Bolstering the Economy through Entrepreneurial Grants

Bolstering the Economy through Entrepreneurial Grants
Image: This Day
Chiamaka Ozulumba reports that Nigerian Breweries Plc, through its Life Progress Booster initiative, is bolstering businesses by assisting entrepreneurs with non-refundable grants.
Nigeria experienced tremendous prosperity at the onset of the oil boom in the ’70s. With the great influx in revenue, its citizenry was optimistic of the potential economic growth the sector will impact. To be sure, the revenue realised from the supply of these petroleum products could easily transform the nation just as the case with Dubai, a sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but there is more to it — Dubai gradually diversified its economy through tourism, healthcare, infrastructure, tourism, etc. These non-oil sectors account for 95 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), in effect, reinforcing it to face and surmount a possible future where oil products will be phased out by green, renewable energy.
Sadly, diversification didn’t catch on as culture during the oil boom in Nigeria. Try as it may in its efforts to diversify the economy, the oil sector was hugely prioritised, and the trend continued into the ’80s, ’90s, as other sectors were relegated to the background in favour of black gold.
This undivided attention the Oil and Gas sector soon saw itself – and unfortunately, other sectors – crumble due to poor maintenance culture. In 2016, global markets saw reduced demand for oil, resulting in a price slump. With the Nigerian government banking on revenues from the Oil and Gas sector, it slipped into a recession. Before the oil boom, agriculture and mining were major revenue contributors to the government. Food exports pulled in about 70 per cent of the gross national product (GNP) at independence. That value ebbed after the commercialisation of crude oil. As of Q1 2021, the agricultural sector contributed 22.35 percent.Though Oil and Gas contributed less than 10 percent of GDP in 2019, it made up about 65 per cent of government revenue, and 88 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings, albeit government’s efforts to diversify the economy through the Seven Big Wins Agenda of 2016 following global oil price slump.
With so much focus on the Oil and Gas sector, it is little wonder why the unemployment rate climbs steadily because there aren’t other functional sectors to absorb the unemployed. A 2020 report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says that 33.28 per cent of Nigerians are unemployed. Unemployment rates have seen a steady climb since 2017.
To offset the effects of the biting hardship that comes with being unemployed, many individuals turned to the informal sector to earn a living, irrespective of whether they are educated or not. At that juncture of scarce resources, survival transcends scholarly degrees.
Although grossly overlooked and termed unmanageable, the informal sector accounted for 65 per cent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017. With increasing rates of unemployment, it is safe to say most individuals ply the entrepreneurial route to secure a livelihood.
Despite a lack of enabling environment to thrive, the sector is rife with competition from overcrowding, poor service quality, and low customer satisfaction.
From time to time, the Nigerian government empowers small and medium scale businesses through schemes under the Bank of Industry (BOI), but several issues beyond its control suggest the need for alternative avenues through which these businesses can access the much-needed support.
Thankfully, corporate organisations contribute their fair quota by supporting businesses to grow and maintain this growth. One of such is the Life Progress Booster, an initiative by Nigerian Breweries Plc. The initiative’s primary concern is to bolster business by assisting entrepreneurs with non-refundable grants.
The Life Progress Booster was initiated in 2015 under the Life Continental Lager Beer brand that has gained prominence in the southeastern region of Nigeria. Since the beer entered into the beer market in 1981 through the Onitsha factory located in Anambra State, it has become the top beer brand, earning the title of Mmanya Oganiru, conferred on it by traditional rulers in the region.
Cumulatively, the initiative has supported over 1,000 small businesses, boosting services rendered and profits. During the 2021 edition of its Progress Booster initiative, Life Lager visited 10 locations across the region: Fegge, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Nsukka, Awka, Ikom, Umuahia, Abia, Nnewi, and Asaba.
Based on the impact of the Progress Booster initiative towards bettering lives and giving businesses a chance to thrive, Kehinde Kadiri, Portfolio Manager, Mainstream Brands, Nigerian Breweries Plc., expressed fulfilment, saying, “It has been a delight to watch the Life Progress Booster initiative grow and help many businesses in the Southern part of Nigeria scale and achieve sustainability.”
“The project is important considering the economic issues and rising rate of unemployment in the country. This Life Progress Booster is a reminder that hard work always pays,” she adds.
For each location, 10 winners received N200,000 grants each. The entrants were an eclectic range of enterprising individuals from various vocations ranging from hairdressing, fashion designing, mechanics, among others. Thousands of entries were collated and entrants were screened to ascertain merits.
One of the entrants, Nwaje Esther, a fashion designer from Asaba, who lamented her inability to secure an industrial weaving machine, was overwhelmed upon hearing her name announced. Esther, like the hundreds of entrants that applied for the grant, judiciously went through each stage, pitching to the judges why she needed the machine to help improve her efficiency, thereby attracting more clients.
“I started my business in April of 2021, here in Asaba, Delta State,” she revealed to the judges. “So far, there have been tremendous difficulties trying to meet the demand of my clients because I don’t own an industrial weaving machine.”
While Esther’s story has been changed for the better, there still exist a million more persons like her who require such grants, and that’s why the Life Progress Booster initiative vows to remain a staple feature from Nigerian Breweries Plc.
Mr Ezra Robinson who solely runs a garri making factory, Best Garri Production Factory, revealed he needed a power-generating set. Other recipients include Emerebele Mmadu and Oghenemaroro Omoraka amongst others.
Although these grants aren’t received by all those who applied, the selection system and criteria ensured that it was allotted to those who needed them the most. By boosting them financially, they impact their communities by employing people within the skill level they operate. In the absence of such grants, this would not have been feasible.
The Life Progress Booster is concerned with identifying the basic needs of businesses and supplying resources to activate the progress of communities. Six years, millions of naira disbursed, and thousands of entrepreneurs assisted, the Progress Booster initiative continues to empower the informal sector as means to diversify the economy in the face of falling oil prices.

Source: This Day