Edo State and Oxfam, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), have staked a N500,000 seed fund as well as incubator and accelerator packages for top three business ideas at a pitch competition that took place at the Edo Innovation Hub.
The pitch was part of activities lined up for the International Youth Day commemoration at the technology hub on August 10, in Benin City.
The Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration has pioneered a youth-centric programme that prioritises capacity building in technology and technical fields for young people in an effort to drive industrialisation and wealth creation.
Speaking on the partnership with the state government on the International Youth Day commemoration, project lead/Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) programme coordinator, Oxfam, Michael Adeola, said the event provided a space for youths to engage with policymakers on their peculiar challenges.
He said top technology companies such as Hotels.ng, Andela and Facebook were billed to be at the event, themed Safe Spaces for Youths, to educate youths on their capacity building initiatives and how Edo youths could leverage such training for personal development and wealth creation.
According to Adeola, “We designed the event in such a way that it gives young people the opportunity to express themselves and let policymakers know about the challenges they face. It is an open space for them to discuss their challenges and the policymakers are there to listen to them. They will go back and design programmes and policies to serve the young people better, because nobody can talk about the challenges of youths better than the youths themselves.”
On the pitch competition, he said, “We are calling on young people who have business ideas that can solve a social problem and make social impact. All they need to do is to send us a two minutes video. The innovations should be in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or agriculture.
“There will be a pre-pitch, where we will select the best five, who will then pitch to the audience at the International Youth Day event. We will select the best three, who will get seed fund and incubator or accelerator packages. The first place winner will get N250,000; second place gets N150,000 and the third place gets N100,000. Each of the prize winners will get either an incubator or accelerator package depending on the stage of their idea.”
He said Edo state is one of the project states for Oxfam’s Work-in-Progress project, focused on youth employment, noting that the interest in the state is as a result of the progressive nature of the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration.
“In Edo, we have been conducting employability training for young people. The training involves building their Curriculum Vitae, preparing them for the workplace and others. At the end of the training, the trainees often ask, what next? So, we organise job fairs where we invite private and public sector organisations that are interested in recruiting these young people.
“Usually they have a direct opportunity to get interviews, they would have been applying and didn’t get a face-to-face interview with a potential employer. During those job fairs, private and public companies attend and we are able to place them on jobs.
“Over the past two years, we have supported 528 youths in employability skills training in Lagos and Edo states. We have been able to place 338 of them in jobs and internship programmes through the job fairs.”
On the state government’s posture, he said, “We see that the government is very progressive. I attended an event in Abuja, where the government assembled development partners, wanting to know what each of them is doing in Edo and what they hope to offer in the future. The governor and his deputy were there and were quite engaging. So, we see the government of Edo State as very progressive and partners we could work with in getting young people into jobs and creating employment opportunities for them.”