Why CAPITAL is NOT The Reason You’ve Not Started That Business

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emmanuel odoemelam SME Digest
Emmanuel Odoemelam

Without an iota of doubt, things move slower in Africa than in many other continents. In Nigeria, there are many cultural nuances that can determine success or failure. There are political undertones that one must not ignore. Land rights, a cocktail of both modern and tribal land laws. It is thus important to understand these underpinnings, but it does not negate the fact that these cultural nuances have created massive opportunities that offers Nigerian youths the opportunities that First World (developed nations) countries don’t have.

I have an African American female friend who has been out of job for a while, but she is also highly skillful in making hair. I was having a conversation with her, and I asked her what was stopping her from marketing her skill and taking advantage of going to peoples home to render home services. She told me that, “You can’t make people’s hair if you don’t have the license to practice”. On hearing that, I inquired into some other things. And I realized that it is a necessity that you must have the license required to practice or start a business. This implies that you must have the necessary qualification and funds to pay for the license.

Coming back home to Nigeria, what do we have? We have a system where the ineffectiveness of leadership and it’s parastatal has created a vacuum that has presented limitless opportunities for those who are serious to maximize. Nigeria is one of the few countries where you can decide to start a business without a license and you will be allowed to run the business until the business becomes big enough to attract the attention of government agencies.

For instance, I was talking to a lady about rebranding her tiger-nut juice business. In the middle of our conversation, she told me about how her husband left her with four children and no means of livelihood. Few days down that happenstance, her survival instinct forced her to walk in to a restaurant where she told them she will be coming to collect used pet bottles which she uses in packaging her tiger-nut juice for sale.

I also spoke to a woman who does food business. She told me that her business actually started out of necessity. She said, “My husband never wanted me to work or do business. He was comfortable paying me monthly allowance. Until things went very bad for him. He could hardly put a penny on top of another penny. One fateful day, I called myself to a meeting where I reached a decision to start doing something. I got a table and a grill, and I started selling by the road side of the block of flats where we lived. Today, I have grown the business to become restaurant”.

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I once saw my secondary school friend who happens to be the only son of his widowed mother by the Tollgate that leads to MMA 1, selling magazines. Since I had a flight to catch, our conversation didn’t last for up to a minute, but from our little conversation, I was able to know that he was not able to go to the university because of funds. After about 7 years, I met him again January this year at a friend’s wedding, he was looking so good and happy. He introduced me to his wife and children, it was then he told me he was able to save from that business and bought a Nigerian used car which he used in joining airport taxi business. He then went ahead to buy another car, and was able to get two spots at the airport.

The examples are limitless. I can go on and on with examples of people who took advantage of starting a business in a very small way and are now in a better situation. Non of the above mentioned people are graduates or from a rich home.

According to Labour Force Statistics, more than 8.77 million Nigerian fresh graduates are unemployed. According to Trading Economics, “Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria decreased to 36.50 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 38 percent in the second quarter of 2018. Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 23.63 percent from 2014 until 2018 in second quarter of 2018 and a record low of 11.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014”. What baffles me is the fact that, within the same period that Youth Unemployment Rate was increasing, the number of MSMEs in Nigeria was also increasing. According to the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) which is an advisory arm of the presidency on small business matters, “between 2012 and 2018 the number of MSMEs in Nigeria grew from 17 million to 37.1 million”.

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The question then is, if businesses are coming up, why is youth unemployment rising? My answer is simple. Most Nigerian youths, especially those who are university graduates have become too big to start small. My mother once told me that, “you can never go hungry or be jobless in Lagos (Nigeria) as long as you are willing to work and ready to bury your pride”. I have met a lot of youths who are building castles in air. The kind of business they want to start is so capital intensive that if you put their entire kinsmen assets together, it can’t match the start up capital. Who said you must start with your actual dream business to make it big? If your dream business is to start your own car manufacturing business, why not start by selling motor spare parts like Innocent Ifediaso ? He went from selling spare parts to running a transport company, from where he raised the capital to set up the first indigenous automobile and bus manufacturing company.

Majority of them are busy daily on social media, abusing and complaining about how bad leadership is the cause of their problem and unemployment (please note that I am not exempting the fact that our leadership is ineffective, but that ineffectiveness has created limitless opportunities). Most of the people who complain about the ineffectiveness of the country are mostly graduates. They are masters at picking out grammatical errors from other peoples tweet, but hardly will you find any of them convert that good grammar skill into an educational business by training people on How to Speak and Write Good Grammar in exchange for money. A lot of them would rather be proud fraud stars (yahoo-yahoo) than start small.

How many Nigerian graduates will be proud enough to be a spare parts seller? Not a handful. Some will rather be unemployed and be feeling big rather than start small. The truth is, nobody stays up by jumping up, people stay up by growing up.

Dear Nigerian Youths, if it takes selling snacks and drinks in traffic to raise the capital for your dream venture, please start now!

Emmanuel Odoemelam

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