ILO, AEA, SMEDAN partner on youth empowerment, poverty eradication

A mission to boost youth empowerment and eradicate poverty via entrepreneurship is being championed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Abuja Enterprise Agency (AEA), the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN), the National Automotive Design And Development Council (NADDC) and other establishments.

The partnership will provide sufficient support in material and human resources to the AEA, which in turn will scale up its numerous empowerment schemes to accommodate more Nigerians.

Speaking at an exhibition in Abuja in honour of the visiting ILO Director-General Mr. Guy Ryder, the Managing Director of AEA, Mr Arabi Muhammad Tukur said the agency was established in 2006 as the FCT administration’s vehicle for entrepreneurial development, poverty reduction and wealth creation.

He revealed that the agency, in the last 10 years, has supported 73,450 individuals and businesses (90% of whom are youths) with critical entrepreneurial areas like business clinics, access to finance, counselling, sensitization, workspace and market linkage and many more.

He added that AEA has supported 31,100 rural entrepreneurs in 160 communities of the FCT with capacity building trainings, access to finance, provision of equipment and other critical areas. These are just some of the few achievements the Agency has attained over the years.

He said: “The agency has designed to expand its grants programme to support the provision of work tools which will eliminate drudgery, share new technology to rural entrepreneurs and finance Start-ups, who are confronted with inadequate access to finance.

“We are also focussed on youth and women development; we have in the past three years trained over 800 youths and women on ICT, skills acquisition programmes covering areas such as shoes production and other leather works, cosmetology, confectionary and entrepreneurial training.

“Plans are under way to undertake a financial literacy sensitization programme to increase the number of entrepreneurs who have access to financial services to understand how to properly use the funds they received for their business.

“We are also in talks with other partners to upgrade the agency’s ICT hub with additional systems, 3-D printers and other advanced systems to provide the needed environment that can inspire innovative solutions.

We will continue to enhance our engagement with Entrepreneurs in the FCT towards facilitating business growth.

“Our mandate is geared towards accelerating business development in the FCT through designing and implementing projects, programmes and activities that would stimulate business growth; thereby creating employment and reducing poverty”.

Tukur further revealed that in line AEA’s five-year strategic plan (2015 – 2020), it has focussed its efforts on the rural communities of the FCT. The efforts includes the aggregation of rural entrepreneurs into groups, building the capacity of these groups through cooperative management, business management amongst others and provide them the capital in cash or processing equipment to support the growth of their business.

“This has achieved some level of success and has prompted us to reach to our partners; one of whom is the International Labour Organization (ILO), Nigeria Office, towards scaling up and building new projects in various locations in the FCT”, he noted.

Earlier in his remarks, the director-general of ILO, Guy Ryder, assured that the body will assist AEA scale up its entrepreneurship drive.

He said: “It was good listening to the beneficiaries of the training. All suggestions have been taken. The idea of working with the NLC, other bodies in the future is noted. The energy, vibrancy of Nigerians is excellent” he said.

For the director-general, National Automotive Design And Development Council (NADDC), Jelani Aliyu, plans were underway to deepen the partnership with AEA to develop local skills in automobile repairs and management.

He expressed joy that ILO was also a part of the drive to boost entrepreneurship in Nigeria.

“We’re also committed to raising living standards in Nigeria”, he said.

The representative of the director-general of SMEDAN, Monday Ewang described AEA as its baby.

“We’ve partnered them ever since they took off. We’re ensuring they deliver their mandate and on ours too.

“We’re happy to welcome the DG of ILO. SMEDAN will ensure it works closely with ILO”, he noted.

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