LLike many other states in the federation, Katsina State faces the burden of youth unemployment, compounded by limited opportunities to boost entrepreneurship.
This challenge has exposed the state to the threat of an increasing crime rate among its young population.
This realization was the main motivation for Ismail Bello to launch a youth empowerment program in 2015. Over the past decade, his Entrepreneurship Support Hub (YES – Hub) initiative has seen thousands of young people gain various skills, becoming entrepreneurs and employers of labour.
According to him, Katsina State is blessed with a high concentration of bright and talented young people who have talents, skills and potential to drive sustainable development but lack access to enabling infrastructure to harness these capacities. ; competing for job opportunities or starting small businesses, due to poverty, ignorance and also lack of access to finance.
He said there was also a dearth of economic empowerment programs and a lack of access to technical skills development programs to hone their abilities in the skills needed for the workplace.
“Only two in 20 young people could access skills in entrepreneurship, technology and employability, and this has prompted many to engage in illicit businesses to gain economic opportunities.
“This social threat inspired me to create Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES – Hub). It is a social enterprise that connects economically disadvantaged young people with entrepreneurship and digital skills, as well as financial support, a growth plan and a business training toolkit to create sustainable businesses,” he said.
The program provides economically disadvantaged teens across the state with access to financial support, business training resources, and the technology and digital skills they need to start and grow successful businesses.
According to Bello, at the initial stage, the YES – Hub organized a training for 100 young people during which it selected young entrepreneurs and innovators with innovative ideas for a program designed to develop their businesses and prepare them for the investment of startup.
“I then developed the (YES–Hub) Accelerator/Incubation, which is a three-week program to coach, train and mentor 100 young people, as well as incubate and launch 10 selected start-up ideas.
“Through collaboration and partnership, we selected promising, civic-minded start-ups for this boot camp, in which entrepreneurs and innovators received digital marketing training that ensured they would earn digital marketing certification, business development services, and access to investor networks to better grow their businesses and ideas and be positioned to receive seed investment.
“I then partnered with five business professionals, who served as juries, and business coaches, who mentored five startup founders to win $25,000 in Foundation grants. Tony Elumelu. These have created a massive impact and improved their socio-economic livelihoods while creating decent employment opportunities for unemployed youth nationwide.
“More than 30% of all young people trained have created small businesses that create decent income opportunities for them. Additionally, approximately 70% of all our interns use their skills to access employment opportunities that would help create economic freedom for them.
“The impact has contributed to the reduction of around 10% in the number of unemployed youths in Katsina State by creating opportunities for them to access economic empowerment opportunities, earn income, obtain decent jobs, start small businesses and grow their existing businesses,” he said.
Ismail said he was able to sustain and expand the program through partnerships with certain organizations including the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF). Through this, he was able to give young entrepreneurs training in business development and entrepreneurial leadership skills through a boot camp program, as well as an opportunity to pitch their ideas.
He said he has also planned the Katsina Youth Dialogue on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which will bring together a diverse group of people including financiers, investors and leaders in entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership.
The dialogue with young people focused on issues related to leadership, the diploma trap, the vision of life, obstacles to success and methods and recommendations for a successful business. Entrepreneurs and small business owners shared their challenges and advice was given by experts.
Bello’s interest has now extended beyond the economic empowerment of young people as he is also involved in involving young people in politics to enable them to chart a good future for themselves and for society. .
Through Yiaga Africa, Bello said he helped craft a policy framework that was presented to Nigerian legislators and led to a reduction in the age of political competition to allow for participatory opportunities in civic leadership through engagement in public office.
Bello said he had the privilege of being mentored by a smart coach which gave him the opportunity to access career opportunities after college.
“I was also able to actively volunteer in non-profit organizations, learn a variety of skills in civic leadership, social innovation, community development and design thinking that enabled me to create massive impact,” said bello.
The United States Embassy in Nigeria has shortlisted its impact in 2021 for nomination to the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Youth Human Rights and Civic Engagement in Washington, DC.
He was also appointed Youth Adviser to the EU Delegation to the Youth Sounding Board of Nigeria, where he worked with project implementing partners to develop and implement youth-focused strategies that empowered young leaders with the tools to spark transformative leadership change for youth political participation in Nigeria.