Nigeria’s population of 160 million-plus includes 20 million people who are young and unemployed, according to the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria.
In 2011, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan launched “YouWiN!,” an annual business plan competition, to empower the country’s aspiring young entrepreneurs and reduce the nation’s unemployment rate.
With a title perhaps more fitting of a U.S. game show, “YouWiN!” operates a lot like the TV programs “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “American Idol,” where a large number of contestants compete for a limited number of prizes. But these shows also offer some valuable economic insights.
“American Idol,” for instance, promises a record contract and other such prizes to a few winners, but is effective in eliciting the efforts of tens of thousands of hopefuls. Among those competitors who fall short of victory, many end up being recognized for their talents and are propelled to stardom, just the same.
In March, 1,200 of “YouWiN!’s” 23,821 participants were awarded grant money and provided ongoing mentoring services.
Among them was Anas Yazid, an information technology business owner who claims that his grant of 10 million naira enabled him to hire additional workers and buy computer hardware, and Taiwo Fawolu, a farmer who has since created five new jobs with his winnings.
Upon the conclusion of its first competition, “YouWiN!” reported that its grant recipients created a total of 12,108 direct and 10,342 documented indirect jobs.
The organization’s second year of operation, this time entitled, “YouWiN! Women,” limited entry to Nigerian females, of which 1,200 wer selected as winners this year.
The favorable economics behind a contest framework may explain why other governments and not-for-profits throughout African have begun implementing similar programs. For instance, the African Innovation Foundation in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has created The Innovation Prize for Africa, which offers $150,000 to select entrepreneurs who can provide the best market solutions in the realm of African development. Similarly, In Kenya, the government-backed Youth Enterprises Development Fund has committed to offer interest-free loans and guarantee private loans to worthy youth entrepreneurs.