Whitefield Foundation has partnered Coca-Cola Foundation and Sterling One Foundation to train 60, 000 youths and women in employability and entrepreneurship skills including agro-business and domestic essentials.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the strategic partnership was also supported by Sterling Bank, the official banking partner of the project and MSME Africa.
Speaking at a news conference to launch the portal for the training, Mrs Funmi Johnson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Whitefield Foundation, expressed gratitude to the Coca Cola Foundation, whose funds became the game-changer in the overall activities of the Foundation.
Johnson said that the Foundation in the time past had helped people to register their businesses, build their capacity and subsequently helped them to upscale their production.
According to her, the foundation shares a lot of interest with the Agriculture Desk of Sterling Bank and has also partnered with AfricanFarner.
“Our goal is to make an impact, to see the lives of people positively change,” Johnson said.
She thanked Coca Cola Foundation for believing in their ability to impact lives positively.
Also Mrs Amaka Onyemelukwe, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca Cola Nigeria Ltd., expressed appreciation to the Whitefield Foundation for its laudable achievements.
She said that the Whitefield Foundation had been a worthy partner over the past three years.
“Our business is hinged on partnership. We believe in building sustainable partners.
“We are elated with the partnership of Sterling Bank and Sterling One Foundation also.
“I am really excited about Sterling Bank’s Agriculture Desk,” Onyemelukwe said.
She expressed optimism that the entrepreneurs that would come out of the project would add value to the Nigerian economy.
“This is a project that would be launched in four states, Kano, Benin, Lagos and Owerri. It is an interesting project for us because this is our 70th year of doing business in Nigeria.
“We are making sure that we make more investments in giving back to the society,” Onyemelukwe said.
The director noted that the #EndSARS protest of 2020 opened everybody’s eyes to the youthful population of Nigeria.
“We believe that SDG goal 17 is our watchword. We are not just a beverage company. We refresh the world and make a sustainable impact,” Onyemelukwe said.
Mrs Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO, Sterling One Foundation, expressed appreciation to Whitefield Foundation and the Coca Cola Foundation for sustainably supporting the project.
Ibekwe also commended Sterling Bank for its strategic focus on creating and supporting social impact as part of its strategy.
The CEO said that considering the high unemployment rate in the country, initiating the project now would impact positively on the unemployed by helping the beneficiaries to create jobs while getting more youths to become economically viable.
“At the Sterling One Foundation, we have prioritised critical sectors and need areas for impactful investment. What is more interesting about this partnership is that the impact is nationwide and is not only meant for Lagos,” Ibekwe said.
She added that the project would directly impact at least 60, 000 youth and women, but would indirectly impact over 300, 000 people.
“What we are doing here is saving lives and enabling financial independence as grants will be given to some participants and actual single digit interest rate funding will also be provided by Sterling Bank for participants to ensure the budding businesses grow and become sustainable.’’
Also speaking, Mr Olushola Obikanye, Group Head, Agriculture Finance and Solid Minerals, Sterling Bank, said that the bank was fully disposed to supporting efforts at revamping Agriculture with special focus on youths across Nigeria.
Obikanye said that every effort at rejigging agriculture should take cognisance of the nation’s growing population emphasising the dual growing needs of demand for and supply of food.
He expressed gratitude to the Whitefield Foundation for creating the platform for identifying interested youths to be engaged in the agri-space.
“Every graduate of the Whitefield Foundation will have the opportunity to pass through Sterling Bank’s capacity building session. We have a very special product with a single-digit interest rate targeted at youth and women.
“We are going to ensure that the participants benefit from requisite information, free financial advisory services and access to local and international markets. Every participant has the opportunity to grow big,” Obikanye said.
Mr Seye Olurotimi, Founder, MSME Africa, said that MSMEs were critical to the progress of any economy.
Olurotimi said that EQUIP 60,000 was accessible to anyone who desired to come on board.
He noted that Nigeria was able to wriggle out of recession through the major contributions of agriculture and technological sectors of the economy.
NAN reports that interested applicants are expected to log in to the portal at http://www.whitefieldfoundation.ng and click on the EQUIP button.