YouWin: Another government ponzi?

A man with focus knows where he is headed and will move in the direction of his goal irrespective of what others have to say. Conviction is key to achieving a set target.
With every passing day I wail in agony for my dear country Nigeria. The Goodluck Jonathan Administration has been attacked from all corners of the nation. Some have called him unprintable names. I believed and still hold unto the belief that dissipating our energy in the direction of one man, especially one who occupies the highest possible position of our dear country is not enough to move our country forward.
Yes, he may be the commander in chief of the armed forces, and so wields a lot of power, but we are a nation of over 140 million people and we should see ourselves as crucial to the achievement of the Nigeria of our dreams.
Having said that, I must quickly add that my major concern for the Goodluck jonathan Administration is the attempt to become a listening ruler (I insist that the world ruler is more appropriate than a leader for the majority of the people who are supposed to be our leaders) by trying to gratify a section of the Nigerian populace; The youths, with phony policies and projects.
Attempting to write down the many challenges the average Nigerian youth has to contend with on a daily basis is like trying to search for a needle in a haystack. The president has made some good intentioned attempts to move our country in the right direction. My major focal point will be The Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WiN!), an idea borne of a collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication Technology (CT), and the Ministry of Youth Development. This innovative concept recently commissioned by the Nigerian government “will launch an annual Business Plan Competition (BPC) for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Nigeria, in line with the Federal Government’s drive to create more jobs for Nigerians. The programme will be implemented in partnership with Nigeria’s private sector, who will be requested to provide funding support” (sic).
According to the statement on the official website of You Win, “Specific Objectives of the Programme include to:
• Attract ideas and innovations from young entrepreneurial aspirants from Universities, Polytechnics, Technical colleges, and other post-Secondary institutions in Nigeria;
• Provide a one time Equity grant for 1,200 selected aspiring entrepreneurs to start or expand their business concepts and mitigate start up risks;
• Generate 80,000 to 110,000 new jobs for currently unemployed Nigerian youth over the three years during which the three cycles will be implemented;
• Provide business training for up to 6,000 aspiring youth entrepreneurs spread across all geo-political zones in Nigeria;
• Encourage expansion, specialization and spin-offs of existing businesses in Nigeria; and,
• Enable young entrepreneurs to access a wide business professional network and improve their visibility.” (sic).
In my humble opinion, You Win is a lofty idea. A holistic look at this idea reminds me of the story of foolish man who decided to convert his bedroom into a farmland. Having unearthed the concrete materials on the floor, he proceeded to cultivate the crops of his choice, being maize and okra. He suddenly realizes that there was need, in the first place, for sunlight as the crops will refuse to germinate without exposure to sunlight. The man had a good idea, but his greatest undoing was his failure to reflect on the most important aspect of any project; PLANNING.
With proper planning, the pitfalls in a project will be seen beforehand and checks and balances put in place to arrest them if/when they arise. Note that the effectiveness and relevance of a project of this type is the impact it has on the long run. No matter how inspiring and impressive an idea is, it is naught if it fails meet the purpose for which it was set up for in the first instance.
I am not conscious of the planning process that bred the You Win project but its objectives have been dented by the realities of the Nigerian business climate. Who has any doubt as to how SME’s struggle to stay afloat in the Nigerian business environment? Who doesn’t know that established businesses are running away from Nigeria? Who doesn’t know that Nigeria is ranked 137 out of 181 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index? A nation’s ranking on the index is based on the average of 10 subindices: (sic)
1. Starting a Business – Procedures, time, cost and minimum capital to open a new business
2. Dealing with construction permits – Procedures, time and cost to build a warehouse
3. Employing workers – Difficulty of hiring index, rigidity of hours of index, difficulty of redundancy index, rigidity of employment index, redundancy costs
4. Registering property – Procedures, time and cost to register commercial real estate
5. Getting credit – Strength of legal rights index, depth of credit information index
6. Protecting investors – Indices on the extent of disclosure, extent of director liability and ease of shareholder suits
7. Paying taxes – Number of taxes paid, hours per year spent preparing tax returns and total tax payable as share of gross profit
8. Trading across borders – Number of documents, cost and time necessary to export and import
9. Enforcing contracts – Procedures, time and cost to enforce a debt contract
10. Closing a business – Index of recovery rate which is a function of time, cost and other factors such as lending rate and the likelihood of the company continuing to operate
The simplest explanation of this index is thus: a prospective investor will only consider Nigeria as a viable business options after considering the 130 other nations ahead of her. Gloomy reality! You Win appears to be a very good initiative but were the following realities considered properly:
Lack of Capital
Yes, we know that Lack of Capital is a major issue with SME’s in Nigeria. You Win attempts to arrest this problem by providing the winners of the competition with cash incentives to start up their businesses. Impressive!
Epileptic Power Supply
Who needs a clairvoyant mind to know that we have an epileptic power supply in Nigeria? How will the winners of You Win bypass the high cost of running their business with an independent and private generating transformer (Generator)?
We all knew we lived in an unsafe country, in the exception of the ruling class who can afford to buy bullet proof cars with our money, and allocate to themselves, millions of naira as security votes, but the recent rise in militancy and suicide bombings has increased the state of insecurity in our country. Will businesses, the ones bankrolled by You Win particularly, be exempted from the harsh security uncertainties in Nigeria?
Government Policies
The frequent change in Government has resulted in change in Government policies.
Business friendly policies are alien to the Nigerian ruling class. Multiple taxation and goods delay in ports and due to change in Government policies are everyday issues that businesses have to contend with.
Add to the above, bribery and corruption, the sky rocketing cost and prices of goods and services etc. these are the many challenges that existing businesses in Nigeria have to contend with daily. These are the challenges that have driven a good number of businesses out of Nigeria. And these are the same challenges that the winners of You Win will have to contend with.
Picture this: You as a fish farmer decide to buy new fingerlings and then throw them into a pond with debris and big fishes who struggle to stay alive. I know you are sane, so please answer this: do you think the fingerlings will survive, and will you consider your decision sensible?
I see how the GEJ Administration is dissipating a lot of energy to be remembered as the Nigerian president who gave Chukwudi Taiwo Onome the opportunity and leverage to be the Nigerian version of Steve Jobs. Well, Mr. President, please know that Steve Jobs wasn’t presented with a fat check by the American government before he revolutionized the world. This is what they did:
1. They ensured that the USA is ranked 4th on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.
2. They ensured that power supply is not a worry.
3. They ensured that infrastructural decay is alien to Steve Jobs and the likes.
4. They ensured that Healthcare is a no-issue.
5. They ensured that there was a conducive and enabling environment for Steve Jobs to implement his ideas.
6. They ensured that was a level playing field for entrepreneurs and their ideas to blossom.
7. They ensured that corruption is reduced to barest minimum.
Mr. President, please don’t try to impress us, the youths of Nigeria. Just provide us the above mentioned, and shelve this Ponzo illusion/ Ponzi scheme that is already sinking before it sails offshore.
God Bless Nigeria!
God Bless You!
God bless me!

written by Ifada I Johnson

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