Increasing Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Nigeria
Comfort Kumashe is a small-scale rice processor in the Gboko community of Benue State, Nigeria. Kumashe began her rice processing business in December 2020 to improve her livelihood and earn enough income to support her family and fund her undergraduate studies at the state’s university. Although she had a limited background in running a successful agribusiness, she persisted, partnering with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity at a youth entrepreneurship training in Gboko.
The Agribusiness Investment Activity is working across Nigeria to address the bottlenecks that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) face when trying to access finance. By targeting youth-owned agribusiness entrepreneurs, the Activity aims to improve the agribusiness enabling environment, particularly for youth MSME owners, and increase opportunities to access funding for their businesses.
Through a recent collaboration with the Nigerian Youth Chambers of Commerce (NYCC), the Activity organized a five-day entrepreneurship development training for 71 Nigerian youth, including 11 members of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), working within the Activity’s seven focus states of Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger and five value chains of rice, maize, soybean, cowpea and aquaculture. As a result of the training, youth participants will become eligible to apply to the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) within the Federal Ministry of Youth. The training also qualifies them to become members of the NYCC, and as members, to access NYCC’s network of mentors and business development support providers for further business advice and assistance.
For five days, participants learned from a robust entrepreneurship curriculum ranging from lessons on idea conceptualization and business plan development to business management and leadership.
“The five days I spent at the training brought me out of my comfort zone,” noted Kumashe. She also highlighted how the training enabled her to learn customer relations, branding and digital marketing skills.
“I used to think that since my business is small, I should focus on selling only to the people I know. But now I know that I should think big and target more customers so that I can grow. I have now created a Facebook page for my business, added business cards for customers and am working on creating branded packaging for my rice instead of selling in open basins,” added Kumashe.
Similarly, Joseph Ornguga, another youth entrepreneur who also participated in the training, said he learned to take responsibility for his business failures to strengthen his enterprise’s operations. Ornguga currently owns a two-hectare rice farm in Benue State but is growing rice on only one hectare due to losses incurred the previous season.
“I realized that I was not keeping track of my business finances during the last farming season and I was about to make the same mistake again. I am now prioritizing putting my records in order,” he noted while describing how the training has set his business on the path toward growth and expansion.
Another participant, fish producer Priscilla Doughdough, said, “The training exposed me to design thinking; to understand the needs of my market and to design my products and services to meet those needs.” Priscilla, who has two years of experience running her business, said learning about record keeping, business plan development, asset management, customer relations and other concepts made her realize there was a lot she still needed to know about running a successful enterprise.
In addition to the entrepreneurship training, the Activity’s partner, NYCC, will provide participants with virtual and in-person business plan development support to help them turn their business ideas into viable plans capable of attracting finance or investments through mechanisms such as the Nigerian Youth Investment Fund.
The Activity is also exploring engagement with Sterling Bank’s Women and Youth in Agriculture Finance, code-named SWAY-AgFin fund, and LAPO Microfinance Bank to secure additional and alternate financing for these youth. Through support from the Activity, more youth will become credit and investment-ready, boosting their capacity to access finance and investments for their agribusiness MSMEs and strengthening the dynamism of Nigeria’s agribusiness sector.