Oxford Youth Business Development Competition

In support of social entrepreneurship, please see the announcement below. It’s for youth aged between 16 and 21, and I will be glad to exchange eMails with any young African who wishes to apply and may need some support. This doesn’t mean influencing the process, but helping to fill obvious gaps…

Dear Youth Educators, Community Leaders and Young People,

On behalf of the students of the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School, we are honoured to invite you to participate in the second international:

Youth Business Development (YBD) Competition YBD is based on the business plan course run on the world-renowned Oxford MBA programme, in which teams of MBA students develop original business ideas with the help of faculty and consultants. Inspired by the energy and excitement of this process, the Oxford MBA Class has committed to bring a similar experience to young people from across our diverse international home communities. The objectives of this are both to catalyze the development of new social enterprises, and to leverage the many skills and experiences of Oxford’s MBA students t owards helping young people from diverse backgrounds develop confidence, life skills and understanding of business enterprise and its potential for social change. It is open to ALL young people, irrespective of background or education.

For Round 1, we invite all teams to submit their ideas for enterprises with a social focus by 31st March 2007. Round 2 will provide a select number of teams the opportunity to further develop their ideas in a 7-10 page submission during the summer whilst being mentored by an Oxford MBA student. The YBD is a unique opportunity for young people around the world to gain business planning, team working and communications skills which will be vital to their future development prospects and selfesteem. In addition they will gain valuable insights into the world of social enterprise, with the Saïd Business School’s Skoll Centre & Oxford University being amongst the world’s leading centres for research and teaching on the subject. Our prize fund of £2,000 gives the chance for top applicants to start putting their ideas into practice. We also offer second round Finalists the unique opportunity of being mentored by MBA students, and thereby becoming part of our broad social and business network. Ongoing mentoring (after the competition ends) will also be provided to shortlisted finalists to continue their development and learning through a continued relationship with Oxford students.

Each team is required to have a Local Liaison Mentor. This provides the competition organisers with a neutral point of contact in each locality and for each team. If you are a Youth Educator or Community Leader, you have been identified through the Oxford University, Saïd Business School network as someone who might be interested in supporting the competition in your institution or area by acting as a Local Liaison Mentor. If so, we would heartily encourage you to support us in taking our competition and the opportunities it offers to young people wherever they may be and whatever their background. If you are a young person aged 16-21 and are interested in submitting an application in Round 1 of the competition then please identify in your application the details of a person in your local community who is willing to act as your Local Liaison Mentor.

Enclosed with this letter you will find further details on the entry requirements for the competition, answers to common queries and a flyer which you are welcome to print off and put up in your local area or institution. Please also be sure to look at our website which provides more information about the competition, social entrepreneurship and the Said Business School as well as other resources to help teams develop their ideas. The website can be found at: www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/OBA/se/ybd. We hope you are as excited about the potential of the YBD competition as we are and look forward to receiving entries from your locality before the first round deadline of 31st March 2007.

With thanks,
The YBD Management Committee

Requirements for Round 1 (which is due on March 31, 2007 and to be sent by eMail to ybd@oba.co.uk) include:

  1. 1 page idea summary

    • What is your idea?
    • What problem is it trying to solve?
    • Who benefits and how?
  2. 1 page application form (download here), including in less than 300 words a brief background of your team together with a summary of the benefit you would gain in being mentored by an Oxford MBA student if you reach the second round of the competition.

Additional information on the competition follows:

What are the Team and Age Restrictions?
All team members must be aged between 16 and 21 during the course of 2007. Each team must have 3 to 5 members.

Who can be a Local Liaison Mentor?
Ideally this would be someone working in a position of responsibility with young people such as a teacher, University lecturer, social worker, youth group worker, religious leader or other community leader. The role will be to act as a contact point for the competition organizers, to assist teams in the production of their initial ideas, and if necessary to confirm status of team members and specific aspects of project ideas.

How should we present our idea?
Teams may use any combination of words, pictures and diagrams, but the Idea Summary is limited to 1 page ONLY. If you are able to structure your entry in line with the questions shown in the box above then it will make it easier for the judging panel to assess your ideas. In addition you should provide us with the Application Form enclosed, including your 300-word “background and benefits” section.

What if we need further guidance? Who should we contact?
In the first instance you should review the more detailed Frequently Asked Questions page on our website. In addition Regional Coordinators are available for you to contact with more specific queries. In Round 1 teams are also free to seek the advice of their Local Liaison Mentor to test their ideas. Teams are encouraged to have fun, take a chance, and just get their idea out there!

What language can we submit in?
We have limited capacity for assessing multiple entries in languages other than English. If possible, you should submit your ideas in English. If you cannot then you should contact your Regional Coordinator (see website for contact details) and ask them if assistance is available for translating submissions from a language other than English.

How will ideas be judged in Round 1?
Our key criteria for judging which teams will progress from Round 1 to be mentored in Round 2 are:

  • The quality of the idea proposed and its potential for further development
  • The benefit the team will gain in having an MBA student help develop their idea
  • The personal benefit team individuals will receive from the experience of a close ongoing interaction with an MBA mentor

Summaries will be judged on the quality of the idea, not the fanciness of the language. We favour simple, clear, plain talk. Remember, this is not about ideas which make lots of money (though that would be a bonus!) but those which have the potential to improve the lives of those in your community, or the environment in which you live.

Any other advice for Round 1 entries?
Do not try to think too big. Many of the most effective social enterprises work at the local level. See our website for Finalists from the 2006 competition as examples. Think about issues which you observe in the communities and world around you. Think about the tools you may be able to use to provide solutions to these problems. Remember that the objective is to deliver social value alongside, or in the place of, pure financial profit. Ideas may range from a new technology or product through to a new way of working in an old industry that delivers more social value than today. Social enterprise takes many forms and we do not intend to be too strict in our assessment, but we will certainly look for evidence that you have considered social outcomes in developing your idea. For more information on social enterprise/social entrepreneurship check out our website and that of the Skoll foundation (www.skoll.org) which supports Oxford’s Saïd Business School in this area.

What happens in Round 2?
More information will be provided once this stage is reached, but here is a summary of what you should expect. In Round 2, a select number of Finalist Teams chosen from all the entries submitted in Round 1 will be challenged by our YBD Judging Panel to develop the idea further into a 7-10 page formal business plan. At this point each team will be provided with a mentor from the Oxford MBA class who will support the team towards the goal of completing their business plan. Mentors will be allocated to teams on the basis of having appropriate background and expertise matching the team’s idea. Finally, a YBD Venture Capital Panel will review the business plan submitted by each Finalist to determine the 2007 YBD Winner or Winners, the distribution of the £2,000 prize fund and allocation of other awards (all by late September 2007).

Why YBD?
YBD builds on three of the core strengths of Oxford’s Saïd Business School:

  • Social Focus: Saïd Business School hosts the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (with 9 teaching fellows, and five full scholarships annually for MBAs with impressive track records in social entrepreneurship), and the Oxford Business Network for Social Entrepreneurship (the highest attended student interest group). We view ‘business’ not as a route to personal wealth but as a powerful tool for solving social and economic issues around the globe.
  • Internationalism: 41 countries are represented on the 2006-07 program, making us proud to be one of the most diverse MBA classes in the world. This environment has instilled in us a deep belief in the power and value of international networks. YBD connects young people with others from around the world, in addition to a lifelong MBA global network.
  • Entrepreneurship: roughly 20% of Oxford MBA’s go on to pursue careers as entrepreneurs. We view entrepreneurship as an engine of change and progress in our world. Entrepreneurship is not simply about ‘profit.’ Entrepreneurs invent new solutions in all sectors, e.g. finding new ways to treat blindness among the poor (see www.Ashoka.org) or developing new types of banks and lending policies (see www.lemonbank.com). The leading social entrepreneur, Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Economics. Young people will be ahead of the curve if they develop early entrepreneurial instincts. YBD is an invaluable first step.

Tribute to Ghana at 50

Congratulations, Ghana!

It’s 2:22am and there was a slight argument between my mind and body: where are we? As far as my mind was concerned (based on earlier plans), I was already in my hotel room in Cotonou, but my body still woke up in Lagos. Okay, reality is that I had to shelve my earlier travel plans, but will hit the road in a few hours.

I’m off to Benin Republic for consulting work and to speak at a school, and will proceed to Ghana for more work — and will take advantage of that opportunity to also participate in a few of the Ghana @ 50 events. Incidentally, I arrive Accra on the exact day that the nation attained independence 50 years ago! I am a proud African and can only imagine what thoughts were on the president’s mind when he said, “However much we differ on issues, there are moments, which should bring us together. One such moment is the Golden Jubilee of our nation’s independence. We should rejoice in the fact that in spite of many periods of uncertainty and difficulties in the last 50 years, we have managed to pull together as a nation to this day… Let us resolve to draw a firm line between our chequered and unhappy past and a future full of hope, achievement and fellow feeling.
With such a resolve, we cannot fail. Long Live Ghana!

According to the Ghana @ 50 website: “On March 6, 1957, Ghana became the first country in Africa south of the Sahara to gain independence from colonial rule. 2007, marks 50 years of independence. The theme for the anniversary is Championing African Excellence. Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, envisioned this country as the guiding light of African independence and solidarity — the BLACK STAR, the lodestar of Africa. Ghana’s attainment of independence and the subsequent ideological support it extended to other colonized countries on the continent, culminated in the emancipation of many of these countries from colonial rule.”

I think the main objectives for the jubilee celebrations are quite interesting: celebrating and commemorating Ghana’s landmark achievement as the first country in Black Africa to attain independence from colonial rule; reflecting on the evolution, development, achievements and drawbacks of our country over the past fifty (50) years; and to look forward to the future, to a vision of excellence in all fields of endeavour in the next fifty (50) years toward our centenary birthday as a nation. I also find the year-long activities marking the Golden Jubilee interesting, with activities beginning in January 2007 and ending in December 2007 with themes such as January’s Reflections, February’s Towards Emancipation, March’s Freedom March, April’s Our Nation, Our People, May’s Our Wealth and Our Prosperity, June’s Heroes of Ghana Month, July’s African Unity Month, August’s Diaspora Month, September’s Service to the Nation, October’s Knowledge and Ghana’s Development, November’s A Healthy People, A Healthy Nation and December’s Final Curtain.

I’m glad that I’ll be part the Freedom March, and look forward to Nigeria’s 50th anniversary in 3 years!

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Trying the Impossible


I looked off the laptop for a few minutes but it ended up being a 120-minute interesting movie experience at home. The title wasn’t very attractive but the storyline caught my fancy. The movie, Gridiron Gang, features the story of some teenagers kept at a juvenile facility for their obviously dangerous lifestyles. The duo who kept them under check, Exhibit and The Rock, toyed with a few ideas on how to keep the boys out of trouble because 75% of them would likely end up in prison after their release, and most of the others in the grave. While trying to convince the facility managers about what should be done, they suggested starting a football team but that sounded too dangerous. In short, it was tagged impossible.

The Rock, in response to the accusation of thinking up an impossible idea, said something amazing: We have to try the impossible because the possible isn’t working! The words came through like they were not some script put together by an Hollywood writer — how very true! I started writing this immediately after that… How many times have we kept trying hard to do things the way the way they’re expected to be done or the way we’ve always tried to do them? I remember those true words about attempts and madness: it is outright madness to do the same things over and again, while expecting different results.

On how many of your involvements have you kept trying to achieve success through the possible? I honestly think it’s time to try the impossible. A few years ago, I was tempted to keep at the possible way of living: graduate, get a job, work hard, earn gbemu (you must be Nigerian to get that), get promoted, settle down, have children, watch them grow, retire, grow old, etc. Now, that sounds very flat when you really think about it, but isn’t that what many of us work hard at when all we do in school is just cram-pass-forget (CPF) for all the courses that come our way? My decision then, in 1999/2000, was to get off that possible CPF model train, and jump onto the back of the impossible.

The impossible, for me at that time, was to dream of a career that would open up Nigeria, Africa and the world to me — for the one simple opportunity of making a difference. It started with the ‘Gbenga Sesan: Strategic Management Plan 2001 – 2005 document (which was written in a notebook, not typed). The horizon got clearer as the years went by, because the major decision to move away from the possible to the impossible was already made. The years 2001 to 2005 proved to be very useful for my career, and I look back now and smile — at times wondering how I ever got around sacrificing the comfortable for the most-likely-not-going-to-be-comfortable-at-first. The successes of those five years informed the very ambitious 2006 – 2015 plan which defines ‘Gbenga Sesan 2.0.

This is clearly not about me alone, but goes to show that we have to try the impossible because the possible isn’t working! I should get back to the movie now…

The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship Program

(c) Google Images

The last eMail I sent with my former laptop was to the African Leadership Institute (AfLI), to submit my application for the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program, having been nominated by Prof. Bolaji Aluko — one of Nigeria’s proud sons in the US (both in terms of his national pride towards Nigeria, and the nation’s pride in him for his evidently diverse expertise). I considered the nomination a huge honour, having read on the AfLI website that the program is “a prestigious programme with the main objective of providing a unique multi-faceted leadership learning experience for the next generation of Africa’s leaders” and that the selected fellows are usually the “cream of Africa’s future leaders in all sectors.” The program website also stated that “20 young people between the ages of 25 and 40 are selected as high potential leaders from across Africa based on their leadership potential.”

Two days ago, I was notified of my selection along with 19 others (8 men and 11 women) and you can imagine my excitement. What adds value to this for me is the fact that it comes as a perfect fit towards my research and career plans. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program is a one year part-time programme, which allows students have follow-on participation as Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows of AfLI network, with expectation to attend AfLI’s leadership learning and Alumni events. The program consists of two 10-day Group Learning Modules in South Africa and Oxford; group projects between modules; individual leadership project to apply and develop leadership in community; ongoing coaching/mentoring; and networked interaction and debate on global & African issues. “The Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship program is the flagship program of the AfLI which aims to provide a platform for learning by potential future leaders across the African continent. The aim is to introduce young achievers who are likely to become leaders in the various sectors from business, government to community levels to key principles, requirements and challenges of leadership. The program, as planned, is intended to initiate the generation that will become leaders in Africa in the future to issues of leadership, expose them to ideas on how to lead and to be successful leaders, and help them to experience leadership issues before they become leaders themselves.”

At the end of the program, trainees become Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows and “[t]he aim is assist in developing a network of future leaders that will have the capacity and the vision to contribute to the transformation of the African continent and that can provide support to each other.” The program’s curriculum includes exploring “leadership theory and in particular the specifics of African leadership during the workshop in Stellenbosch, as well as developing a greater awareness of themselves as leaders. In line with Oxford’s philosophy, the tutorial approach is applied to stimulate wider and deeper thinking about the subject, and personal reflection to understand and develop their own leadership capabilities in both an African and global context, and to set their own leadership goals. A variety of speakers share their experiences and perspectives on leadership and practical exercises in groups throw new light on the challenges of leadership.”

It continues, “[t]he workshop will also explore and debate the harder issues of the challenges African leaders face now and in the future if Africa is to be successful, which sets the scene for a group project which runs the full length of the programme — the development of scenarios of the future of Africa. Work on this project will continue between the workshops by electronic communication using the Institute’s private web-site facilities.” I look forward to the program — meeting the other 19, learning more about leadership, becoming a better leader, etc. I’m also excited that “a mentoring programme will be established to support and nurture the Fellows between and after the workshops, and provide a vehicle through which they can review and continuously reflect upon their leadership learning, and the goals they will set for themselves on the programme.” And just listen to this: “In addition, Fellows will be required as an integral part of the programme, to apply their learning to the benefit of the broader community. This implies leading a project outside their normal work environment, for the betterment of the broader community.” Did I hear someone whisper youth-led social technopreneurship?

Promoting Strategic and Active Youth Participation Towards a Successful 2007 Polls

Youths Roundtable with 2007 Presidential Aspirants

Theme: Promoting Strategic and Active Youth Participation towards a Successful 2007 Polls
Country Focus: Nigeria
Historical Focus: Transition from Civil Government to Civil Government, May 29th, 2007
Historical Event Focus: Presidential Elections April 21st, 2007
Historical Engagement Activity: Youths Roundtable with 2007 Presidential Aspirants.
Call: Join Group 100, a dynamic and unusual group of young Nigerians, committed to supporting the proposed Roundtable to secure a better deal for the Nigeria youths in the emerging Nigeria
Organizing Secretariat: Youngstars Foundation

Fellow Nigerian Youths, it is no longer in contention that elections are paramount features of democratic processes anywhere in the world. This is because an election outcome produces leadership, which invariable during its administration determines the direction of a society and the well being of her citizenry. Its 2007 and elections are here again. Something historical is in the offing in Nigeria. Whether we know it or not, the 2007 Elections and Transition from this government to another democracy is set to usher a new paradigm shift in our national life. Nigeria will never be the same again. Power will shift from over 70s to the under 70s to say the least. Therefore, the roles of young people in the elections and democratic processes is very critical and crucial. As youths we are also strategic stakeholders in the Nigeria Nation. We are a powerful constituency and must get involved in a more strategic way. One of which is to begin to negotiate for space in the emerging Nigeria by engaging the emerging leaders of the emerging Nigeria before the 2007 elections.

Before elections:

  • Politicians court and praise youths
  • Candidates ride with youths in buses, visit them in football fields and address them
  • Politicians promise free and better education
  • Candidates reply our letters and take our calls
  • Politicians make promises and promises
  • Candidates give youths T-shirts, face caps, bags of salt for our mothers and lunch money after rallies
  • Politicians say the votes of the youths are needed and very important to them

But after the elections, especially when they do win:

  • They become too busy to meet with the youths
  • They fly in airplanes, drive in motorcades and tinted glass jeeps and attend cocktail parties
  • They send their children to schools overseas
  • They hardly reply our letters or return our calls
  • The promises become slogans until the next Four years when they return for our votes again
  • They build mansions, give their friends inflated contracts and are caught with millions of dollars at international airports
  • Youths become too young to be consulted and involved on public policy

But the times have since changed! Youths have realized that it is their duty to demand to know from the emerging leaders what they have for the youths in very concrete terms should they assume positions of power. When they also emerge, youths shall have a credible document with which to engage the new government on youth development in Nigeria. The Roundtable is one sure way of negotiating for space in the emerging Nigeria. And to do this, dynamic young people are ready to put pressure on themselves to give voice and visibility to youth issues in Nigeria and to also ensure success of the 2007 elections. Group 100 provides a historical platform for youths to participate in a strategic way towards this goal. Members of Group 100 are young Nigerians below the ages of 35 living within and outside Nigeria, committed to ensuring the conduct of this Roundtable.


  1. To mobilize youths from the 6 geo-political zones of the country for a representational dialogue to articulate a common document/ agenda on youth development for the 2007 the Political Parties and their Presidential Flagbeaeres
  2. To collate, understudy and analyze the manifestos and development agendas of the 2007 Presidential Candidates vis-à-vis key youth development issues articulated in their programs
  3. To interact with the Political Parties and Candidates with a view of ascertaining the practical ways or programmes of the Candidates towards youth development and achieving the MDGs during their administration.
  4. To empower participants with basic engagement skills to productively engage the 2007 Candidates, i.e. skills on critical thinking, language and document analysis, developing position statements, questions and answer (communication), advocacy, lobbying, among others
  5. To acquaint the Candidates on the felt-needs of the Nigeria youths, thus enable Candidates review and develop a more concrete youth development agenda in their manifesto
  6. To identify more creative ways young people shall actively and positively participate in ensuring a successful, peaceful and credible elections in April 2007, with emphasis on Election Observation and Monitoring

Date: Tuesday 27th – Friday 30th, March 2007
Venue: Rockview Hotel Conference Hall, Maitama Abuja
Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Forum Participants: Between 70 – 120 youth leaders from the 6 geo-political zones of the country

The Roundtable is designed to be a 4-day event, schedule to hold in Abuja two weeks before the Presidential Elections. The 4-day event is divided into 2 sessions daily, Morning and Afternoon sessions.

Morning Section are for:

  • Skill Building Activities,
  • Studying and Understanding the Manifestos and Youth Agenda of Presidential Candidates,
  • Articulating points and issues for interaction with the aspirants.

During the Morning sessions, participants will be divided into syndicate or cluster groups to deliberate on Candidates Manifestos and articulate common youth issues for presentation.

Afternoon sessions are for:

  • Interacting with the Political Parties and Presidential Candidates in person on their Manifestos and development programs,
  • Interacting with Presidential Candidates on youth development issues articulated by participants from the different zones.

During the afternoon session, representatives from the Syndicate/Cluster Groups shall interact with the Candidates in a coordinated way. Towards the end, general feedbacks are shall be accepted from the general house. Prominent individuals from government, development agencies and civil society organizations shall be invited to be part of the Panel and Dialogue.

Presidential Candidates shall not attend the Roundtable by Proxy. The Candidate is however free to choose any of the days to appear. At the end of the 4 days, results of the Roundtable shall be widely publicized and circulated among youths. Approximately 70 –120 youths are expected to participate in the Roundtable.

NOTE: The Roundtable is not design to endorse any Presidential Candidate. Neither shall it be a platform for debate between the presidential candidates. Youths are rather expected to use the outcomes of the Roundtable to make informed voting choices. Efforts are being made to ensure that the Afternoon Sessions with candidates shall be broadcast Live.

Expected Outcome

  1. A national representational youth document articulating youth expectations, which can become a credible guide for youth policy and development agenda for the incoming government shall be developed.
  2. An engagement document with which young people can engage and dialogue with the new government when they emerge, shall be developed.
  3. A youth friendly strategic document articulating how youths shall be actively involved in a successful and credible election, specifically in the area of Election Observation and Monitoring; and mandate protection shall be developed.
  4. The emergence of more credible and people focused leadership from the 2007 Elections is expected.


  1. The Presidential Candidates shall have a unique opportunity to promote their 2007 Candidature and programs to the youths and general populace at large.
  2. Candidates stand to gain strategic youth support and goodwill towards their 2007 aspirations.
  3. Youths shall acquire additional leadership and engagement skills required to effectively engage in the democratic space.
  4. New government increases investment in youths and supports them in a strategic way when in power.
  5. Youths gain more visibility and recognition in the new government and a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction for contributing to the process.

Call for Collaboration
To ensure the successful conduct of the proposed Roundtable, the importance of partnership cannot be over-emphasised. Moreso, adults and development partners have valuable experiences and resources to bring to bear on such a model initiative by young people. Partnership is also a unique way of building youth leadership and competence via-a-vis nation building. We therefore wish to solicit the support and partnership of relevant agencies and development partners towards making the Roundtable a success.

About Group 100
Group 100 are a group of young Nigerians below the ages of 35 years, genuinely passionate about a better Nigeria and a better deal for the youths in the emerging Nigeria. Group 100 members are demonstrating their commitment by donating a token of N10,000 or $100 for those outside Nigeria, to ensure that this Roundtable holds as scheduled! This is a strategic way of complimenting the support and partnership of development. For more detail about the initiators, lead youth conveners and project, please visit the project website www.youngstarsfoundation.org/group100

Workplan for Roundtable
4th Week January, 2007:
* Identify 10 Lead Conveners

1st – 4th Week February, 2007:
* Open Invitation to Group100 via online networks and others (build Group100 website)
* Identify and make contacts with relevant agencies and bodies to collaborate in ensuring that Roundtable Holds.
* Identify and initiate contact with media organizations to ensure adequate pre publicity of the event and Live Coverage of the Roundtable.
* Secure roundtable venue reservation
* General consultations and meeting with Lead Conveners and other partners.

1st – 3rd Week March:
* Production of Roundtable handbills and circulation across 36 states of the federation
* Intensify membership drive for Group100 and intensify fundraising for event
* Send special invitation to political parties and presidential candidates
* Screen and send out invitation to youths interested to participate in the Roundtable
* Intensify media activities, ie, featuring on television talkshows on NTA Network, AIT, Silverbird, Channels, MBI, LTV, etc
* Pay courtesy visits to heads of relevant organizations and specifically those collaborating towards the conduct of the Roundtable
* Confirm participation of Presidential Aspirants and final follow – up.

4th Week March:
* Examine activities’ checklist
* Host Roundtable
* Publish and circulate roundtable outcomes across the country

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Why Lie to Yourself?

I got another call this morning asking if I could ask 2 (or 3) young people who are skilled in the art of using spreadsheets and database tools to show up for immediate employment. After thinking through the entire list of people who’ve told me they needed jobs and finding none who could meet the need, I turned to my brother and said, “you know how these things go, there are jobs but there are just no adequately skilled people.” It’s not that there are no 3 people who can do what I was asked to get human solutions for, but they are all employed and this project wants to empower unemployed people. Not just people who could open spreadsheets, but those who can work with the – same with database tools.Let’s not deceive ourselves, anyone who has skills will get himself (or herself) a job – especially if those skills are critical to daily job processes. So, why do we have so many unemployed people who still lay claim to critical skills? My innocent opinion is that the number of decent jobs available are limited, but the few once-in-a-while available jobs often find ready applicants who can fit the profile.

Let’s not lie to ourselves, no one is going to leave his/her job so that a nephew or niece who’s just graduated can take the place. There are jobs, even though limited. But the reason I will always argue that there are always jobs but no skills is simply because even if there is no ready employment opening, skilled young people can always create jobs rather than keep dusting their resumes for some job that will become available because another person is creating new jobs, or because someone else retired or resigned. It is self-deceit that allows us to wallow in the pool of self-pity and say, “there are no jobs in Nigeria”! How about you creating one for yourself, at least. We have so many problems in the world today that need solutions, those are job openings. People love to talk or have people do their duties for them, now those are two industries – communication and outsourcing respectively.

We need a fundamental shift in mindset that will make each graduate of our secondary (high) schools and tertiary institutions begin to think as job creators — hence, preparing themselves towards the same — instead of getting busy with resumes and bombarding uncles and aunties with the “I’m through with my service” calls. This may sound quite tough but its the truth… Africa needs millions of jobs created annually, but do we sit idle expecting governments — that are busy thinking of how to retain power with their political parties — to create those jobs? Nah! We are the ones who will create the jobs for ourselves. What do you love? What can you do? Where do your 3 things meet — passion, skills and economic value! My guess is that if you’re passionate about something, have the skills to get down to solving related problems and can earn economic value for that, you’re a potential multinational!

So, let’s get practical here. Is there anyone you know (or maybe yourself) who is described below:

  • Has good human relations
  • Loves to speak and travel (and can speak well)
  • Can manage a busy executive’s schedule (or many executives)
  • Is good at events’ management
  • Is committed to the empowerment of Nigerian youth
  • Has, or can easily develop, contacts in Nigerian tertiary institutions
  • Has some sense of business management

If that young man or lady is still unemployed, and is scared of starting off right away, then let him/her get in touch and we’ll work together on what will in a few years become celebrated beyond this page.

Why lie to yourself? Show me what you have and I will tell you if you will stay on the employment market beyond one day. What can you do? If no one is willing to acknowledge it with a pay cheque, then its time to think of waking up the entrepreneur in you. Why lie to yourself that your dream job is on the way, who will create it for you? If we don’t quit the lies, we may end up in the crowd…

Last Day at Junior Achievement

Back in the days!

At about this same time of the day 2,080 days ago, I walked into the 10th Floor office of Junior Achievement Nigeria in UBA House following eMail exchanges with Ms. Simi Sanni (now Mrs. Simi Nwogwugwu), an actual visit to discuss my invitation to travel as Junior Achievement Nigeria’s representative at the Mormon Group Global Trade Institute’s (MGGTI) workshop in the United States, and receipt (a day before my final examinations) of a letter of appointment signed by Mrs. Osayi Alile-Oruene. These not-so-few days have literally changed my life, and have come to form a major part of my life’s story.

On Monday, June 4 2001, I resumed duties at Junior Achievement of Nigeria. Between that date and now, I have had the privilege of serving as an Intern, Program Assistant, Program Officer, Information Technology Officer, Lagos Digital Village (LDV) Program Manager, and now, LDV/Development Manager. I also remember that JA Nigeria stood by me during the period when I had to stay away from the office following a controversial call that announced that I had to spend an extra semester before I could be awarded my BSc degree in Electronic & Electrical Engineering. The five plus years I have spent with JA Nigeria had its highs and lows, but a major lesson I entered 2007 with is the fact that JA Nigeria was for me a platform for impact.

At JA Nigeria, my chosen career path grew from a plan into reality. During the moments when I have had to rethink my decision to work for a non-profit immediately after completing my first degree, I have always appreciated the space that JA Nigeria provided. Where do I start from? Mrs. Simi Nwogwugwu gave this highly motivated young man real space for growth; Mrs. Osayi Oruene was like my mum at work, as she provided advise even when a consulting firm tried to lure me away (an experience that would repeat itself many more times); Mrs. Doyin Oguntona provided a unique atmosphere for professionalism; Mrs. Kunbi Wuraola’s taste for corporate sustainability and multidimensional growth dynamics cannot be denied; Modupe, Adetayo, Folake, Kayode, Jimi, Dayo and Christine (not in any order, and by no means an exhaustive list) were colleagues-par-excellence; Muhammed, Kemi, Banke, Tosin, Ese, Franca, Biodun, Jospeh, John and Keneth keep inspiring me to get better.

After more than five years and seven months of commitment to the JA Nigeria cause, it is time for me to move on. I have started the process of completing this at many other times (for various reasons), but was looking for a perfect time. I have come to learn that there will never be a perfect time to move on, and will commend the Christmas/New Year holidays for the opportunity to take further thought in this direction. In apparent follow up to my present involvements, future aspirations and my continued postgraduate plans I am moving on. I obviously need to focus my attention on grooming Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and working with other team members to bring to life the things we have discussed in meeting rooms — youth-led social technopreneurship.

Paradigm Initiative Nigeria will focus on ICT4D Research, ICT Consulting, Telecentre Support, Youth ICT Capacity Building, Youth Technopreneurship Support and Change Empowerment seminars.

CLC West Africa is Hiring

TakingITGlobal, in partnership with Open Society Initiative for West Africa, is leading the implementation of the Creating Local Connections West Africa project. A TakingITGlobal initiative that has already been successfully implemented in both Russia (http://projects.takingitglobal.org/clcrussia) and Canada (http://projects.takingitglobal.org/clccanada).

Creating Local Connections West Africa (CLC WA) aims to realize the potential of youth and engage them as development actors in the improvement of their communities, countries, and region. CLC WA will achieve this through peer-led trainings, networking, national youth meetings, media creation, award processes, research and development of strategic use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) during its implementation in: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia. The project’s activities will run over a 12 months period (March 2007 – March 2008).

TakingITGlobal and its lead local partner organizations are presently looking to hire 5 young national coordinators as part of the CLCWA team. To find out more about the available position, please view the job description by clicking on this address: http://about.takingitglobal.org/d/getinvolved?view=141. For more information on this project or on how you can get involved, please visit the project page at this address: http://projects.takingitglobal.org/clcwa.

Project Description: Creating Local Connections West Africa (CLC WA) aims to realize the potential of youth for improving their communities, countries, and region. CLC WA will achieve this through peer-led trainings, media creation, and strategic use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) during its implementation in: Sierra Leone Nigeria, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia. The project will run over a 15 months period (February 2007-april 2008).

Project Mission Statement: Creating Local Connections West Africa will realize the potential of young people as development actors through information and communications technologies.

Project Objective Statement and Components: Creating Local Connection West Africa will scope, coordinate, support and enhance existing local level efforts of youth within the region to deal with common challenges. These common challenges the project will focus on include emergence from conflict, advancement of democracy, economic empowerment, reducing stigma and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. Thus, the ultimate project objective focuses on increased levels of issue awareness, engagement and empowerment within the West African youth community.

Project Components:
• Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Capacity Building
• Regional Networking of Youth
• Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Connectivity Research
• Regional Youth Awards Process

CLC West-Africa – National Coordinators [05 Part-time Positions]:
• CLC-WA national coordinators, male or female, are representatives of their respective youth communities, aimed at strengthening and supporting the CLC reach through local outreach initiatives.
• Position will be based in a set partner youth organisation, in each respective country. [Position should not require relocation] Each coordinator will work out of the project’s partner organization headquarters:
– Nigeria: Port Harcourt
– Cote d’Ivoire: Abidjan
– Liberia: Monrovia
– Sierra-Leone: Freetown
– Guinea: Conakry
• 12 months part-time position – March 2007 to March 2008
• Expected average of 3-4 full days of work per week
• Salary equivalent to 300.00USD per month paid in local currency

Core Responsibilities
• Ensure that the goals and objectives of CLC-West-Africa are being met
• Manage the overall national outreach and promotion strategies
• Responsible for updating, promoting and maintaining its respective country site and posting all of CLC-WA or its network’s past or upcoming activities on the TakingITGlobal.org online platform.
• Maintain a strong focus towards all project activities on elements of gender equality, information and communications technologies, economic accessibility, geographic accessibility and youth participation
• Formulate strategies for local youth engagement in civics, entrepreneurship and ICTs.
• Develop, broadcast and maintain a database of youth initiatives, government departments, young professionals and youth organizations through the creation of a solid national network which involves researching and adding new groups and individuals, establishing and maintaining partnerships and making presentations and workshops for youth groups on how to leverage TakingITGlobal’s online tools (including managing organizational accounts, project pages etc)
• Represent TakingITGlobal and CLC-WA at local or national conferences and events
• Coordinate and, in most cases, facilitate Open Forums, national youth meetings, live chats, workshops and trainings on predetermined or region-specific relevant issues
• Ensure that all project activities are adequately publicized within the entire CLC-WA network
• Responsible for the collection and distribution of pertinent and project-related information, material and documents (including connectivity questionnaires, Youth Awards submission etc)
• Build and maintain a network of young professionals as a source of facilitators, co-facilitators or expert trainers
• Ability to travel within his/her respective country

Related Skills and Experiences
• Advanced presentation and facilitation skills
• Self-motivated and highly organized
• Strong knowledge and experience in resident youth community
• An understanding of his/her respective country’s context and key youth related issues
• Understanding of and experience using online community tools (a respectable knowledge of TakingITGlobal.org and its tools would be a great asset)
• Experience (or great interest in) liaising with youth organizations
• Sensitivity to elements of gender equality, information and communications technologies, economic accessibility, geographic accessibility and youth participation
• Ability to take initiative and work well both individually and in team setting
• Ability to multitask and meet tight deadlines
• Ability to understand and engage youth from diverse backgrounds
• Strong knowledge
• Strong writing and editing skills

Application Procedure
• Please write position title in email subject heading
• Please submit a resume and cover letter to CLCWA@TakingITGlobal.org before February 17
• This position is open only to each country’s national citizens and permanent residents
• Due to the nature of this youth led/oriented project and its implementing organizations, our positions will offered to young women and men under the age of 30.
• For more information please contact Francis Cardinal by phone (+223 663 1486) or by email mentioned above.

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When A Professor Endorses Another

(c) This Day Newspapers, 2007

Someone who saw my full-length resume sometime last year had commented about the number of professors I had in my reference section — there are actually five of them. Maybe this is a clear indication of why I continually do what I can to move on with my academic and research involvements, even in the face of obvious discouragements. It is not that the title draws me towards itself, but the opportunity to increase knowledge to a level where it can make sense to both the knowledge seeker and his community drives me towards these professors who are equipped with the powers of both intellectual and practical prowess in their various areas of influence. And of these two professors, two have probably influenced me the most in terms of my committment to the good of the Nigerian nation: one of them is known as the conscience of the nation (his words are never missed by the media), and the other is leading a much-needed revolution towards value-based leadership in Nigeria.

Yesterday, in Lagos, Prof. Wole Soyinka publicly endorsed Prof. Pat Utomi and announced him political party’s support for the other Professor. While I am not too surprised by the much-awaited endorsement, I am not ignorant of the weight it lends to the candidacy of Prof. Pat Utomi. Over the last few years, Prof. Soyinka has established himself as a leading social crusader with both national respect and global influence, and his warnings about the political environment have always been taken seriously by both sides of the equation. So strong are his public comments that some not-so-smart paid public servants spend our tax-money trying to unravel the words of this igilango Oyinbo. Simply put, Prof. Soyinka’s endorsement of Prof. Utomi goes to show that like minds think alike, and that there are more forces for the good of Nigeria than there are against.

Coincidentally, I’m writing this from the Banker’s Hall — venue of the public lecture held in honour of Porf. Pat Utomi’s 51st birthday. Prof. Itse Sagay is doing what he knows best, telling the story of democracy and its place in development. Before the lecture, he spent some time speaking about the reason why he believes Prof. Utomi holds the ace for Nigeria’s leadership need. Now, that is another endorsement from a fellow professor for Prof. Utomi. But don’t miss the point, his endorsement doesn’t only come from professors — or the academia at large — but by every Nigerian who believes that the time to literally redeem our lives from bondage. Well, as if to prove me right, Edrees Abdulkareem took the microphone to announce his support for Prof. Pat Utomi. In his words, “the street is hungry… we must fight for our rights and put the right person in the right place.”

Tomorrow, at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife (Osun State), Prof. Utomi will continue at the task of nation-building (which he’s always been busy at) by speaking at the annual public lecture of the Economics’ Students’ Association. Fortunately, I will be speaking just before Prof. Utomi at the meeting, and I hope to let out my thoughts on why today’s students may become dead on delivery at graduation if they don’t embrace the new platform for career exploration. As at last night, the title was Careers 3.0. 🙂 After the Ife meeting, I will be visiting the Federal University of Technology Akure (Ondo State) — in the state of my birth — where the student chapter of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) will be inaugurated. On Friday, I will proceed to the University of Ado Ekiti (Ekiti State) where the Intellectual Network has asked me to also shed some more light on Youth Empowerment. Saturday belongs to Ogun State as I’ll be speaking on Youth and Entrepreneurship at the Gateway Television, Abeokuta. If January was the month of The 3-Nation Tour, then February is the month of The 4-State Tour 🙂 Nay, too early, to limit February because it’s a pregnant month — and more of that later.

Career Development Opportunities for Under-21 Nigerians

(c) JANigeria

Junior Achievement (JA) is the world’s oldest and largest non- profit economic education organisation designed to help students understand the world of work, help them discover and reach their full potential. JA operates in 112 countries around the world with entrepreneurial and leadership programs that are delivered to schools by trained volunteers from the private sector. JA began operations in Nigeria since 1999 and has reached over 90,000 students and intends to reach more.

Junior Achievement of Nigeria is proud to announce a new program that will positively influence the lives of more students. JA Careers with a Purpose (CWAP) is aimed at helping students to:

  • Learn the importance of seeking careers that help them realize their life’s potential and noble purpose;
  • Demonstrate the importance of positive values, life maxims and ethical decision making within the context of career and life decisions;
  • Attain a level of fulfillment in their proposed chosen career in the nearest future; and
  • Participate in an international essay competition (JA Laws of Life Essay Competition) with prize-winning opportunities and recognition for brilliant ideas.

CWAP classes will consist of 30 students, and will hold for ten (10) hours over a period of three to four weekends (Saturdays) beginning from February 17, 2007. The classes include class discussions, group work and individual’s test of their knowledge. On completion of CWAP, successful student will be awarded a CWAP Certificate of Achievement. The program is open to students in tertiary institutions who are below the age of 21, and are willing to complete all ten hours of the program. Interested individuals should contact cwap@janigeria.org and must include the following in their eMail:

  1. Full names
  2. eMail address
  3. Phone number (mobile preferred)
  4. Institution
  5. Date of Birth
  6. Short Essay (200 words) on why they should be selected as part of the 30 students

Selected students will receive their training materials and get more information on the program before the commencement date. All enquiries or applications must be received by February 10, 2007. We look forward to you participation in the JA Careers with a Purpose program, and to the possibility of working with you to improve the lives of Nigeria’s Youth!

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