From Communications to Catfish - A Cycle 3 Update
In May 2018, MEDA and Cuso International finalized another successful cycle of the Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) as part of the YouLead (Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development) project. YouLead aims to reduce youth unemployment by promoting entrepreneurship and sustainable economic development in the natural resource sectors in Cross River State, Nigeria (to learn more about the YEBSP grants and previous cycles, visit this blog).
Over 2,500 applications were received for the YEBSP 3rd cycle, and after initial screening for eligibility and review by an evaluation committee, 265 applicants (142 young women and 123 young men) made it to the last assessment stage of spot checks. Spot checks include informal interviews on how the young entrepreneurs plan to use the YEBSP grant; discussions on proposed income-generating activities, staff requirements and other funding sources.
Proposed land area for the applicant’s business venture is also examined to determine if a viable business could be established in the identified area. Spot checks also suss out environmental concerns, to ensure no business will be detrimental to the surrounding land. There were eight evaluators for the spot checks; four teams of two staff. This included two MEDA staff from Canada who participated in the process and supported the work of six YouLead staff based in Calabar.
Day one of the spot checks started on a high note, with fresh, innovative ideas – for example, Martin, a youth entrepreneur with an engineering background and thriving poultry farm. Although Martin was not currently working as an engineer, evidence of his engineering background was obvious as he spoke passionately about his development plans for a processing machine that would produce chicken feed. The venture could save his business lots of money and serve as an additional income-generating endeavour for his family.
Martin’s case was not unique. It was interesting to hear the educational backgrounds of YEBSP applicants and how it did not always align with their business plans. Nonetheless, it was evident the YEBSP entrepreneurs are incorporating their scholarly learnings into their business plans.
Another applicant was a passionate young woman who just finished studying communications. She planned to start a fish farm business – common in Cross River State. With her communications background, she demonstrated knowledge and know-how on advertising, effective promotional practices and customer service. All these skills would benefit her business and raise her above her competition.
Another young nursing graduate launched her poultry farm this year with unexpected results. She encountered a high morality rate with her chickens and immediately used her medical training to examine the chicken and bring it to a veterinarian to diagnose the problem. She said that if she had waited any longer to speak to the vet, her mortality rates would have increased significantly.
Although we visited many value chains, poultry was by far the most popular (see below for breakdown). MEDA’s support to this process included the development of tools(application forms, iFormBuilder, tablets) to ensure consistent and transparent information gathering during the entire process.
Testing the tools during spot checks in remote parts of Cross River State, Nigeria, was a valuable learning experience for the team that will be considered for future projects.
The checks not only resulted in identifying the most qualified entrepreneurs for YEBSP funds, but it also in much learning for this MEDA team member.
The importance of meeting individuals whose lives we touch through the project can be underestimated. Field visits and meeting project clients face-to-face are encouraging and inspiring.
The visit solidified why I am in this industry and why economic development is so important. I have no doubts that many of the youth I visited will go on to be successful entrepreneurs and I am fortunate to have learned from them!