The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as part of its effort to boost food production, drive economic growth and reduce unemployment among graduates, recently introduced the Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES).

The scheme, according to the apex bank, is designed to create a paradigm shift among undergraduates and graduates from the pursuit of white-collar jobs to a culture of entrepreneurship geared towards job creation, economic growth and sustainable development.

TIES was developed by CBN in partnership with higher institutions of learning to unleash the potential of the Nigeria graduate entrepreneurs (gradpreneurs) by providing re-orientation, training and an innovative financing model that would enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem with a transformational impact on the economy.

The objective of the scheme is to enhance access to finance by undergraduates and graduates of polytechnics and universities in Nigeria with innovative entrepreneurial and technological ideas.

Specific benchmarks include 25,000 gradpreneur-led innovative start-ups and businesses yearly; creation of 75,000 jobs yearly and no fewer than 50 percent of female-gradpreneurs would be financed as a percentage of total projects.

Eligible businesses to be covered under the scheme include innovative start-ups and budding businesses owned by graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities in the areas of agribusiness (production, processing, storage and logistics); information technology (application/software development, business process outsourcing, robotics, data management); creative industry (entertainment, artwork, publishing, culinary/event management, fashion, photography, beauty/cosmetics) and science and technology (medical innovation, robotics and ticketing, among others).

The scheme is implemented through three components of term loans; equity investment and developmental component.

According to the document, the developmental component would be disbursed in the form of grants.

“The grant shall be accessible by Nigerian polytechnics and universities through a biennial national entrepreneurship competition aimed at raising awareness and visibility of high-impact start-up ideas among undergraduates, promoting entrepreneurial talent hunts in Nigerian polytechnics and universities and encouraging innovations that are commercially viable and with transformational impact,” CBN said in the document.

It explained in the document that the top five Nigerian institutions with the best entrepreneurial ideas would be awarded first place, N250 million; second place, N150 million; third place, N100 million; fourth place, N75 million and fifth place, N50 million” for onward delivery to graduates and undergraduates with winning proposals.

The equity investment component “shall be in the form of injection of fresh capital for start-ups, expansion of established businesses or reviving of ailing entrepreneurial businesses.”

Here, the bank said the investment period would be for 10 years (not exceeding December 31, 2031).

The third unit of the scheme, the bank said, is one in which graduates of Nigerian polytechnics and universities shall be eligible to participate under the term loan component, in which an applicant shall apply as a business entity registered with the CAC, with a BVN, first-degree certificate or its equivalent, not more than seven years post-NYSC, with an NYSC certificate, certificate of participation issued by polytechnics and universities with a tenor of five years and interest rate of five percent.

Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) under this scheme would be deposit money banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions as may be approved by the CBN.

While making comments on the scheme, experts in the agricultural sector believed that the scheme is good and capable of creating multiple jobs, boosting food production and contributing to economic growth and development in diverse sectors if transparently implemented with adequate resources.

According to them, access to adequate long-term finance has been one of the major factors limiting productivity as farmers are unable to expand their production areas.

AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer, lauded the initiative while calling on graduates to leverage the opportunity created by the apex bank, noting it will enable them to access capital to kick-start their agribusinesses.

“TIES is a very good initiative but it must be well implemented to impact food production and the entrepreneurial landscape,” he said.

Similarly, Patrick Adebola, executive director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, lauded the initiative and advised graduates of agriculture to take advantage of it to practicalise what they have been trained to do.

“The TIES for undergraduates and graduates with a good proposal in agriculture, tech businesses and creative industry is a welcome development. It will reduce the high rate of unemployment if the funds are disbursed to the right individuals.

“The CBN should also carry along the agricultural research institutes and colleges of agriculture for management of the funds for agriculture. They will provide the necessary technical support to ensure the funds are properly utilised.”

Olawale Mashhod Aliyu, a professor and director of research innovation and training, Malete, Kwara State University, also commended the move as a right step and advised the proper monitoring and evaluation process should be incorporated into it.

“This is a very good initiative if well managed and host tertiary institutions have the wherewithal to deliver on its effective management. A form of partnership with successful private outfits will go a long way to drive the entrepreneurial components of the scheme.

“The scheme should be structured in such a way that it will be insulated from incessant strikes. Strict monitoring and evaluation policies must be put in place for the success of this important initiative.”

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