Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Brewer – Youth Entrepreneurship Workshop Bolingo Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria (November 12, 2014)

Protocol:

  • Director General, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) Alhaji Bature Umar Massari
  • Guest Speaker Ndidi Nwuneli
  • Other distinguished speakers
  • Members of the media
  • Participants; AND, as I love to say,
  • All other protocols duly observed!

I am very pleased to be able to be here to recognize the success of this two day workshop on entrepreneurship.

President Barack Obama has placed great emphasis on entrepreneurship, and in particular youth entrepreneurship throughout his presidency.  In his first international speech, to youth in Cairo, he announced plans to host a Summit on Entrepreneurship because he saw the connection between entrepreneurship and, in his words, “the things that matter most in people’s daily lives, including jobs and providing for our families.”

In addition to hosting the first Global Summit on Entrepreneurship in 2010, President Obama traveled to the Malaysia Global Innovation and Creativity Center specifically to show solidarity with governments that are committed to entrepreneurship among young people.

As President Obama regularly reminds all of us fortunate enough to live in Africa, “Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent, with young people that are full of dreams and ambition.”  And as I travel throughout Nigeria, I am constantly amazed at the creativity and passion of young Nigerian entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs like all of you here today.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country.  It has the continent’s largest economy.  And it has by far the largest population of young people.  This is where Africa’s future leadership will come from.

Following the Washington Mandela conference this past summer in DC, the president announced the launching of the Massive Open Online Course program which will provide thousands of young African entrepreneurs with access to additional training and education online.  I am happy to report that these courses are currently being offered at the Rosa Parks Center at the American Embassy just a few blocks away.  I encourage each of you to visit our Center, if you have not already done so, to see how these online courses could be of use to you for additional entrepreneurship training.

As Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out, a young American, Mark Zuckerberg, was only 19 when he launched Facebook, the social media platform that has revolutionized the manner by which many of us stay in touch with friends and colleagues all over the world.  And I have no doubt that in the audience today there are numerous “Mark” and “Maria” Zuckerbergs, full of ideas that have the potential to revolutionize Nigerian society.

Here in Abuja, the U.S. Embassy, through our economic and public affairs sections and our USAID mission, places great emphasis on entrepreneurship as part of our mission goal to help diversify and strengthen Nigeria’s economy.  Among our efforts in the field of entrepreneurship, we target agriculture and clean energy:

The U.S. government, through USAID, is partnering with Syngenta, a U.S. agri-business corporation, to improve the distribution and utilization of agricultural inputs by smallholder farmers.  We are leveraging both private sector and Government of Nigeria resources and know-how to advance the policy embraced by the Nigerian government to withdraw from the procurement and distribution of agriculture inputs and turn these areas into new, private sector business opportunities.

This Agriculture-to-Production Expansion Activity is a $6 million, three-year Global Development Alliance, with financial support from the U.S. government, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, and Syngenta Nigeria.

We also recently brokered a $5 million credit guarantee through the Development Credit Authority in support of small and medium enterprises seeking to develop projects to install and service renewable energy installations “beyond the grid,” particularly in rural Nigerians.

Several Nigerian entrepreneurs were winners in latest Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. The competition was sponsored by the United States Africa Development Foundation in partnership with General Electric and the U.S. government.  Each of the four companies will receive a grant of $100,000 to roll out innovative solutions to bringing renewable energy off-grid communities.

And perhaps in many ways most importantly, we are focused on mentoring and training Nigeria’s young entrepreneurs.  In that light, we are extremely pleased that Ndidi Nwuneli was available to serve as lead presenter and trainer for this event.  Ndidi is a top Nigerian American entrepreneur, the founder of LEAP Africa, and a dynamic presence.

We are providing the best of both Nigerian and American business expertise for this training.  I am very impressed with the planned agenda and the qualifications of the speakers and presenters.  We are also extremely pleased that we received support from the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Administration of Nigeria and Director General Alhaji Bature Umar Masari.  Dr. Masari’s commitment to young Nigerian entrepreneurs is well recognized and appreciated.

This is, in fact, part of an expanded series of outreach programs that we have organized, and will continue to organize, in support of November as “Global Entrepreneurship Month.”  We have been organizing thematic digital video conferences and presentations from our exchange alumni on entrepreneurship at both the Embassy’s Rosa Parks Center and at the American Cultural Center.

And take note, that by participating in this workshop you are now on our contact list, so you will receive regular announcements and invitations to participate in future entrepreneurship activities.

We are very excited about the work each of you is doing and thank you for participating in this event.

Thank you.