Kashim: Youth empowerment & entrepreneural development through i-DICE.

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

“We will not renege on paving the way for the acquisition of skills that meets the needs of the global market. Our actions today will shape the economic landscape of tomorrow, and so it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we leave a legacy of prosperity and opportunity for all Nigerians. When we empower entrepreneurs and small business owners, we unlock the potentials for innovation, job creation and economic growth. By providing access to financing, training and mentorship programs, we unleash the entrepreneural spirit that lies in every Nigerian, catalysing a way for the economic prosperity that benefits us all. We cannot achieve this without inclusivity and access to equitable opportunities. This is the ladder that we must offer to every disadvantaged citizen. My confidence in our ability to fix our nation stems from the unity of purpose of this Council (NEC), which has been demonstrated severally over the month. We have rejected binary thinking, resisted divisions and relegated selfish interests in favor of a shared vision for progress. This is a delicate period to occupy offices like ours, so we must remind ourselves that we have come at a time that tests the depth of our leadership and demands our most rational wisdom to make a difference.” __These were the remarks of the Vice President, Sen. Kashim Shettima, during the Nigeria Economic Council meeting, which he chairs, that took place on the 21st of March, 2024; while endorsing the implementation of the 617.7 million dollars Investment in Digital and Creative Enterprises programme, coined (i-DICE).

The i-DICE is a Federal Government of Nigeria initiative promoting investment in Digital and Creative Industries. It is part of Nigeria’s efforts to build back better, greener, and more inclusively, sustainable jobs for its youthful population. The program targets youths between the ages of 15 to 35 who are involved in innovative, early stage, technology enabled start-ups, or in micro, small, and medium sized enterprises of the Creative sector. The funding for the programme is through a collaboration by the Federal Government through the Bank of Industry, The African Development Bank, The Islamic Development Bank, and The Agence Francaise de Developpment, AFD, also known as The French Development Agency. The Federal Government has already appointed the Bank of Industry, BOI, to serve as the executing agency for the i-DICE program. As the largest and most successful development finance institute in Nigeria, BOI is responsible for the coordination and supervision of i-DICE from inception to execution. This is based on its credit worthiness and a long standing National rating of AA+ by Fitch [2020].

In i-DICE’s effort to foster innovation and support the emergence of more entrepreneurs, and also support their growth and unlock their potential, it has created three groups or components for ease. First is the Skills and Enterprise Development, which aims to equip youths with creative and tech skills, to generate high potential start ups and build a community of developers, software engineers, designers and thought leaders. The second component is the Access to Appropriate Financing for Tech and Creative Start ups. This will focus on funding and nurturing technology and creative enterprises, including start ups and SMEs. This aims to bridge the gaps in private equity and investments in Nigeria. The Third component is the Enabling Environment and Institutional Support segment. This will hold in collaboration with key MDAs, whereby policies which seek to protect start-ups and investors in the tech and creative space will be enacted.

i-DICE will be attracting direct investments in more than 200 technology and creative start-ups and provide non-finance services to about 450 digital technology, small and medium enterprises. It has the wherewithal to generate 6 million jobs within the youth population, while boasting of the potential to generate over 6 billion dollars into the Nigerian economy. Through i-DICE, 175,000 Nigerian youths including university students will gain direct access to technology, to build creative skills, stimulate innovation and help new businesses flourish.

In his closing remarks, he said, “Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we must remain consistent, in implementing the initiatives that alleviate the sufferings of our people, and be accountable in doing so. We must also ensure that interventions we deploy are non-descriminatory, and favors all stakeholders, with no part of our communities or nation lagging behind”. To buttress this, he has asked the State Governors to nominate persons to represent each geo-political zone, and focal persons to lead and supervise the implementation of the program in each and every State of the Federation. Since the inception of the administration, The Vice President has been a leading voice in the alleviation of the sufferings of the people from the hard but necessary economic policies that were adopted from the get-go. With his passion and commitment towards the actualisation of the i-DICE initiative, he has proven to be a worthy ambassador for the emancipation of our teeming youths, gifted with skills and talents, but lacking the support and enabling environment needed for them to flourish. With Kashim Shettima over-seeing the i-DICE program as Chairman of the National Economic Council, be rest assured that the program will operate unhindered, devoid of any segregation or discrimination. The Dice is now in the hands of the youths from every corner of the country, to key into this massive initiative and make a living, and perhaps become the next start-up success story and employer of labor.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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