from the LSETF?
O.O: Yes, the partnership will make it easier for youth entrepreneurs to access the loans. You see, we already did our research about the LSETF and found out that it is quite difficult to apply for a loan from them as an individual entrepreneur. This is because of some of the criteria are really difficult to meet. This is one of the reasons why we are doing it as an organisation; standing as a surety for the loan seekers. At the end of the day, we are hoping to get bulk loans for the youth entrepreneurs and ensure that they also repay the loans. It is very important that they repay the loans because one of the reasons why it is a bit cumbersome to access the loans, in the first place, is because of LSETF’s worry that some people may not pay back. That said, the agency is more comfortable giving loans when organisations like ours stand in as sureties for entrepreneurs and also closely monitor them to ensure that they repay on time.
NM: Is this partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund just starting or has it been ongoing for a while?
O.O: We are still in the discussion stage, and I am very positive that before long, we would be finalising agreements with them. As it is now, the LSETF has not yet commenced the loan application process for 2018. They will start sometime in April. So, by the time they commence in April, we will submit our applications on behalf of our conference participants. Before then also, we would have already compiled all the business ideas that we have and put it in a proposal format which would then be presented to the LSETF so that once they start by April, we will be able to start accessing the loans.
NM: For how long has Turning Point been in existence?
O.O: It’s been in existence since 2014; so it’s just four years old. Gradually, we are getting to reach out to a lot more people to support our efforts, just as we are trying to empower a lot more people.
NM: What has been the success story since 2015?
O.O: The success story has been how people have been getting empowered through our organisation. This is because asides the business side of the organisation, we also do a lot of rehabilitation. This is necessary considering the fact that many Nigerians are having different psychological issues which also affect their levels of productivity. Therefore, rehabilitating them is the ultimate empowerment they need because then, their lives would be recouped for ultimate performance in life.
NM: Do you have any statistics to indicate the number of people you have empowered, particularly in the areas of employment and entrepreneurship?
O.O: I may not be able to give you the accurate statistics offhand. But to be frank, we’ve not hit double-figures just yet. Like I said, we are just four years old. And over the years, our programmes have been mostly funded through personal pockets. But that aside, I can tell you that we have been able to empower less than ten people. And it is because we want to do more that we are partnering with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. We are also looking at going to some international organisations and being able to access grants for more youths who have business ideas.
NM: So in succinct terms, what would you say is the economic implication of this programme?
O.O: The economic implication of this programme is the multiplier effect. Here is what I mean by that— by the time you empower 10, 20, 50 or 100 people and they all eventually start operating their small businesses, you would have taken them out of the unemployment market. Before long, they too will begin to employ one or two people. The multiplier effect begins to take hold to the extent that it becomes impossible to quantify it. That is the major thing we are hoping to accomplish here. As you may well know, a lot of people are hoping to get jobs and there are no jobs. That is why it is important for them to be able to start something and get support with finances so that they can help themselves, others, and by extension, the society at large.
NM: So, what you are saying in effect is that your programme here is different from the regular motivational programmes that abound in Lagos?
O.O: Definitely. You see, before we started with this programme, we actually did carry out our research and understood that many youths get inspired every now and then. But most times, the motivation they get tend to dissipate immediately they leave the venue of the programme. At most, the motivation doesn’t last for more than two-three days and then they are back to the place where they were before. That is why my organisation has decided that we won’t just motivate people. Instead, as we motivate them, we also try to ensure that their needs are taken care of. In Nigeria today, what the youths need the most is to have means of survival; how to make money. Once they can make money and take care of themselves and their families, you realise that half of their problems are already solved. So what we do here is not just to encourage/motivate, we also teach people how to make money, as well as provide them with some of the tools and opportunities they need in order to make money.
Asides our efforts at facilitating entrepreneurship, we are also trying to partner with corporations like Total to secure internships and employment opportunities for youths. I work at the office of the Lagos State Government for instance. So I am always using my links to network and secure opportunities that will be beneficial to the youths. I do this so that if I am able to rehabilitate Mr A to desist from his lifestyle and become more positive-minded, I can then avail him of financial opportunities either by supporting him to take on entrepreneurship or by fitting him into organisations. It does not matter whether they start big or small. What matters is that they get the opportunities to start something for themselves. And most importantly, they don’t return to where they were coming from.
It is important to always bear in mind that most youths today indulge in vices such as prostitution, crime, substance abuse and even sexual aberrations all because of money. Most of them are so hopeless to the extent that they resort to these vices as ways of getting through the hard times they face. Therefore, no matter how you tell them not to resort to social vices if you don’t solve the root cause of their problem, you are wasting both your time and theirs. So how do you solve their problems? It is simple— by getting them sources of employment.
NM: Is Turning Point a full-fledged organisation? Do you have an office and staff members?
O.O: For now, we only have a mini office and we do have staff. But most of our staff seldom work every day like Mondays-Fridays. What we do instead is that whenever we have a programme, everybody comes together and we strategise on how to execute said programme. Afterwards, we work remotely, while constantly keeping in touch with each other.
One of the reasons why we have not gone fully-fledged (i.e. 9-5) is because of funding. But we are hoping to really expand and even open a psychology clinic where people can come in and get solutions to their psychological problems and emotional trauma. This is equally important because quite a number of people have various psychological issues. There are people who have self-esteem issues, and it is preventing them from getting jobs. Others have sexual aberration issues which also affect their self-esteem and by extension, their productivity.
I once met a young woman who had experienced four rape attempts. For this reason she has a constant phobia for guys, so much so that she cannot stay in the same room with men she is not very familiar with. That kind of girl will have a destabilized professional life. Just imagine that she has to be in a conference room full of men or even attend a job interview conducted by men; how would she fare? Horribly.
Other people have substance abuse problems, addictions that have literarily destroyed their lives and all chances they have at economic success. Such people can be rehabilitated at our psychology clinic.
NM: Thank you very much for your time, sir.
O.O: You are very much welcome.