Cybelle Agossou, the youngest of a family of six children, decided to enroll in a practical training course to become self-employed and help her parents. Today, at age 20, she manages a small soap-making business and employs four people.
Cybelle took an 18-month training course at the SonghaiCenter in Porto-Novo, the political capital of Benin. Supported by UNDP and the government, this institution works towards reducing youth unemployment and underemployment by training young people in organic agriculture, food processing, and natural resource management. It also facilitates access to land, seeds, and tools to allow young people to support themselves in their community and to prevent rural exodus.
After finishing her training, Cybelle started her business with a 100,000 CFA Francs (about 200 US dollars) loan from her parents. “I used this money to buy the equipment I needed: molds, cutting table, containers, essential oils, lye, etc.” she explained.
Cybelle is proud to be a businesswoman.“I produced my first soap in September 2010. I now have 230,000 CFA Frances in my account after paying back the loan and, most of all, I am proud to employ four people, who each receive a monthly salary of 40,000 CFA Francs.”
“Songhai welcomed me with open arms,” she said, specifying that she intended to share her know-how with other young people. “I hope that poverty will soon decline in our country thanks to the expansion of this program,” she added.
The Government of Benin recently signed a funding agreement with UNDP for the amount of 51 million US dollars to strengthen and create new centers throughout the country. UNDP is providing additional funding of 1.5 million dollars as part of its 2009−2013 program.
“In order to sustainably reduce poverty, Benin needs to achieve minimum economic growth of seven percent per year. This will happen only by increasing productivity and agricultural production,” stressed Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Benin.
Project Songhai will train 1,500 young people over a period of five years. “When they finish their 18-month training course, they know how to manage a business,” said Guy Louèkè, business manager of the Porto-NovoCenter.