By Lucy Ackanyon
Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi comes alive as combined Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Summit organised by the Eunice Spring of Life Foundation kicked-off on Thursday, November 29, 2018 .
This event is expected to draw together 2000 youths and women from all the 23 LGAs of Benue State for an all engaging learning experience on diverse areas of free enterprise as a rewarding venture.
The event will be the fourth of its kind organised by the Eunice Spring of Life Foundation, NGO of wife of the Benue State Governor, Dr Mrs Eunice Ortom, in the last two years.
It will be recalled that in 2016, the Foundation hosted a women entrepreneurship summit which was widely applauded as the first highly organised summit of its nature, in the State. Another summit for women was held in December 2017. Earlier that year too, in June 2017, the first youth entrepreneurship summit was organised.
Apart from learning opportunities, the various summits presented platforms for participants to display goods and services which they had produced. This opportunity further opened doors for advanced training for many women and youths, in their areas of specialty. A lot more with no previous skills received vocational trainings in agro business, fiber and leather work, tailoring, hair dressing and styling, baking and confectionary, among others.
Most notably, arising from the Youth Summit held in June 2017, four youths were sponsored to the People’s Republic of China for a master vocational training in leather and fiber work with amazing success stories.
“Going to China was a dream come true as it presented a fantastic learning opportunity for me” Miss Winifred Agu, one of the beneficiaries sponsored to China said. Miss Agu who was already into shoe making said the attitude of Chinese to entrepreneurship alone was a tonic for her to press on in the self- employed job she had found for herself. “I saw that many Chinese were into production of one good or the other, in a business which belonged to them”. The young lady also said the training was very helpful and she is much better at her shoe making now than before.
Interestingly, on their return back to the country, the four youths agreed to a partnership with the ESLF, and are currently stepping down the training they underwent in China to 50 other youths, according to Tine Agernor, ESLF Programme manager.
Narrating the outcomes of the Youth summit further, Mr Agernor stated that, “192 other youths were sponsored in local trainings in leather work, hair dressing and styling, baking and confectionary making as well as tailoring with the participants drawn for the 23 LGAs. 25 others are set to commence training in food processing at CEFTER, Benue State University.”
In order to add value to the gains made from the two women summits, the ESLF facilitated a loan of one Hundred Million Naira (N100, 000,000) which is domiciled in the Better Life Micro-Finance Bank, Makurdi, for them. “Beneficiaries who have met the criteria to access the loans have since been given the amounts as requested for and this is a continuous process as more women are processing the loans”, Chairman central Planning Committee of the Combined Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Summit, Mrs Gladys Shaahu said at a recent Press Conference.
In addition, Mrs Shaahu said, “25 women were given stainless steel based grinding machines (which are healthier and fuel efficient”.
The 2018 combined Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Summit has the theme, “Inclusive Entrepreneurship Empowerment for Growth: Made in Benue is Possible”. A look at the themes of the various summits will expose an emphasis on the statement, “made in Benue is possible”.
Undoubtedly, this repetition reflects a vision for an industrialised Benue State and a strategic positioning of the economic strength of the state in the eyes of the outsiders.
Confirming the above assertion, founder of Eunice Spring of Life and Wife of the Benue State Governor, Dr Mrs Eunice Ortom has at various economic forums shared her dream of having a Benue State that competes favourably with other economically buoyant states and countries, globally.
Economists have argued that the modern economy transformation has gone beyond just poverty reduction to wealth creation. In this, commodity trading is old fashioned while value addition is the way to go. In the modern economy, agro- business is a highly placed asset. This call puts a demand on African political leaders to adopt business models that make agro business and production of finished good work rather than concentrate on commodity trading.
It is obvious that with her strategic efforts in economic empowerment of women and youths, through provision of trainings on agro business, food processing, fiber and leather works, etc, Dr Mrs Ortom has keyed into the dream for modern economy. Put in her words “my little achievements are my humble efforts to complement the state government in the development of the State” A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, it is said. Very obviously, the Economic empowerment programmes of ESLF are already creating group of entrepreneurs and by implication positioning the State on economic transformation.
The most sought after economic transformation approach is the holistic approach. In other words, all others factors in addition to skills, production, including favourable environment must be available economic transformation to happen. Like Miss Winifred Agu one of the four youths sponsored to China, in a recent interview, says, it will be a great relief on business people in Benue State for government to review its tax policies among other challenges faced by business people.