Sixty young Ogonis, from the four local government areas of Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, took part in an intensive enterprise development programme which enabled participants to gain the essential skills required to start-up and grow a successful business. Following the training, each pitched their business idea to an expert panel of judges and 50 were chosen to receive start-up funding to turn their business ideas into reality.

The 50 young entrepreneurs received their awards at a special graduation ceremony in Port Harcourt, and six beneficiaries of a similar programme in 2015 also received ‘Young Business Leaders’ awards of N1.2 million (US $3,700) to recognise their outstanding business. These six entrepreneurs have created 32 jobs and will use the funding to expand their businesses.

The 50 young entrepreneurs will use their funding to start a diverse array of businesses ranging from palm oil processing and poultry farming to solar energy and waste paper recycling.

One of the young entrepreneurs, Barida Blessing Lelap, will use her funding to start-up her own soap and perfume manufacturing company. Barida is full of praise for the support she has received from Shell LiveWIRE Nigeria, saying, “We are truly grateful for this opportunity that Shell has given us. Shell, I thank you!”

Igo Weli, General Manager External Relations, Shell Nigeria, said, ”We’re pleased that the LiveWIRE programme has continued to make positive impact not only on the lives of the latest beneficiaries but also on youths in the Niger Delta.

“Like in previous sets, these beneficiaries went through the entrepreneurship training, wrote business plans, pitched their business ideas and in the end, the fifty best performing candidates were selected. With the start-up grants we’re handing out, the stage is set for a new army of business owners and potential employers of labour to emerge in Ogoniland.”

The Director of Enterprise and Promotion in the Rivers State Ministry of Youth Development, Christian Bogba, said, “I pray that other companies borrow a leaf from what SPDC Joint Venture have done today by contributing to the improvement of the economic wellbeing of the people and promote peace.”

Chairman of the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, Godwin Giniwa, and the representative of the King of Gokana, Aabga Kpee, thanked Shell for providing the young entrepreneurs mentorship to see them through the crucial business start-up phase and encouraged the young people to seize the opportunities presented by programmes such as Shell LiveWIRE to improve their quality of life.

The Ogoni-specific programme was implemented to address one of the recommendations of the UNEP report on the restoration of the Ogoni environment, as Shell LiveWIRE aims to encourage youths in the area to shun illegitimate sources of income such as the illegal refining of crude oil.

A total of 6,350 young people from the Niger Delta have received enterprise development training since SPDC introduced the Shell LiveWIRE programme in 2003.