‘We need to become innovative, launch a revolution for self-reliance to tackle unemployment’

Chris Kohol is president and founder of Young Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (YEN), the voice and umbrella body of Nigeria young entrepreneurs.

Chris Kohol is president and founder of Young Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (YEN), the voice and umbrella body of Nigeria young entrepreneurs. In this interview, with BENJAMIN ALADE, he talks about the challenges faced by entrepreneurs proffering solutions and its forth-coming conference. 

Can you give an insight into YEN strategy?
YEN is a non-profit private sector-led organization that promotes youth entrepreneurship development and Nigeria’s economic growth. Membership of the organisation is open to all Nigerian young entrepreneurs including, aspiring entrepreneurs from the ages of 18 to 45. The organisation is duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and the National Secretariat of the organisation is headquartered in Lagos. YEN is saddled with the responsibility of representing and expressing the opinions of the Nigerian young entrepreneurs: creating opportunities, promotion of trade and commerce, creating business networking platforms, enhancing investment opportunities, entrepreneurship development, fostering economic development and growth, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) development, youth empowerment and development, fostering local manufacturing and production and other related activities.

What informed the YEN vision?
As you and I obviously know, unemployment and poverty has being a perennial issue since the inception of our dear country. The youths are the ones who suffer the ravaging menace of this problem amidst their unmatched potentials. Therefore we saw the need to savage the situation and consequently curb the perennial problem. Hence what necessitated the YEN vision is to curb the alarming rate of unemployment and poverty amongst the Nigerian youths, reduce the over dependence of youth on the government, enhance and promote entrepreneurship culture that will create sustainable development, create new generational business leaders that will impact Nigeria and the world with disruptive innovations, harness the talents of youths and give them a clear future, curb social vices, youth restiveness, and enhance peace and unity, and to support the development of the Nigerian economy among others.

How would you assess youth participation in entrepreneurship and economic development?
Over the last two decades, youth participation in entrepreneurship and economic development in the country has not been encouraging. The obvious reason has been that our youths are rarely given the opportunity to do so. This is evidential in the high rate of unemployment and idleness amongst Nigerian youths. We have youths who are willing and ready to participate in entrepreneurship and economic development but are not given the platform to do so. This is why YEN exist to give our youth’s unrestricted economic relevance and increase their participation in entrepreneurship and economic development.

Early this year, you installed Ooni of Ife as YEN Grand Patron, share with us Ooni’s contribution to the organisation
The Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Ooni Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi, is known for his unflinching passion for youth development. The youths are dear to his heart and he does everything within his power to support them. Our organisation has never been more privilege than having his weight behind us. As the Grand patron of our organisation, we have received tremendous support from him that has motivated us and our vision as an organisation. He has given his financial and moral support in all we do. As you are aware, we are collaborating with Him to host the biggest entrepreneurship event to ever be in Nigeria, “Youth Empowerment Summit 2017” (YES2017) to empower over 8,000 youths across the federation. I can boldly tell you that his support for this project is unmatched.

YEN is set to hold its conference  ‘YES2017’ across the six geo-political regions in Nigeria. Can you tell us more about the event? 
The YES2017 will be the 2017 annual gathering of Nigerian young entrepreneurs and youths at all stages of business development: business leaders, youth entrepreneurs, mentors, budding entrepreneurs, investors, government officials, to discuss and x-ray the challenges and proffer solutions to youth entrepreneurship and empowerment in Nigeria demonstrating YEN’s continued efforts and commitment in fostering youth entrepreneurship development and empowerment in Nigeria for sustainable growth and economic development.

YES2017 will be hosted in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria as follows: Lagos, Port Harcourt, Yola, Kaduna, Enugu and Abuja with over 30,000 delegates, 1000 exhibitors and 60 speakers. YES2017 will be the biggest entrepreneurship event to be ever hosted in Nigeria and will feature mentorship, conference, summit, business funding, networking opportunities, exhibition, and town hall meetings.

What economic importance do you intend to achieve with the conference, hence its relevance?
YES2017 is an initiative that was birthed to meet the ever-growing need to curb unemployment and reduce youth restiveness in the country complementing government effort to reduce youth overdependence on the government. It is a drive to create more job creators and not job seekers who will further create more jobs in return. Economically, YES2017 will empower some selected 8,000 youths across the federation; 500 youths will receive business funding/business tools through Young Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (YEN) in collaboration with the Ooni of Ife and other YES2017 partners, 500 youths will receive free business websites, 1000 youths will receive mentorship and 6,000 youths will receive special business training/capacity building to support start-ups and existing youth entrepreneurs boost their respective businesses across the country. The event has the capacity to change the country’s economic fortune for good. By implication, more entrepreneurs will be injected into the Nigerian economy. This implies spontaneous economic growth for the country.

Majority of Nigerians youths are unemployed. How is YEN addressing unemployment in Nigeria?
You just highlighted a very strong perennial issue known to all. It is no longer news that poverty and unemployment is on the increase for decades now. Institutions and corporate bodies seem to be perplexed by the alarming rate of the problem but I think we have what it takes as a people to curb this ugly and yet embarrassing situation. I think we need to understand how things worked for the nation that has gotten it right over the years; as we mirror them, we make concerted efforts to develop as they do. What we need at the moment is thinking outside the box, we need to become innovative, launch a revolution for self-reliance and be the determined to pay the price of development where opportunities abound for all. This is possible if we look the way of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is the way out of our economic woes as individuals and as a nation. The unemployed should think of creating value, same goes for the ones who lost their jobs. It’s all about starting something small and building it over time. YEN is here to make that happen; we are here to support and encourage youth entrepreneurship and to liberate Nigeria from the grip of unemployment and poverty. We need to break off the white-collar job mentality and stop relying on oil. Let’s start creating something of value then we can become gainful to ourselves and the nation at large. Thank you

What is your advice to the Nigeria youths?
Nigerian youth are the best in the world, their talents are unmatched. My advice to them is for the youth to channel their strength and talents towards legal productive ventures that will improve their lives and positively contribute to the economic and social development of dear country. More importantly, the youths are to avoid activities that are capable disrupting societal peace, hinder flow of business and loss of lives and properties. I appeal to them to shone social vices and illegal activities. The future of our dear country lies on the shoulders of the youth; hence the youths are to see to the growth of our dear country with all passion and vigor.

What is your advice to the Nigerian government and stakeholders?
I wish to encourage our government and various stakeholders in the country to join forces in collaboration and create more opportunities for the ever-increasing youth populace. When this synergy is created, more jobs are sure to be created as they both look in the way of entrepreneurship. The government should make friendly economic policies that would encourage and motivate youth entrepreneurship in the country, establish institutions and bodies that would meet the growing need of entrepreneurship in the country and more alike. Same goes for various stakeholders in the country, because It’s our collective responsibility and together we can make Nigeria better.



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