Bukola Imam, Ilorin
No fewer than 170 young people with businesses in the state have received interest-free loans from Kwara State government, an initiative Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq said is geared towards empowering young people and driving inclusive growth.
The winners got between N250,000 and N3m to start or strengthen their businesses after some rigorous, private sector-led screening processes that began with at least 7,202 applicants.
Amounts awarded depended on the scale and viability of their business proposals, according to the Kwara State Social Investment Programme office, which coordinated the initiative alongside Fidelity Bank.
Applicants Umar Faruk (Rice processing); Oluwatosin Adedoyin (Fish smoking); Courage Balogun (Waste evacuation); Jubril Bello (Plastic waste); and Mutolib ISSA (Locust beans) presented the best five pitches which won N3m interest-free loan apiece.
Others whose business pitches came next were Femi Olanrewaju (N2.5m for his fish Pond); Alabi Michael (N1m, Cashew); Akpem Micheal (N1m, UBER); Nasir Ajala (N1m, Agro farm); and Yusuf Mohammed (N1m, Rice processing).
According to a statement by Rafiu Ajakaye, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, the loans were awarded under Kwapreneurs, a state government’s entrepreneurial platform designed to support initiatives of people not more than 35 years of age with seed funds.
“Kwapreneurs is a revolution and the essence is to ensure that public funds are allocated to serve the best interest of the people, especially the young people below 35 years who have been underserved for many years. This is in line with our commitment to promote innovation, industry and enterprise,” Abdulrazaq said at the grand finale of the programme attended by top government functionaries, party leaders and business leaders, including Deputy Governor Kayode Alabi.
Abdulrazaq commended the youngsters for their brilliant ideas and their courage to have their pitches assessed by an independent panel of judges, assuring them of continuous government’s support and mentorship as their businesses grow.
“We made sure this was not business as usual. It was fair, open, thorough, and nonpartisan. A total of 170 businesses out of 7, 202 applicants have emerged from a rigorous screening process, which included online applications, verification of businesses/ideas and physical interviews (pitching),” he said.
“It is an unprecedented experience to see our young people pitching for funds for businesses. This was not the case before. But I am glad to note that our administration has succeeded in encouraging enterprise and dignity by introducing Kwaprenuers. This initiative aligns with the global demands for sustainable youths engagement and empowerment to widen the economic base of the state.
“I do not doubt that this crop of young people will succeed with the arrays of training they have undergone on business management, growth and development, strategies and sustainability among others and ultimately become employers of labour to drive improved revenue and economic development of the state. We appreciate Fidelity Bank and Wootlab Innovations for their support every step of the way.
“Our plan remains to build on the success of the first phase, thereby promoting commerce and trading, as part of our grand strategy on youths engagements and inclusive growth.
“However, its fundamentals are dictated by the global economic realities, revenue projections, and the sincerity of the beneficiaries to repay the non-interest loans as and when due. We urge our young people to use the funds judiciously and repay the loans for others to benefit from the scheme.
“Our commitment to prudent management of public resources remains unshaken. We will at all time prioritise the welfare of the people who have entrusted us with their mandate, while every segment of our society is accorded their right and privileges. I congratulate all the successful businesses and wish them the best.”