The partnership between the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist victims of insurgency in the North-ewast and militancy in the Niger Delta provide a new template for changing the dynamics of fighting insecurity through economic empowerment. Paul Obi writes
For nearly two decades, Nigeria have had to confront the monsters of militancy in the Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the North East, plunging huge resources and budgetary allocations to end the conflicts. Though the narrative on the root causes of the two crises have often been hinged on resource control in the Delta region and extremism in the North East, the critical issue of economic deprivation have rather been on the sidelines. To reset the discourse and narrative on what is actually responsible for brewing up the crises, the Red Cross and the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) appear to have gotten the magic wand to tame the two crises right from their roots.
They maintained that though military option to tackle the two-pronged crises remain strategic, finding new solutions by resolving the issue of economic deprivation is also crucial. Having tried military solution and the conflicts have continue unabated, the need to put forward economic empowerment as remedy to the Niger Delta militancy and the North East Boko Haram insurgency also reaches a compelling point.
It was on the basis of the above line of thought that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and TEF decided to launch a partnership to bring in the private sector strategy to help out victims of militancy and terrorism in Nigeria. At the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ICRC and TEF, aimed at empowering 200 entrepreneurs from Nigeria’s North East and Niger Delta regions, economic empowerment was at the centre of how to end the conflicts.
Accordingly, the partnership seeks to systemically address, through innovative interventions, the economic plight of communities affected by armed conflict and violence. The thinking is that while the government should continue with the military onslaught to undo the Boko Haram terrorists and militants, empowering those who have been caught in the quagmire of the crises economically is the right way to go.
Speaking at the launch, Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Founder of TEF, Mr Tony Elumelu, explained that “this initiative is complementary to the existing $100 million TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, a tried and tested approach to creating sustainable impact that has seeded, mentored and trained 3000 African entrepreneurs, generated revenue and creates jobs across all the 54 countries.” Elumelu added that “out of this number, 1593 entrepreneurs, representing over 50 per cent, are Nigerian citizens.”
In Elumelu’s view, the partnership is a key private sector’s commitment to shouldering up some of the society’s challenges. And in finding solution to the plight brought about by militancy and terrorism, the role of economic entreprenuership and empowerment cannot be overemphasised. He argued that the strategy to end the conflicts should go beyond blame game and buck-passing to concrete moves that stretch a helping hand to victims and the vulnerable enmeshed in Boko Haram and militancy conflicts.
Speaking, ICRC Deputy Director for Africa, Patrick Youssef, said: “We have been looking for a reliable partner in Africa, where over 40 per cent of our work is, to help us develop a sustainable programme that would help people affected by conflict or violence create income-generating activities.” Youssef maintained that After analysis and discussion with affected communities, we decided to support start-ups with innovative ideas in the area of agriculture, healthcare, micro-finance, construction, commerce and fashion, generated by men and women of all walks of life, with or without prior education,”
The ICRC Deputy Director further said that the partnership between the Red and TEF, “provides us with an opportunity and timely reminder that we all have a crucial role to play and responsibility in addressing complex humanitarian crises and assisting those affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.” Youssef also observed that the collaboration will in the long run become a guiding template on how the private sector and agencies like ICRC can team up to deliver and support humanitarian course.
On his part, ICRC Head of Delegation to Nigeria, Eloi Fillion stated that “We have been looking for a reliable partner in Africa to help us develop programs to enable people rebuild their lives and maintain a sustainable means of livelihood for themselves and their community.” Fillion added that, “in TEF we have found such a partner, a successful African initiative that holds similarities with ICRC in terms of working, accountability and proximity to people, a desire to restore livelihoods and orientation towards enterprise and results.
Our relationship with TEF established in 2016 developed through extensive consultations into an exciting partnership to assist emerging entrepreneurs create a variety of income generating activities” he said.
On the programme proper, officials said: “Selected entrepreneurs from these two regions will each receive funding of up to $5000 from a separate endowment of $1,000,000, as non-returnable seed capital to implement their business ideas, after undergoing business training and mentoring. The beneficiaries of this programme will be notified alongside the announcement of the successful 1000 entrepreneurs in the 4th cycle of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, on 22nd of March 2018.” They added that “the ICRC and TEF partnership is based on the common principle of accountability and proximity to people, a desire to restore livelihoods affected by conflict or violence and the desire to see a positive change in Africa.”
Coming at a time, when the military has also imbibed humanitarian intervention has part of its mandate, the partnership between the ICRC and TEF to empower entrepreneurs with about $100 million from the Niger Delta and North East regions caught up in the web of conflicts will go a long way to bringing succour to the beneficiaries. The partnership is also another giant stride to prove the power and influence of the private sector in responding to society’s problems frontally. Like in many of their other lofty achievements, Red Cross and TEF have scored another first for humanity. The resolve to economically empower entrepreneurs and victims of Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and militancy in the Niger Delta underscore their commitment to social responsibility in a broader perspective.