Shell Nigeria LiveWire: Giving Breath to Bright Ideas

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By Ehis Ayere

It is about time Africa started promoting initiatives that provide support and incubation for the young people of Africa. The LiveWire initiative of The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC, operator of the NNPC/Shell/Total/Agip Joint Venture, has been so remarkable in empowering the youths of Nigeria that it could easily be said to be a model for engaging and supporting the youths of Africa.

Indeed, the Shell Nigeria youth-empowerment initiative unleashes the innovation and entrepreneurship spirit of Nigeria’s young people, providing access to the essential business knowledge and support that can help them transit from being a liability to an asset for the growth and development of the country.

The Nigerian Population Commission’s recent report of the growing youth population in the country is quiet saddening and very unfortunate. The Director-General of the Commission, Mr. Ghaji Bello said Nigeria’s population currently stands at 182 million, with more than half of its people below 30 years of age, and those less than 14 years accounting for more than 40 percent.

Though this is good for Africa as youths are intrinsically productive, ingenuous and drivers of economic growth and development, Mr Bello however said “…they are also liabilities.  We need to know how to plan for their transition from youths to the next category. It has implications for education, health and security, particularly in our environment where you have a lot of unemployment,’’ Bello said.

The youths of Africa are not less intelligent than their counterparts in developed or technologically-advanced countries. When Mark Zuberberg, founder of Facebook, visited Africa some months ago, the world was fascinated to see that African youths are not left behind in terms of innovations in Information and Communications Technology that have continued to change how peoples of the continent relate and interact with one another.

Needless to say, it is a major challenge that needs the expedite attention of African governments- transitioning and transforming the continent’s youth population from a category of liability to asset that will foster growth and development in the continent. The report of the commission beckons the government to initiate programmes, and create an ecosystem that support business start-ups and positively engage the continent’s young people and stimulate business start-ups.

The success stories of the LiveWire initiative continue to show that the private sector has a responsibility and role to play in this process.  Shell Nigeria LiveWIRE programme was launched in Nigeria in 2003 and operates mainly in the Niger Delta region of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Abia, and Akwa Ibom for young people aged between 18 and 35 to start their own businesses, and think about self-employment as a desirable career option. More than 5,700 have benefitted from the Livewire initiative programme as at 2014 and about 180 disabled people have been helped to become entrepreneurs.

With militancy and the level of youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region, the tremendous impact of the Shell LiveWire initiative cannot be over emphasized. The Shell Petroleum Development Company, a major international player in the oil and gas sector launched the initiative as a part of its social investment programme to engage and support the youths of oil-producing region who believe they are being marginalised and have not benefited from the wealth of the nation.

Abia Imo David is one of the beneficiaries of the LiveWrire project.  He is a testimony to the success of the initiative. Abia who hails from Imo State of Nigeria, is a young film maker and businessman in the Nigeria delta, explains how the Shell LiveWIRE program helped kick-start his business. He was part of the inaugural edition of the Shell LiveWire initiative. He entered as a young business person and got a price money of N100, 000. “I sunk all into the business,” he said. “I bought the first set of computer. That transformed my business from analogue videography to digital…that set of computer has brought in another 5 computers- state of the art computers for video editing.”

It is also worthy of mention that LiveWire provides business training to the young people to engender sustainability of the business. “LiveWire has also thought me on how to keep my books for proper accounting, the legal aspect of business and what my clients expect of me”, Abia testifies.

Similarly, Diana Marcu who hails from Nembe Community of Bayelsa state said her client relationship s has changed ever since she participated in the Shell LiveWire programme, due to the training she got. Diana runs a skin care and beauty business. She said, “so with Shell LiveWire I was able to get part of my startup fund, I was able to show my statement of account…”