September 08, 2005/Source BusinessDay
Achievers\' Consortium International, a christian organisation at the University of Benin with the mission to transform the university environment into an economically viable one is holding a business plan competition for final year students.
The business plan competition which is one of a number of activities lined up for the Final Year Students\' Summit is scheduled to hold on Wednesday, at the Banquet Hall of the university.
Telcy Okundia, the executive director, Business/Economic Team of the consortium said last Wednesday that the consortium intended to overturn the trend whereby 80 per cent of graduates got into the labour market and remain unengaged for prolonged periods.
Okundia, who is a 300 level student of the university, says entrepreneurship holds the key to graduate employment in Nigeria. Entrepreneurship, he says, contributes grossly to growth of the GDP of any nation. The consortium therefore aims to kindle the fire of entrepreneurship among undergraduates and graduates through this summit.
They have therefore made plans for resource persons from Fate Foundation to assist at the summit. The entries on the business plan competition will be screened and winners selected by resource persons from Fate Foundation.
Okundia says the intent of the business plan competition in this conference is to ensure that the students who would soon become graduates have done their business plans. He says they would have conducted research which involves their market survey. They will have a good idea of the marketing strategies and the profitability of the businesses they would undertake.
He says if students already have on paper what they want and how they hope to achieve it, they would be able to ensure that they get returns on their investment. This, he believes, would also grant them access to venture capitalists or other investors to look into the plan and determine if the business is a viable investment platform for them.
The consortium plans to get in touch with officials of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to give resource materials and address the participants.
On the issue of bank consolidation, he says banks are under capitalised and have not been able to fund SMEs adequately. He believes that when Nigeria has stronger banks, the economy will be stronger and undergraduate entrepreneurs would definitely benefit. The business community of students on campus expect that the recapitalisation of banks will be favourable to them. Okundia says banks\' undercapitalisation has been one of the reasons they cannot afford to risk funding SMEs. \"With stronger banks, we can have stronger economies\", he added.
Okundia reveals that many students who are part of the Achievers\' Consortium International are actively engaged in business, running their businesses alongside their academic programmes. He says so far, they have not had academic problems as students who have entrepreneurial tendencies take things more seriously. He also expects that as the spirit of entrepreneurship is strengthened on campuses, it would reduce such anti-social activities as cultism.
He advises the University Council to work out a curriculum which will include Entrepreneurial Development Studies (EDS) as is being practiced at the Covenant University in which students study 100 business management thinkers. He says if there cannot be an independent course of study on entrepreneurship, it can at least be inculcated as a topic in General Studies, a course taken by all undergraduates.
In promoting investment, he said Achievers\' Consortium will be bringing in resource persons from IBTC and NNB to define the concept of investment and to stress the need for it among students.
He said the Nigerian business environment is still a virgin land and many opportunities are yet untapped. He stated, \'the fact that foreign companies are coming into Nigeria to invest and they are making so much money is indicates that the Nigerian business environment is till underexploited.
He said Nigerians, especially fresh crops of graduates from the universities should be encouraged to take advantage of the possibilities that are yet untapped in the Nigerian environment.