Rewards for Disobedience!

(c) Update Centre

My television is usually calling for attention. If it could organize a protest, the placard will read, “Get rid of laptops and internet access!” Well, there’s a way around that unspoken inanimate jealousy: tap away on the keyboard with the TV in view. 🙂 At 8pm (1900GMT) today, the TV got its own moment – when the story of an event in honour of Rosa Parks caught my attention. Hers is a story well told, but that should be told again and again. But can you allow me to sum up the primary reason for her celebration in one word – disobedience! I can’t forget how hard my teachers tried in my early years in the bid to tell me how bad it was to be disobedient. My parents and siblings also drummed it in my ears – and by now you can guess how much of that stubborn trait yours truly displayed in the days.

Rosa Parks was disobedient. On December 1, 1955, she boarded a Montgomery bus on her way home from work and started a revolution by disobeying the driver who tried to uphold the law of the day. Not only her. Martin Luther king Jr. was disobedient too. He disagreed with the norm of the day and fought for what he believed in. How about his name sake, the earlier Martin Luther? His 95 theses challenged age-long beliefs. Stubborn Thomas Edison was also disobedient. They must have told him: “High-sounding fool, could you just save the lab some embarrassment by announcing that this thing may not work. Use the word, ‘may’ so it sounds like you’re not giving up yet.” Show me a man more disobedient than Nelson Mandela, the lawyer who had the option of silence but chose the path of disobedience. How about Barack Obama? Ko s’oro.

Every achiever that we celebrate today falls into one class – Les Disobedient :)! They refuse to obey the laws of the day and choose to carve new paths for themselves and others who will come after them. Guess what: obedience to set laws will keep you bound. Just nod as yours appear on this page: “My 9 to 5 now feels like a daily prison.” “I would love to make the move, but … what if it doesn’t work out?” “Ah, me I no fit try dat kain’ thing o, who you know wey don do am before?” There are many voices that ring in our heads daily, challenging the one act of disobedience that can set us on the path of greatness. There are rewards for disobedience and even if it tarries (ask Thomas Edison before you estimate that word “tarry”), it will still come! Thomas was actually caught saying, “Hell, there are no rules – we’re trying to accomplish something!”

It’s exactly one year today that I disobeyed the law of comfortable employment. Has it been rosy? No! Has it got its own rewards? Give me a mic! A few days ago, I watched a top level executive fight tears while I told the story of what I now do, and why I do the things I do – in spite of the many options to tow the line of obedience. As we walked out of the conference room, she said, “I can see that you are passionate about what you do, I’m sure it’s very rewarding…” Looking at the string of opportunities that have come my way (and that are showing their heads) this year alone, I am glad I took that step of disobedience. However, it remains with every (wo)man to locate that law that must be disobeyed and take appropriate action. Whatever that law happens to be, it sure pays to be disobedient! There are rewards for disobedience…

Afrinvest WA and PIN: The Internet Connection

Picture taken by Korede Asuni for PIN

At 11:59am on June 20, 2007, a new eMail arrived in my inbox. With the subject, “Lagos newcomer,” Russ said:

Gbenga, [w]hile searching the internet for “lagos & social enterprise” I came across your website and the Digital Village. I just moved into town and am looking for opportunities to contribute time on the weekends to similar efforts. We seem to be fairly like-minded people and I thought it might be worthwhile for us to grab a lunch someday and meet. Please let me know if you are interested….

Two days later, I wrote:

Hi Russ, [t]hanks for the eMail, and its great to read from you on your interest in social enterprises. I have since handed over the Lagos Digital Village project to a new person, after resigning from Junior Achievement of Nigeria (the non-profit I managed the project for) in February this year. I now manage Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN), a social enterprise that focuses on the role of ICTs in creating better livelihoods. PIN’s profile is attached, and I’ll be glad to share additional thoughts on what we do and how your free weekends and interest in social enterprises can add value to our mission of transforming communities and people-groups. I’ll be glad to meet with you, and would be open to looking at doing that sometime soon. I look forward to meeting you…

That was the beginning of what would become a relationship between two institutions. As soon as I saw Russ’ eMail, I looked him up through Google — the same way he got to know about me — just to be sure:). The fact that he wrote from his office address helped a lot because all I had to do was strip the URL off his eMail address and look up the website. A month and a day after my reply to his eMail, we met … and I remain grateful for all the hours Russ spent looking through PIN and documents. His introductory eMail the day before he left Afrinvest WA set the tone for the discussions I had with Ike Chioke, someone whose personal story stands as an inspiration for young people everywhere — if we call on our inner strength and dedicate ourselves to hardwork, success comes closer home.

Ike was at the breakfast meeting hosted by Peter Stephenson (Director, Trade & Investment, UK Deputy High Commission, Lagos) and his advice on how to ensure that interns understand the real place of competition in life remains central to our new approach. Ike hinted at the breakfast (as he’d done during our first meeting) that he would love to visit Ajegunle to meet with the project beneficiaries and the February 22 Orientation Session presented a perfect opportunity. Even though there were a few wrong turns and quite some time (which an investment banker like Ike could use) spent trying to locate the Ajeromi Shopping Complex venue of the session, he came along with June Obonyo (Afrinvest’s HR manager) and they both added colour to the event. Add the following names to the list and you can imagine the inspiring session that these new 25 trainees had: Niyi Adesanya, Tayo Olosunde, Victor Gotevbe, Felix Ekpa (who stood in well well for my friend Deolu Akinyemi)… and the oga himself, Praise Fowowe — the man who laid the foundation on which PIN now builds.

The headmaster (Ugo Nwosu) did a good job at reminding the students that while the orientation session was an awesome experience many of them will remember for a long time, Monday signals the beginning of the rigorous training that will connect them with amazing opportunities. Ike told his own personal story and introduced the trainees to his firm, Afrinvest WA. He reminded them that four of them would join him and June in the office after going through the selection process — and that obviously stepped up the interest of the trainees who were already writing away as the guests shared tips with them on how to walk their way to a life of pleasant opportunities! I’m sure June was looking out for the smart trainees who could become her interns after completing the program — and the Class Rep put up a great speech to thank everyone.

A few minutes after the session, Ike confirmed Afrinvest’s support towards one of PIN’s major needs and I can imagine that when we work together to improve the lives of young Nigerians over the next few years, Russ Richards will readily come to mind. However, what will remain a smile-provoking thought to me is the role the Internet played in this whole relationship matrix. When I decided to start populating the web with Nigerian and African content in 1999, little did I know that it would come back as a huge opportunity for me and the things I hold dearly. Many firsts in my life were preceded by eMail and Internet search: the 2001 ITU competition (which eventually earned me my first seat on an airplane), the 2002 Geneva trip (along with the TakingITGlobal connection), the 2003 connection with Nigerian IT professionals in the diaspora, the 2004 appearance on the cover of a US magazine, the 2005 Heinrich Boll connection, the 2006 international media interviews, the 2007 First Lady invitation, and the list goes on.

Microsoft and Nigerian Youth Empowerment

If you’re a student of the Lagos State University, you would have noticed the presence of Microsoft on your campus earlier today. Same for 19 other campuses that have been visited with the good news of possible participation in the 2008 Imagine Cup — plus other goodies. Will a Nigerian student make us proud this year again? Step up to the challenge!

One world. Unlimited possibilities.

Let’s face it — the world needs help. The kind of help that happens when you take the top young minds from around the globe and turn them loose on solving the world’s toughest problems. That’s what the Imagine Cup is all about. This is your chance to innovate and create, show the world what you’ve got, and win some serious prizes. Simply put, it’s your chance to use the power of technology to change the world — and have some fun while you’re at it.

You win. We all win.

Imagine Cup contestants have the chance to give their ideas exposure, make critical contacts, and feel a true sense of friendship with people around the world. Want more? Well, if you make it to the worldwide finals, you’ll also score roundtrip airfare and hotel accomodations at the World Finals in Paris, France, and a shot at some great cash prizes. Help the world and win money? It doesn’t get any better than that.

What does a sustainable environment mean to you?

Imagine a world where technology is an ally of the planet, not an adversary. A world where software enables us to interpret environmental indicators, predict the outcomes of our actions, improve our consumption of precious resources, and live more in balance with our environment. In Imagine Cup 2008, we challenge the top student technologists around the world to actively contribute to the mission of protecting our world for generations to come. The theme of this year’s Imagine Cup is “Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment.”

For some, a sustainable environment means something as simple as breathing fresh air each time they open their window. For others it means making significant changes in key environmental indicators. Any way you look at it, you get to decide how technology can help solve this problem for yourself, your country, and yeah…even the planet.

Nine ways to step up to the challenge.

The Imagine Cup started five years ago, and already more than 100,000 students from over 100 countries and regions have competed. This year, more students than ever will be looking for victory in the nine competitions set up under three main categories, each reflecting this year’s theme.

Ready to compete in Imagine Cup 2008? Go to

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Work Experience for Graduates

He's the man!

I can’t keep this to myself anymore! I must start by thanking a young man who walked up to me after his BSc (as quite a number of people do) and said, “I’d like to work with you.” As is usual with me, the first response was, “Go and think about what you really want to do with your life and if it tallies with what I already do — or plan to do — then we can discuss. I don’t want anyone living my dreams, everyone must find and live theirs!” He returned again and again, and I’m not kidding when I say that my Nigerian Youth Leadership Award is dedicated to this epitome of passionate efficiency, Ugo Nwosu! (This is where we do the clapping and shouting…:)) Ugo was with me when the idea only existed on that air sickness bag, because I ran out of battery power and had to get it out before the scheduled flight arrival in Lagos (from the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship program in South Africa). Fast forward… the project started, and then I met Peter Stephenson. As head of the Trade & Investment unit of the UK Deputy High Commission, I was a bit worried when he said he’d be willing to visit the project after only a few minutes of sharing the idea with him. Visit, he did. And the Work Experience program of the project is what we have to show for his visit and redemption of many other promises!

The vision of is: “[a] new Ajegunle, transformed through the application of Information Communications Technology and Entrepreneurship opportunities; creating role models that will drive socio-economic development in the underserved community.” While the overall objective of the project is to create better livelihoods through ICT opportunities, the project’s specific objectives include capacity building for 25 trainees every quarter. These youth are equipped with ICT and entrepreneurship skills which they pass on to other youth, along with the opportunity to start their own businesses. Three of our trainees have earned the opportunity to intern with the Trade and Investment division of the UK Deputy High Commission in Lagos while another three will soon resume at Afrinvest West Africa. Other organizations, in Nigeria, that will now support the internship scheme include Arik Air, DHL, John Holt, London Metropolitan University, Lornamead Africa, Standard Chartered Bank, Starcomms and Virgin Atlantic. The internship scheme was designed because of the need for balanced and exposed graduates who will understand the world of work while also learning new ones on the job.

Having spent the greater part of their childhood in an environment that seems to suggest their inability to gain access to opportunities, it is important that they meet and network within real work spaces. The internship is a win-win scenario for graduates and host organizations because while the latter guides the interns through workplace communication, teamwork and management processes, the interns provide valuable man-hours. In addition, it affords these organizations an opportunity to practice meaningful and high-impact Corporate Social Responsibility. The objectives of the internship scheme include the need to expose graduates to the real workplace; provide networking and mentorship opportunities for them; and assist them to discover their full potentials by placing them in positions that inspire career growth and activate a strong passion for success. Between October 2007 and now, the project has benefited from three internship slots for graduates at the UKTI. The interns’ experiences (drawn from their Internship Reports) are summarized below:

(a) Matthew Ibiwoye: Even with a Bachelors degree in Sociology, he still deemed it fit to join the pioneer set of the project. History will remember Matthew as the first intern of the project, and he did not disappoint any of the project partners. While at the UKTI, he provided the whole team with administrative support as well as help with the organization of Trade Missions. Matthew also provided local intelligence on new business prospects for UK companies. When asked about his lessons from the internship, he is quick to refer to his improved networking and corporate communication skills!
(b) Emmanuel Njoku: Our second intern at the UKTI provided administrative support for the team and supported Trade Mission efforts. He is particularly happy that he was able to sharpen his passion for the media by developing management skills. He also appreciates the fact that he now understands global business processes, and he’s quick to add, “I learn a lot from the team at the UKTI!”
(c) Ijeh Nwanyiego: Our longest-serving intern at the UKTI has been dubbed the mascot of the UKTI team and this was earned through hard work and dedication. She also shares a trait that all three interns have demonstrated – punctuality. She has sharpened her networking skills and proudly talks about the amount of exposure she has gained during her stay at the UKTI.

The project continues to evolve into the sustainable life-changing model we had in mind while designing the project, and we are excited about the momentum that this internship idea has generated. Soft skills, work ethics, business exposure, team work and communication are some of the direct benefits that our graduates derive from the work experience opportunities. As we continue to discuss with other institutions across Nigeria that believe that replicating this model will help address the needs of underserved youth, we remain committed to the delivery of a sustainable intervention strategy that will change the face of underserved communities in Nigeria, one community at a time. Unemployment is a major issue in Nigeria, with a recent report highlighting that only 10% of students from tertiary institutions get decent jobs after graduation. A 2007 study conducted by the National Directorate for Employment showed that 74% of registered unemployed persons fall within the age bracket of 15 to 34 years. Underserved communities, such as Ajegunle, account for majority of these unemployed youth – most of who are involved in criminal activities and various vices such as cyber crime. presents an opportunity for Nigeria to address this huge social gap while also demonstrating a simple easy-to-replicate model that can shift the momentum towards positive peer pressure in each community where the project is implemented. also provides visibility for these young people who are now living productive lives, showcasing them as role models among their peers.

I look forward to the meetings with our new partners as we firm up the logistics of their support, and also look forward to the discussion with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) next week. Is the model about to come to a town near you? If you’re in (or are interested in) Itoku in Ogun State, FESTAC and Ondo State, then get ready. May I borrow Barack Obama’s now-popular phrase? We are fired up and ready to go! When we sat at breakfast with the CEOs of our new partner organizations (Nigeria’s authentic CSR-friendly companies 😉 and the British Deputy High Commissioner at Peter’s place on St. Valentine’s Day, those words kept playing in my mind, “We can’t keep complaining about what’s not right, we must do something to fix what we can!” I’m glad that things have come this far with this model, and I look forward to the days when we will celebrate the lives that have been transformed through an idea that could have gone the way of other potentially great ideas…

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“Este continente tem sofrido muito…precisamos de apoio e cometimento dos lideres jovens para continuarem a elevar a voz em nome dos pobres e marginalizados, e procurarem uma vida melhor para todos.” — Arcebispo Desmond Tutu, Abril 2007

De Angola a Zimbabué, abundam questões sobre o actual estado de Africa. Em todas as capitais listadas entre Abidjan e Zanzibar, não são novas as vozes crescentes dos filhos e filhas de Africa que desejam saber do destino das suas terras. Alguns expressam esta preocupação com uma esperança silenciosa, outros através de um medo evidente, e muitos outros olham em nenhuma outra direcção senão na dos seus líderes – aqueles que passaram a ser conhecidos como os capitães do navio do Estado. Há até quem diga que o futuro de Africa está nas mãos dos lideres do amanha não nos de hoje. Entretanto tem havido uma crise de liderança em Africa. Os sonhos e esperanças dos cidadãos deste continente foram desfeitos pelos nossos líderes pós-colonialismo – de heróis das lutas de libertação através dos líderes dos partidos de oposição que submergiram como consequência.

Os cidadãos de África merecem um futuro brilhante, e este começa com líderes com visão que possam responder aos desafios que Africa enfrenta como parte de uma Comunidade Global no Século 21. Eventos recentes no Continente são causa para varias preocupações: desde a crise de corrupção na Nigéria, a tensão politica na Africa do Sul devido as eleições de 2009 ou a crise politica no Quénia que está a transformar um país outrora prospero num mar de derramamento de sangue e tensões étnicas. O conflito em curso no Sudão, a actual crise no Chad ou o colapso económico e sócio-politico alcançado no Zimbabué causaram uma grande instabilidade nas vidas de milhares de africanos em todo continente.

Não tencionamos jogar o jogo habitual de apenas escutar os problemas, mas juntar as nossas vozes a aquelas de cerca de 920 milhões de africanos para exigir integridade nos processos políticos. Apesar de todas as nossas democracias serem jovens esperamos que os nossos líderes homens e mulheres o sejam por excelência e que respeitem o processo eleitoral e como tal os desejos do povo. Como jovens africanos líderes na Politica, Negócios, Saúde e Tecnologias de Informação, levantamo-nos juntos e comprometemo-nos mais uma vez com os ideais de uma verdadeira liderança, deixando as seguintes recomendações:

a) O lançamento de uma campanha de alto nível liderada pela UA para combater o tribalismo e desigualdades sob todas as suas formas em todo continente. Cada país deve estabelecer uma Comissão Contra o Tribalismo e Desigualdades (CATI) para lutar contra este flagelo e proteger os grupos minoritários vulneráveis. A CATI deve trazer a luz aqueles políticos que usam manipulações étnicas para perpetrar violência a justiça e impedi-los de participar em futuros actos políticos.

b) Os líderes políticos tem de ser líderes servidores e usar o seu poder e influencia como um instrumento para mudanças sócio-económicas ao invés de oprimir e aumentar a sua cobiça pessoal;

c) A criação e fortalecimento de instituições importantes (jurídicas e comissões eleitorais, etc…) que garantam em cada país a independência das Autoridades Reguladoras de Eleições; e O instrumento da UA de monitoria Eleitoral que vai monitorar as eleições deve ter um conjunto de directrizes bem definidas que vai servir para determinar se o processo é livre e justo;

d) A descoberta da nossa verdadeira identidade para adoptar e inculcar a base moral da honestidade, amor, paz e integridade. Acreditamos que pessoas integras não vão permitir que um país belo, com uma estabilidade sócio-económica como o Quénia entre num colapso político.
e) O fortalecimento das nossas economias nacionais, e sistemas que garantam a prestação de serviços adequados de saúde, educação e outros serviços sociais, que vão dotar todos os Africanos de condições para compartilhar um futuro melhor.

Como jovens líderes nas nossas várias esferas de influência, nós os Companheiros de 2007 do Arcebispo Desmond Tutu na Liderança [1] vemos o silêncio neste momento crítico como algo inconveniente. Acreditamos que o silencio e a inércia face aos desafios de ontem são responsáveis pelos problemas enfrentados hoje. Emprestamos as nossas vozes para a chamada de atenção dos lideres africanos – hoje e no futuro – para considerarem o bem comum no lugar de receios e ambições pessoais. Estamos orgulhosos daqueles que nos mostraram que liderança tem a ver com a prestação de serviços e convidamos a todos os outros lideres para que se mantenham fiéis ao espírito intencionado da liderança.

Assinado: Companheiros de 2007 do Arcebispo Desmond Tutu na Liderança [Brilliant Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), Dan Kidega (Uganda), Ed Mabaya (Zimbabwe), Erik Charas (Mozambique), ‘Gbenga Sesan (Nigeria), Grace Ofem (Nigeria), Hassan Usman (Nigeria), Herine Otieno (Kenya), Ipeleng Mkhari (South Africa), Lisa Kropman (South Africa), Mezuo Nwuneli (Nigeria), Niven Postma (South Africa), Saida Ali (Kenya), Takalani Musekwa (South Africa), Tariro Makadzange (Zimbabwe), Terence Sibiya (South Africa), Tracey Webster (South Africa), Yohannes Mezgebe (Ethiopia), Yolan Friedmann (South Africa)]

[1] Anualmente 20 indivíduos com alto potencial da Africa Sub-Sahariana são galardoados com o prestigioso título de Companheirismo de Arcebispo Tutu em Liderança, seguindo um processo rigoroso de selecção. O galardão é destinado a nata dos futuros lideres do continente, atingindo especificamente a próxima geração de lideres africanos de todos os sectores de actividade entre idades que variam de 25 a 39 anos. O programa de Companheirismo é coordenado pelo African Leadership Institute, e inclui um programa de formação coordenado pela SAID Business School na Universidade de Oxford. Para mais informações sobre o Companheirismo visite

World Bank Essay Competition

WANTED: Your Practical Ideas (“Shaping the City of Your Dreams”)

In 2007, for the first time in human history, the majority of people in the world, particularly in developing countries, will be living in urban areas. Life in the city is often associated with more opportunities, better access to employment, education, health and other services. Cities are often called engines of economic growth, contributing disproportionately to the national gross domestic product (GDP). They are also centers of innovation, entrepreneurship and investment. But many cities also have a large part of their population living in slums, without essential services such as water, sanitation and energy, and threatened by environmental hazards, violence and social exclusion. As more and more people move from the countryside to the city, and as city populations grow, there is a growing need for solutions to the issues of urban poverty, environment, and urban infrastructure (housing, roads, water, energy etc.)

What can you do to shape the city of your dreams? Please answer all three questions below:
1) Think about the city you live in. What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for people living there?
2) What needs to be done to transform your city into the city of your dreams?
3) What could be your role, working together with your peers, in shaping the city of your dreams? Please focus on one or two points you mentioned in question 2).

You may use some of the points below to structure your answer:
If you have been personally involved in concrete initiatives, write specifically about your experience. Who have you worked with? Who have you helped? What have you accomplished? In what way would you consider this work to be innovative? How have you measured the results of your work? Looking ahead, how would you expand or improve the impact of your work? How can other youth replicate your experience? If you don’t have practical experience, write specifically about your ideas. How would you work with your peers to shape the city of your dreams?

Awards include:
• A grand prize of $5,000
• Runner-up prizes of $1,000
Authors of the best essays (finalists) will be invited to participate in the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) in Cape Town, South Africa. The jury reserves the right to modify the allocation depending on the number of winning essays.

Who can participate?
The International Essay Competition is open to all young people, students and non-students alike, between the ages of 18 and 25 (born between 1983 – 1990). Essays should be submitted by individuals.

January 15, 2008 – Launch of the Essay Competition
March 23, 2008 – Deadline for submissions
April 30, 2008 – Finalists announced
June 9-10, 2008 – Final Jury in Cape Town, South Africa
June 11, 2008 – Award Ceremony during the ABCDE Conference in Cape Town, South Africa (The World Bank will cover travel and accommodation expenses for the finalists)

* Submissions will be accepted till March 23, 2008 (midnight, Paris time).
* Each participant can only submit one essay.
* Participants must be between 18 and 25 years of age (born 1983 – 1990).
* Essays should not be longer than 10 pages (4,000 words, maximum), 1.5 line-spaced.
* Essays can only be submitted online, in English, French,
Spanish, Arabic or Portuguese.
* Each essay must be accompanied by an abstract (max. one page). The abstract will be used by the jury to make a pre-selection.
* All essays will be blind reviewed. References to specific individuals, firms, or schools, which might reveal the author’s identity are discouraged.
* Quotes and references must be clearly marked throughout the essay and properly cited.
* All essays must be original. No previously published material will be accepted. Any form of plagiarism will result in automatic disqualification. Please note that all essays will be screened with a specialized software to verify plagiarism.
* We recommended that you write your essay in a word-processing program (check for grammar and spelling; clarity counts).
* Contestants are asked not to add emphasis using HTML etc. Italics and other text formatting will be added to the finalist essays for publication purposes.
* The World Bank reserves the right to publish and/or to make available to the public the winning essays.
* The decision of the Jury is final and is not subject to an appeal.
* Participants of the previous editions of the Essay Competition are also encouraged to apply.
* Active (between the time of essay submission and the Final Jury in June 2008), paid staff (term or open-ended) of partner organizations (see list) of Essay Competition 2008 are not eligible to participate.

Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is the deadline for submissions?
The deadline for submissions is March 23, 2008, midnight (Paris time).

2. How do I submit my essay?
The submission process is very simple and entirely online-based. Submit your essay

3. Who is eligible for the essay competition?
The essay competition is open for nationals of ALL countries of the world, students and non-students alike, aged 18-25. Students enrolled in Ph.D. courses are, however, not eligible to participate.

4. I am just under 18 or just over 25 – can I still participate?
The competition is intended for youth aged 18-25. If you are born in the years 1983 – 1990, you are eligible to participate.

5. In which language shall I submit the essay?
The essay can be written in either of the 5 languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese. If you are selected as a finalist, you will be asked to make a presentation of your paper – in the same language that the essay was written in or in English.

6. What is the length and format of the essay?
The essay should not exceed 10 pages (4000 words), 1.5 spaced. The following elements do NOT count into the number of pages or words: abstract, content page, title page (if you provide one). Moreover, graphs and tables do NOT count into the number of words.

7. Am I allowed to include graphs and tables?
Yes, you are welcome (but not obliged to) to include relevant graphs and tables. Their content will not count into the number of words in your essay.

8. What is an abstract?
You will be asked to write an abstract to go with your essay, which cannot exceed 1 page (400 words). An abstract is a summary in which you explain the aim, the methodology, the reasoning and the main conclusions of your paper. The abstract is important, as pre-selection of the essays will be based on the assessment of these only. That means that a good essay without an abstract or with a poorly written abstract will not be graded highly.

9. What are the grading criteria for the essays?
The essays will be graded for their originality, clarity and the use of thoughtful and concrete proposals/ examples.

10. Is it allowed to mention my name in the paper?
It is discouraged to mention the name of the author in the essay or to include the name on the title page or in the footer. Your essay will be linked to your email address and therefore there is no need to sign it with your name.

11. Is it allowed for two or more people to work on the same essay?Unfortunately not. We would like the paper to be individual work.

12. Do I need to address all three questions?
Yes, you are asked to address all questions.

13. If I am a finalist, who will pay for my travel and stay in South Africa?The World Bank will cover the cost of travel and accommodation for the finalists.

For more information, visit

The Widow by the Window

In the shadow of the evening sun
   She sat by the window,
Waiting to see if help would come
   But long was the wait;

Hear me, come near me
   She said with open arms,
When our hero was here
   It was he who gave help to others;

Her breadwinner is gone
   Stories of hope she arms her children with,
Hoping that one day, one day soon
   Help will come for the widow by the window.

I wrote this poem immediately after the lecture organized by the Centre for Values in Leadership on February 8, having heard of the plight of widows in many parts of Nigeria. Titi Akinsanmi and I co-moderated the event. Dr. Doyin Abiola’s presentation was particularly revealing, and I now better understand Prof. Utomi’s words during our chat few days before the event. He said, “There’s the likelihood that a lot of people will show up for the February 6 lecture but I hope that your generation can begin to think of issues like the plight of widows…” I salute the many widows out there who have had to (or still) endure/enjoy a mix of shame, inspiration, hardship, triumphs and loneliness. Help will come for the widow by the window.

The past few days have been particularly interesting as I’ve had to swing between progress on, research efforts that will bring smiles to many faces (including mine) and the amazing support for the Open Letter to Africa’s Present and Future Leaders written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows. The month continues with amazing momentum (and that reminds me, congratulations to co-supporters of Barack Obama) and I look forward to every moment with excitement, hope and appreciation. As things unfold, my song of the week is from the stables of The Rooftop MCs (featuring the all-amazing Cobams), Ori mi wu, e la’gi mo!

“An Open Letter to Africa’s Present and Future Leaders” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows

February 10, 2008


“This continent has suffered too much.… We need the assistance and commitment of … young leaders to continue to speak up on behalf of the poor and the marginalized, and seek a better life for all” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, April 2007

From Angola to Zimbabwe, questions abound about Africa’s present state. All capitals listed between Abidjan to Zanzibar, are not new to the rising voices of Africa’s sons and daughters who wish to know the fate of their land. Some express this concern through silent hope, others through evident fear, and many others look in no other direction than that of their leaders – those we have come to know as the captains of the ship of the state. Others even argue that Africa’s answers remain with future leaders, and not today’s. But there has been a crisis of leadership in Africa. The hopes and dreams of the citizens of this continent have been dashed by our post colonial leaders – from the heroes of the liberation struggles through to the leaders of opposition parties that subsequently emerged.

The citizens of Africa deserve a brighter future, and that begins with visionary leaders who can answer the challenges that Africa faces as part of a global community in the 21st century. Recent events across the continent are cause for serious concern: from the crisis of corruption in Nigeria, the political tensions in South Africa leading to the 2009 election, or the political crisis in Kenya which is turning a once prosperous country into one that is marred by bloodshed and ethnic tensions. The ongoing conflict in Sudan, the current crisis in Chad, or the socio-political and economic meltdown obtaining in Zimbabwe have all caused great instability in the lives of millions of Africans across the continent.

We do not seek to play the usual game of just listing the problems but join our voices to that of over 920 million Africans to demand fair play in political processes. Though all of our democracies are young we expect our leaders to be men and women of excellence who respect the electoral process and as such the wishes of the people. As young people in Africa who are leaders in politics, business, health and information technology, we stand together and re-commit ourselves to the ideals of true leadership, and we make the following recommendations:

(a) The establishment of a high-level African Union led campaign to fight tribalism and inequality in all its forms across the continent. Each country should establish a Commission Against Tribalism and Inequality (CATI) to fight the scourges, and to protect vulnerable minority groups. CATI should bring politicians using ethnic manipulations to perpetrate violence to justice and stop them from participating in future political contests;

(b) Political leaders must be servant leaders and use their power and influence as a tool for socio-economic change rather than oppression and fuelling personal greed;

(c) The establishment and strengthening of relevant institutions (judiciary, electoral commissions, etc) that ensure independence of the Electoral Regulatory Authorities in each country; and the establishment of an AU Electoral monitoring body which monitors election and has a clear, well defined set of guidelines which it uses to determine if the process is free or fair;

(d) The rediscovery of our true identity as Africans, to embrace and inculcate the moral base of honesty, love, peace and integrity. We believe that people of integrity would not allow a beautiful, socially and economically stable country like Kenya to collapse into political disarray;

(e) The strengthening of our national economies, and systems to ensure the provision of adequate health care, education and other social services that will equip all Africans to partake in a better future.

As young leaders in our own various spheres of influence, we as the 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows[1] find silence at this critical moment inconvenient. We believe that silence and inaction in the face of yesterday’s challenges are responsible for the anomalies we see across the continent today. We lend our voices to the call for African leaders – today, and in the future – to consider the common good over personal fears or greed. We are proud of those who have shown us that leadership is about service and call on all other leaders to remain true to the spirit of purposeful leadership.

Signed: 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows [Brilliant Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), Dan Kidega (Uganda), Ed Mabaya (Zimbabwe), Erik Charas (Mozambique), ‘Gbenga Sesan (Nigeria), Grace Ofem (Nigeria), Hassan Usman (Nigeria), Herine Otieno (Kenya), Ipeleng Mkhari (South Africa), Lisa Kropman (South Africa), Mezuo Nwuneli (Nigeria), Niven Postma (South Africa), Saida Ali (Kenya), Takalani Musekwa (South Africa), Tariro Makadzange (Zimbabwe), Terence Sibiya (South Africa), Tracey Webster (South Africa), Yohannes Mezgebe (Ethiopia), Yolan Friedmann (South Africa)]

[1] Each year, 20 high potential individuals from across sub-Saharan Africa are awarded the prestigious Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship, following a rigorous competitive selection process. The Awards are aimed at the cream of the continent’s future leaders, specifically targeting the next generation of Africa’s leaders in all sectors of society, between the ages of 25 and 39. The fellowship program is coordinated by African Leadership Institute, and it includes a training program coordinated by the SAID Business School at Oxford University. For more information about the Fellowship, please visit

[2] While this Open Letter will reach numerous leaders through pre-defined channels, we request for your help in getting it as far as possible. For a copy of this letter that you can share, please download here (right-click to download).

“Standing Up To Be Counted” — Pat Utomi

Today is for me a day of thanksgiving. Fifty two years ago I was given the gift of life. Thanksgiving to the creator is a debt so big we could never pay it off. The hope and prayer is that in his mercy nature he accepts our tainted struggle to do His will.

I have also been gifted with mentors that taught me early in life the important of walking your talk and an early acceptance that values shape human progress. Part of the result has been that in a culture steeped in talk I have continued to try to do something no matter the level of cynicism or indeed the calumny this has sometimes generated.

The Centre for Values in Leadership is one fruit of our struggle. What is the CVL vision and what are we trying to accomplish this week?

We are trying to find partners who recognize that they have a role in transforming Nigeria. The future is lost unless a tripartite partnership between government, the private sector and the social enterprise sector is established and proceeds passionately. I am convinced there is a place for every one in this auditorium and every business enterprise in this project. Our medium term goal is to reach 20 million Nigerians and impact one million of these enough that they become catalyzers. We hope that this week’s activities will help persuade you to live up to its promise, the dream of its founding fathers. Our goal at CVL is to start a values revolution that will make all Nigerians players in nation-building.

This involves a few big hairy audacious goals. Among them is not just intensification of our campaign to clean up urban environmental eyesores but a proposal to the Lagos State Government to work with them to make Victoria Island a garden city (the new Singapore within 10 years).

We want to partner with Universities to have student prepare thesis that focus on rural growth and support for implementing great thesis ideas with rural location, for the entrepreneurial graduate. We desire to build both an entrepreneurship extension service and agricultural extension service that can help reduce poverty dramatically. We welcome volunteers for this army. In March, we expect a team of experts from abroad. Included is one of the speakers today.

Our civics and school adoption program will help us get our best and brightest in the commercial sector to teach and mentor the next generation, compensating for the state of our schools.

With this sketch of our vision, let me now address some personal emotional questions regarding this day.

This week’s event is the culmination of 20 years of commitment to social enterprise. Staying the course on this cause has not come easy. This is why there is much to give thanks for. Much of the thanks go to a mentor in graduate school who convinced me that the world is full of cynics and preachers and those doers are few and constantly beaten up by cynics. Determined to walk my talk, I met a Nigerian society unfortunately regressing, in a recursive mode. I decided that I must preach but also that I must go beyond to teach and to try doing something about that which I preach.

Boy did I preach. I recall a time when I wrote three different weekly columns; on the Economy in Business Concord; Thinking Aloud in Vanguard; and weekly Op Eds in the Guardian. I did television and other media activities while keeping down a full time position in industry. But I always remembered that preaching and teaching without making a decent effort at doing was not the preferred way. Doing therefore meant a bit of hyperactivity in social enterprise, be it in the founding of the Concerned Professionals or the ten plus NGO boards I sat on, and in motivating entrepreneurs to establish a variety of enterprises, a few of which were cutting edge. Why all this? It is simple citizen’s duty, in my opinion, a debt I owed God for the gift of life and society for the privilege of being a co-traveller. The biggest trouble I have always had is that, many, not only fail to value this sense of obligation to a shared heritage, and why an individual should be passionate about advance of the Common Good.

On more than one occasion the views of the so called cynics and critics who asked what is this man looking for, got to me. On account of one such counsel about what some were saying, I decided one day to discontinue all the columns. A few months later I was to hear that they had finally reached me and so I had abandoned the business of speaking truth to power. I came then to appreciate Ebenezer Obey and his making a song of the “ketekete fable”. But that experience did not provide me the liberation I desired.

A few years ago, I experienced the ultimate triumph. Once you can account with confidence to your conscience, and to God, about the rectitude of intention, as you make a choice to serve, and you act in that freedom, you have reached the mountain top.

When that liberation came to me recently, I knew my life had ascended to a new plane. For to be free as men, the spirit of service must be in ascent; for to serve is to live. There are so many to whom I am grateful for reaching that plane which is really what I celebrate on this 52nd birthday, and so many to be thankful to for this moment.

My gratitude to a generous creator for whose abundance of giving I am locked in this struggle to make sure I deploy as much of the talent he has given me so that the condemnation I may face on judgment day may be limited both by his mercy and our struggle is beyond measure.

To a wife who has tolerated my incredible baggage of short comings and managed to keep me near-decent. To say that I love her, is the ultimate understatement. To family, friends, all of you here and the energetic young people of CVL my thanks know no bounds. The entrepreneurs I have collaborated with, my colleagues in social enterprise and in academia, I am most grateful for holding my hands, and making me look better than I really am.

To the speakers, most of whom have traveled thousands of miles to share in their knowledge and experience I do not know how to begin. Thank you for honoring us so, assured that God will do much more for you.

To close, let me reiterate my confidence in the future of Nigeria. The vision of our country that I see is of a nation rising from the ashes of poor leadership and soaring to great heights, with new values of hard work, integrity, deferred gratification and respect for the dignity of the human person. Prosperity, peace and stability will then be features of our reality. Just as CVL volunteers help turn Victoria Island into a Garden City, I hope and pray that you and I will do our part that this new Nigeria of our dream will be the heritage of our children.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Patrick Okedinachi Utomi
6th February, 2008.

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