Amidst concerns of unemployment in Nigeria, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) beefed up its program by introducing the Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) initiative.
Adopted in 2012, the SAED initiative dedicates a cumulative 30 hours — across a period of 10 days — to sensitising corp members on the need to widen their scope, beyond paid employment, towards considering entrepreneurship. They are then encouraged to take on different course content that will enable them start businesses of their own.
Five years and four months down the line, it’s still hard to say for a fact if the scheme is everything hoped for. NYSC confirmed in an interview with TheGuardian last year that over 1600 beneficiaries of the reinvigorated program (SAED) have gone on to become full-time entrepreneurs, managing businesses with varying degrees of success across the country. This is underwhelming considering that over 500,000 corps members have participated in the scheme since its inauguration.
The world over, entrepreneurship is fast becoming the bedrock of modern civilisation. A good set up for the SAED initiative could easily have made it a better alternative when it comes to entrepreneurship development. Instead, the rhetorical contrast of ideas peddled in the name of imparting knowledge on corps members betrays the SAED scheme.
Several conflicting stories have emerged about the modus operandi of the SAED program but, the most common ones are that of the SAED’s short time span. Underneath those stories are a gentle clamour to have the scheme replaced with the Community Development Services (CDS). Worrisomely, the short-term nature of the program creates an environment where corp members tend to focus solely on creating wealth.
As much as SAED initiative is laudable, it is not enough to just focus on the business side — true wealth comes from creating impact, and time is of the essence.
The NYSC year extends for no less than 10 months. Evidently, dedicating just 10 days to a scheme as important as SAED hasn’t augured well for the growth of the program. One of the things that will, therefore, need the speedy attention of NYSC is to look into the duration for SAED.
An idea, plus the requisite skill, counts for little if there is no fund to execute. Likewise, to make employers of labour out of the corp members who have participated in the initiative, there has to be an avenue through which they can access funding.
Christiana Ubah, Director of ICT for NYSC, spoke about a loan provided by the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support the program. If such funds do really exist, it’s high time due diligence was enforced. Otherwise, SAED will be no good during the NYSC year.