Nigeria: NEPC inaugurates youth programme, commits to export inclusiveness

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to foster export inclusiveness by harnessing the untapped potential of Nigerian youths to become export champions.

The Executive Director of NEPC, Dr Ezra Yakusak, said this at the official inauguration of the Youth For Export Programme (YEP) in Abuja.

The programme has as its theme, “ Promoting Youth Inclusiveness on Non-oil Export: A Catalyst for Sustainable Economic Growth”.

YEP is an initiative of NEPC designed to empower active and intelligent Nigerian youth population to become export champions.

According to Yakusak, youths constitute about 60 per cent of Nigeria’s population and should be catalysts for economic growth and development.

He said the country was not however properly harnessing the strength and skills of its growing youth population to accentuate socio-economic growth.

He said: “The future of Nigeria depends on our ability to harness and invest in human capital development and provide sustainable economic opportunities for youths.

“The export value-chain holds so much untapped potentials which are quick wins for the youths to latch on.”

Yakusak acknowledged the challenges encountered by different entrepreneurship projects targeted at youths employment that had been initiated in the past.

He said that in response to these challenges, NEPC initiated YEP to main stream youths participation in the non-oil export sector as part of the council’s Export for Survival campaign.

Stating the importance of the programme, the NEPC boss said it would among other things provide Nigerian youths with the necessary skills and knowledge to engage in export activities.

“The programme is aimed at building youth capacity by addressing export skill gaps, standards and quality requirements for export products; documentation and procedural issues and the technicalities involved in offshore trading.

“ The programme will therefore provide training and mentorship on the export process, market research, product development and access to funding and markets,’’ he said.

According to Yakusak, the project is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Zeenab Foods Limited as a major programme implementing partner.

He said:“ Zeenab Foods is the operator of the Nigerian Export Trade House in China.

“While the council will provide capacity building, Zeenab will provide mentorship and market access for youth entrepreneurs.

“ Already, Zeenab Foods had established the Nigerian Exporters hub (NEXHUB), an online platform designed to connect prospective exporters to niche markets.”

The Director-General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig.-Gen. Yusha’u Ahmed commended NEPC for the initiative while praying for its success.

According to Ahmed, some corps members are already benefitting from the initiative and have started exporting goods while others have indicated interests in that regard.

He pledged the commitment of NYSC to provide an enabling environment to all the interested corps members to access the programme.

Similarly, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment, Dr Evelyn Ngige, commended NEPC for the initiative targeted at youths and economy development.

Ngige, represented by Mr Kaura Irimiya, Director of Commodity and Export Development in the ministry, pledged its commitment to curb youths unemployment and grow the nation’s economy.

The Managing Director, Nigeria Export and Import Bank (NEXIM), Abubarka Bello, said the programme was strategic and would provide lots of opportunities to the teeming youths.

Bello said:“We believe that with this initiative, the Nigerian youths will be well positioned not only to develop themselves but to contribute to nation building.”

Meanwhile, the Director-General, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Abubakar Fikpo, said the programme would support President Bola Tinubu’s desire to enhance capacity building of the Nigerian youths.

He urged that the youths should be given an opportunity as they were tremendous assets that could replace the country’s dependence on the oil sector. A total of $900 was presented to some corps members by Zeenab Foods as benefits of their export businesses.