Yesterday was an important day for me, coming with high points such as my presentation, mentorship discussions and great news for the Nigerian rural (and other) mobile phone users. The day began with last minute arrival at my temporary hideout in Addis Ababa, following a disappointing experience with my debit card service provider who made me travel without sufficient funds — and my major saving grace was the pre-planned travel arrangement that eased my movement from the Lagos airport to the Addis final stop. I took another look at my planned presentation… and woke up 🙂 Then, it was morning and I proceeded to the United Nations Conference Centre for the eTrade Forum. After registration and the usual, “Oh, Binga [a rather “close-enough” attempt to pronounce my name], when did you arrive?” and “Bonjour”, I made my way to the plenary room.
After a few interesting presentations by experts from various countries (including Senegal, Ethiopia, Canada and Togo), I made a presentation on eTrade and Youth Development which holds a very strong place on my mind — and in my heart. I am tired of the usual statistics that the employment market throws up in Africa, and think its time for young people to begin living their future by finding discovering the alternative path called entrepreneurship. Global trade is unfair as it stands, but we can not afford to fold our hands and keep begging for crumbs. I shared a few thoughts on the issue of cybercrime and the need for alternatives, and spent a few minutes to discuss the increasingly important role of Africa’s young social entrepreneurs. The presentation also gave an opportunity to tell governments to stop paying lip service to youth development issues and actually get to the task of getting things done. We had an informal Nigerian meeting after this, and I was just wondering why we have such brilliant people and some things are not yet the way they should be. I remain sure of the fact that personal development is on the rise for diverse sectors within the Nigerian economy, and that many of these individuals will soon connect to provide model institutions that will rhyme with the heartbeat of the New Nigeria.
The evening cocktail proved to be effective, as I had the privilege of spending time with Mr. Shola Taylor (a Nigerian-born, UK-based global telecommunications expert) during which the major focus was on support for young Africans (and Nigerians in particular) and the need to provide mentorship for these young minds that seek to connect with success stories coming from those who have been where they are today. A few additional introductions and further discussion on my earlier presentation also added colour to the evening for me. But just when I was about to settle into my seat for the ride to the hotel, I heard a silent whisper of my name from a neighbouring seat. “Binga”. “Here we go again”, was what I thought. I turned to see who it was, and it happened to be Brian Richardson (of Wizzit South Africa), who is of course known for the dynamic multi-platform mobile banking revolution that he is spearheading in South Africa. We talked all the way to the hotel, and for a few minutes before he retired for the night. At the end of the discussion, he excitedly asked me to tell his friend, Folusho Phillips, that he was ready for the Nigerian market. For the service (simplistic mobile banking), potential market (20 million mobile phones and growing) and other add ons (including possible deals with mobile phone manufacturers that can crash phone prices to as little as $4), I can only imagine what revolution lies ahead — and mind you, this is not another government announcement, but a business opening. A few service providers provide locked-in mBanking services for their subscribers but here comes a pro-poor multi-platform service… get ready for the bank in your pocket.