An initiative launched in early 2018 – “Initiatives pour le Development de l’Entreprise”, known by the acronym IDEE – is designed to curb irregular migration by encouraging Nigerien youth to believe in themselves as self-employed business men and women – who can create employment for others.
That’s the “idée” – French for “idea” – and so far, 86 young entrepreneurs have chosen to start their own business at home with support from this three-year project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
One of those start-ups belongs to Soumana, 25, offering website development, multimedia editing and graphic design.
Soumana is one of the young Nigerien entrepreneurs who participated in the job fair which took place last weekend between March 2 and 3 at the University in Tahoua, Niger, with support from the Minister for Employment, Labour and Social Protection in Niger.
Organized by IOM together with local incubator CIPMEN and financed by the European Union, the “Foire de l’Emploi Tahoua” reunited more than 6,000 visitors and 133 local businesses during its two-day run. It was the first event of its kind in Niger, organizers said.
Among the participants were local and national authorities, EU representatives, media partners, owners of national and international start-ups, diaspora representatives, students, and migrant returnees.
With Tahoua, Zinder and Niamey as its three cities of intervention, the IDEE project aims to support youth entrepreneurship through the creation of local work opportunities as alternatives to irregular migration for young people lacking economic opportunities at home.
Financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, the IDEE project is implemented through the support of its partners: CIPMEN, Terre Solidali, Capital Finance and the Ministry for Youth Entrepreneurship in Niger.
To boost youth engagement prior to the fair, a caravan visited local schools, universities and associations, through which close to 1,500 people were reached and informed about the event.
“It’s a great and much-needed initiative for Tahoua. Hopefully, this represents only the beginning for the future of our city,” says Seni, 22, a law student at the University in Tahoua.
Niger has the lowest socio-economic and development indicators (188/188 UNDP United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Indicators 2016), with an estimated 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, which drives people to seek better work opportunities abroad, usually in either Libya or Algeria.
The Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM), funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, was launched in 2015 to contribute to the promotion of a dignified and secure migration for all, as well as to support government efforts in developing an effective approach to migration flows.
Tahoua is a significant point of departure for Nigeriens migrating to Libya, mostly as seasonal workers. In 2018, some 2,663 Nigeriens received assistance for voluntary return and reintegration from IOM’s team in Niger, out of which a staggering 53 per cent were originally from Tahoua.
“I cannot imagine a better blend of actors working together towards creating opportunities for returnees and young people from Tahoua, a region with a long history of labour migration to Libya. This Job Fair is really walking the talk on addressing the so-called ‘root causes’ of involuntary migration,” stated Martin Wyss, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger, during the launch.
Upon their return to Tahoua, IOM assists migrants with their reintegration in order to enable the returnees to reach levels of economic self-sufficiency and social stability within their communities.
Although Niger’s economy is largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, by promoting higher education and vocational trainings, projects like IDEE encourage young graduates to develop start-ups and to have a different approach to employment.
During the job fair, the returnees had the chance to engage with local business owners, IDEE beneficiaries and the Nigerien diaspora residing in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Throughout the two-day event, different participants took the stage to raise awareness about the potential that lies in entrepreneurship for Niger’s economic development. During the eight workshops, various local actors answered questions related to enterprise incubation and business opportunities.
The job fair succeeded in creating a space for youth to exchange and access work opportunities while also boosting the visibility of brand-new local businesses.
A network hub will soon be created in order to provide the diaspora, private actors, government authorities and young entrepreneurs a platform with the relevant information needed to further support youth entrepreneurship.
“Niger has the potential to prosper in terms of entrepreneurship because, as long as there are needs, there will be opportunities for new businesses to grow,” explained Soumana, one of the young entrepreneurs. “Why leave Niger to be an employee when you can become an employer in your own country?”Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).