Over 250 University graduates in Akure, Ondo state capital have established a factory for the production of toothpicks and pencils, under the sponsorship of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE).
The factory, where over 250 graduates are currently working, is said to be the first of its kind in Africa.
The idea of local toothpicks production in Nigeria was said to have been conceived by a young graduate who convinced the management of the NDE that the product could be produced with bamboo stems.
At the inauguration of the factory in Akure, the Acting Director-General of the NDE, Mr. Kunle Obayan, said the NDE’s sponsorship of the project was part of the agency’s effort towards complementing the micro-economic policies of the Federal Government, aimed at stimulating local production of goods.
He explained that some young graduates approached the agency early this year with the proposal to set up the factory to produce toothpicks, adding that the agency accepted the proposal because it was perceived to be a viable project.
He said, “It is on record that millions of dollars are being spent on the importation of toothpicks and pencils. The Central Bank of Nigeria no longer provides foreign exchange for the importation of toothpicks; therefore, the viability of this project is not in doubt.”
Obayan called on other young graduates with good ideas to bring their proposals to the NDE.
“We are ready to sponsor any good proposal so that our youths will be empowered and unemployment will reduce in this country,” he said.
He explained further that the agency would support the factory from the production point to the marketing of the products to enable the business to survive.
The initiator of the project, Mr. Samuel Babatunde, expressed his gratitude to the NDE for the support given to him and his colleagues to execute the project.
He urged that Federal Government to tackle the problem of power for the business to survive.
He said, “We came to the NDE with the idea of starting a toothpick manufacturing factory. Another set of colleagues also came up with the idea of starting a waste paper, pencil manufacturing factory. The NDE did not shun us, but rather, they encouraged us.
“They provided the funds and moral support and today, we are witnessing history being made here in Akure, Ondo State. Today, the first toothpick manufacturing factory in Africa is being inaugurated.”