Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In retrospect- Dis Generation in 2010

Here is an overview of most of the topics that appeared on Dis generation column this year! The topic that received most responses via text messages was “What is education.” But the most viewed online are: “Before You Launch Your new Career” and “I was a baby when the big bridge fell.” To read these articles, get your old copies of The Nation on Sunday or read them online: www.youthmakingchange.blogspot.com
Merry Christmas! May the New Year usher in pleasant surprises to you and yours! May God Bless Nigeria.
Feedback from some readers:
“Thanks for your little column in The Nation on Sunday. Thanks even more for your warm smile. You’ve really blessed my heart. Cheers.” David
“I have been a regular reader of your column “DIS GENERATION”, which has been a source of inspiration to me & many of my friends. God will bless you for your contributions towards the development of the youths & Nigeria at large. I just read about this volunteering for the MDGs. How do I get involved please!” Ifeanyi Onwuzurike, UNIBEN
Counting back, from December to January
·      Dis Generation in 2010
·      Ratatouille
·      What is Education?
·      Three cups of Tea
·      Vitamin ‘D
·      When Praises Go Up!

Monday, December 20, 2010

For every one thing we complain about…

It is that time of the year again. When we all go into our closet to do a yearly evaluation of our goals and plans. Unlike the other evaluation we have done in the past months, this is the chief of them all.

In the process of reflection and taking stock, some of us will laugh while some will sigh. The laughter could be of triumph and proud achievement of the goals we set at the beginning of the year.  Or one of stupidity. The sigh could be an expression of exhaustion but victory of accomplishing that, which was called “impossible.” Or a sigh of sheer guilt and almost defeat. Like the laughter of stupidity, the sigh of guilt could be for the opportunities we allowed to slip away for fear of the unknown. The work we left undone for lack of preparation. The average we carried on our report for being oblivious that a little extra hard work would have placed us on the radar of excellence.

However, it does not matter which way the world turns, we must not allow our failures of yesterday cloud our today’s hope and tomorrow’s opportunity. Thus, in place of every one thing to complain about, think about 10 other things to be thankful for. In place of one person who ruined your plans for the day, week, month or year 2010, think about 10 other people who made you smile. Yes, allow yourself to bask in God’s goodness and count your blessings, one after the other.

If you failed a very important exam this year, and it seems your peers have moved on without you, lookout for the silver linings in your cloud. Bill Gate was also left behind by his seemingly peers when he dropped out of school, but today he has not only created job opportunities for those peers, many others draw inspiration from his conscientiousness.

Was it one of your priced possessions that was stolen this year? Think about the opportunity you have to be alive to replace it, with a better one.  It might be more difficult if you did loose someone close this year. The death of a friend, sibling, parent or family member is very painful. But think about the good times you spent with the person and for the opportunity you got to have known each other, no matter how short.

There is always more to be thankful for than there is to complain about.  As the year 2010 roll by into 2011, learn from the mistakes but make the best of the rest. To use the key words from one of my favorite movies of 2010, Eat. Pray. Love. For every cloud has a silver lining...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Before you launch your new career!

A couple of months ago, I was interviewed for a job. All through the interview, I could tell I did quite well until it got to the big question- “How much will you like to be paid?” Silence. My salary negotiation skill was an epic fail because I had too much volunteerism running in my blood and I had no clear idea of what the job description entailed.

Why do young people often fail at negotiating salary during a job interview? Some of the factors and characteristics that can legitimately affect wages include level of education, Job description and title, type of employer/size of organization, work experience, location and occupation. However, to earn the type of salary you deserve, you need an apt salary negotiation skill.

According to Dawn Rosenberg McKay on “Career Planning,” if you want to get paid what you are worth, it is important to learn how to negotiate well. Some of the Dos and Don’ts she said are needed to succeed at salary negotiation are:

Don't Look at How Much Money Your Friends in Other Fields Are Making: You may be envious of your friends who are earning more money than you are. If they aren't working in the same field you shouldn't make those comparisons.

Do Research Salaries in Your Field: Talk to others working in your field, to find out what they are paid for doing the same work. Remember that salaries differ by geographic location.

Do Consider How Much Experience You Have: Those with more experience can hope to earn more money. Remember to talk about the amount of experience you have if it will help you negotiate a higher salary. If you don't have a lot of experience, be realistic about the salary for which you can ask.

Don't Talk About How Much Money You Need: When you are going through salary negotiations, don't tell your boss (or potential boss) that you need to make more money because your bills are high.

Do Talk About The Salary You Deserve: When presenting your case during a salary negotiation, talk about how you will earn the salary you are requesting. Highlight what you have done, or will do, for the company. Also discuss the salaries in your field (based on your research).

Do Be Flexible: When going through a salary negotiation you aren't likely to get the exact amount of money you want. You will probably have to compromise. The trick is to figure out how much you are willing to compromise and what you will do if your boss doesn't offer you a salary you find acceptable.

Good luck with earning what you deserve when you launch into your career!

Image source: CartoonStock

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Make a Difference: “Inspiring the Volunteer in You”

December 5th marks yet another exciting International Volunteer Day (IVD). This year’s IVD is very significant because it marks the launch of the 10th anniversary of the 2001 International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10). IYV+10 will be an opportunity for people all around the world to join a global effort to reinvigorate the spirit of volunteerism. In the words of Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers “Let us embrace the theme of ‘Volunteering for the MDGs’ as our own way to celebrate the spirit of volunteerism on 5 December [2010].”

There are many ways for young people to get involved. But it is crucial to keep in mind that whatever platform you decide to serve on must be a process of service learning. That is, your volunteering must be a process of learning too. “Service Learning is a powerful means of engaging young people in tackling development challenges…Student volunteers gain opportunities to act on their learning, develop important skills and experience first-hand the feeling of having made a positive difference.” (Resources for rethinking). As you give of your time and skills in service to community development and achievement of the MDGs, ensure you are learning a lot in return. Volunteers are not paid, but they grow as they give.

Why volunteer now and not until after you retire in your 70s? “Volunteerism is a source of community strength, resilience, solidarity and social cohesion. It can bring positive social change by fostering respect for diversity, equality and the participation of all. It is among society’s most vital assets.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. You will not only help make a difference in the lives of others, you will make a whole lot of difference in your life too! Volunteering (service) is like a first-step to greatness.

Identify an issue you are very passionate about. Empower yourself with the right information about the issue- if possible, an up-to-the minute research on the issue. Think solution! Define the kind of action you want to take, the resources you’ll need and the expected outcome/impact. Keep in mind; the issue that you are passionate about can be personal, local, national or global. Build a synergy with existing structures and people working on the issue… collaborating is an effective way of bringing about profound change. If no one is doing what you want to do, then maybe it is your responsibility to blaze the trail…but ensure to carry others along in your action plan!

"My suggestion is to become a doer instead of just a hearer. And things can be done. A doer hears and accepts the need for action, working towards the common goal of the people and their concerns." Young Canadian participant, Voices of Youth online chat, Nov 2002.

Other sources to explore:
www.vso.org.uk www.unicef.org/voy www.volunteeringnz.org.nz www.unv.org

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turning ASUU strike into an opportunity!

Hey! Is your university/college also on strike? Wondering what to do with your time in the meantime? Well here is some good news: you can actually emulate what fifteen years old Oluwaseun is did last summer!

Young oluwaseun has just finished her Junior school leaving certificate examination (JSSCE) and like most of her mates, she was burdened with the question of what to do with the long holiday. Will she experience the severe depression most people suffer due to idleness? Or better still, will she be gallivanting from one place to another in search of a thrilling holiday experience? It would be nice to take up a holiday job but she is a minor and thus will be considered child-abuse.

Well, her mother had a better plan for her.

Today, Oluwaseun is a happy teenager, gaining a first-hand experience in a fashion-design school. Hmm, now what better thing could her dear mother had done for her? Oluwaseun’s mother is a visionary woman and we certainly need more of her type in today’s society. Mind you, one does not have to be a full time-Stay-at-home-mum to have such wisdom.

Every year, millions of young people find themselves at home after graduation, due to ASUU strike and/or other imposed holiday. Amazingly, only a trickle of these young people have a faint idea of how to maximize their time. Some actually use theirs to experiment what it is like to be young, good for them. Little do we know that we can actually use the opportunity created by these holidays to acquire lifelong skills.

Life skills are skills that enable youth to be resilient, active, and productive members of their community. These skills are -academic, personal, social, and/or vocational. Fashion and Tailoring school, Hair Dressing school/Salon, Catering School, Mechanic workshop to mention but a few are fields of interest we young people can actually explore to acquire practical skills that will empower us for the future.

Imagine someone who during this ASUU strike spend valuable time to learn how to style hair or give a creative hair-cut. Do you think such person will ever go hungry in school? Of course not! Unless people stop having hair cut…

This is a call, to every young person and parents out there. Grab the moment… instead of allowing the economic depression in our country to overwhelm you, create your own market. Empower yourself with life long skills. Education + vocational skill= A secured future undaunted by economic instability.
Other things you can do: learn a new soft skill. For example: problem solving, conflict management skill, interpersonal skill, planning and organization skill, etc. These are skills that compliment the everyday hard skills (IQ) and in the ever-competitive market, having them will keep you ahead of the curve.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reward for innovative enterprise: Rolex Young Laureate Award 2010

Victoria Pam, a Parasitologist from Jos, Pleteau State is one of the 27 finalists, 2010 Young Laureates Programme. Mrs. Pam who is currently a Ph.D student serves as a researcher and lecturer in Parasitology, Entomology, cell biology and research methodology at the National Veterinary Research Institute in Jos. She applied for the 2010 Rolex Awards to establish a permanent molecular biology laboratory in the National Veterinary Research Institute facilities to screen parasites infections and implement awareness campaigns about prevention and control measures. For her, educating the local community is key to success and to sustainable change. Although she did not get the $50, 000 award, Pam said she was still expectant. Her expectation for the event is to network, get advices from the jury and research on future funding opportunities for her project.

Like Pam, 29 years old Preven Chetty, a graduate from University of KwaZulu-Natal with a degree in Geography and environmental management was also one of the 27 finalists. As a child, Chetty was fascinated by rivers in South Africa. He applied for a Rolex Award to produce a socio-visual collage about the Umgeni River, which flows 225 kilometers from the mountains to the Indian ocean on South Africa’s east coast. His aim is to highlight the importance of rivers and put the issue of water conservation on the world stage. The two finalists, like the others are currently focused on strengthening their project ideas in order to give them better chances of winning next year.

The winners, five Young Laureates- Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, Nigeria; Bruktawit Tigabu, Ethiopia; Piyush Tewari, India; Reese Fernandez, Philippines; and Jacob Colker, United States were honored the Rolex Learning Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Geneva on November 11.

An Era of Generosity

Polymath Brian Eno, the British record producer, composer, singer, multimedia artist and a noted technological innovator, was the keynote speaker at the award ceremony. Long concerned with the future of society and the global environment, he congratulated the winners and encouraged everyone to imbibe the culture of altruism. According to him, we are now in an era of generosity.

The Awards ceremony which took place between November 10 to 12, at the new Rolex Learning Center at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of Europe’s leading science and technology universities had in attendance some of the world’s foremost scientists, explorers and environmentalists who converged to celebrate winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise: Young Laureates Programme. Programme seeks to foster a spirit of enterprise in the next generation with innovative projects and encourage knowledge exchange between older and younger generation.

Young Laureates Pitch

The five Young Laureates, all aged between 25 and 30 for the first time, explained their projects to the public- a diverse international participants and students who converged at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) during Venture Ideas at EPFL: Entrepreneurs’ Journey with Impact session. Ventures Ideas is an initiative for promoting innovation at EPFL and stimulating entrepreneurship among students.

Their projects, which range from transforming volunteering for the 21st century to enabling impoverished women to create eco-­ethical fashion goods, from developing interactive radio in order to promote sustainable farming, to training volunteers to provide rapid care to road accident victims and developing TV programmes to improve children’s health, all had the innovative use of technology in common.

Nnaemeka work with farmers in rural Imo State. Through his interactive, mobile radio network facilitated by Small Holders Foundation, hundreds of thousands of rural listeners receive and exchange information on sustainable farming practices and health issues. Bruktawit Tigabu who has recorded 26 episodes of “Tsehai Loves Learning” broadcasted to about 2.6 million children, is very passionate about disseminating educational programmes through the Mass Media. Jacob Colker, is 27 years old. His project is focused on recruiting “Micro-volunteers”, such as Smartphone users to become volunteers by donating spare minutes to charitable, scientific and community organizations. From the Philippines, 25 years old Reese Fernandez won the 2010 Rolex Awards to expand the impact of her Project “Rag2Riches” that aims to improve the lives of women in Manila’s Payatas Waste dump. Rag2Riches is set to “establish an innovation centre to assist impoverished women to earn a decent wage by creating ‘eco-ethical, elegant’ products”. Piyush Tewari from India is 29 years old. His project, SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) train a network of police officers and volunteers to provide rapid medical care to road accident victims in Delhi. So far, they have trained over 2,000 Dehli Police officers and 300 community volunteers.

Rolex used the opportunity to showcase both the winners and their visionary projects and to foster intellectual exchange between them and some of the best thinkers from Switzerland and abroad. ”Our ultimate goal is to encourage an enterprising spirit among under-­30s worldwide and to stimulate innovation in the region in order to help ensure a better future for the next generation.” said Rebecca Irvin, head of the Rolex Institute, the company’s philanthropic and educational arm.

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

Growing up in an agriculture-oriented environment in Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu spent his after-school hours raising poultry and cattle. After high school, as he participated in youth and citizens’ associations helping farmers, Ikegwuonu quickly became aware that the rural community had little access to information about farming practices and environmental issues. In 2003, he founded the Smallholders Foundation to provide the rural community with information – via the radio – on contemporary agricultural techniques and environmental conservation. Ikegwuonu, who has a bachelor of arts in history and international studies and a master’s degree in cooperation and development, is becoming known as a change-maker who fights poverty using new interactive technology.

His Project:

Ikegwuonu wants to build on the achievements of his Smallholders Foundation – which is already broadcasting 10 hours daily to 250,000 listeners on Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio – by establishing a communications network reaching 3.5 million farmers in almost 5,000 villages in his own region, Imo State, in south-east Nigeria. Not only will farmers receive advice on a wide range of topics – from sustainable farming practices to HIV/AIDs and opening and running a bank account – they will also be able to contribute information, thanks to interactive mobile radios, known as AIR devices. These small, solar-powered machines allow listeners to send voice messages, free of charge, to radio stations, which can, in turn, broadcast them. Imo State’s farmers will have a platform to share experiences, ask questions and receive answers in their own language. Ikegwuonu’s long-term ambition is to extend the service to other regions in Nigeria.

Sharing his experience on how he felt when he got the news that he won the Rolex Young Laureates award, Nnaemeka said “I was a bit surprise because there were other young people with so much brilliant ideas. I was surprised not because we are good but because it was another recognition of our relentless effort to promote our agricultural development.” His advice to young people aspiring to initiative their ideas, he said “You can do what ever you want to do. It does not come easy. There are people who will discourage you but come one, pursue your dreams, you will achieve it.”

Giving an example of how SmallHolders foundation has impacted farmers in Imo state, Nnaemeka said “There is what we call rain water harvesting. Rain-water harvesting is a an age-long indigenous practice. It means during the raining season, we conserve the rain. But the practice has been abandoned over the years. We started doing a radio programme that educates farmers on the importance of rainwater harvesting.
Not because they need to harvest rainwater but because there is an agricultural benefit that comes with rain water harvesting…such as, when you conserve water during raining season, you use it to plant crops during dry season…instead of you relying on one season farming of vegetable, you can do two season farming and make money from it.”

Bruktawit Tigabu

Bruktawit Tigabu began her professional career as a primary school teacher in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Determined to reduce child mortality rates in her country, she looked for ways to educate children on health matters. In 2005, with her husband, Tigabu set up Whiz Kids Workshop. Working from their living room, using sock puppets, computer graphics and their own voices, they began producing “Tsehai Loves Learning”, a television programme about a young, female giraffe, named Tsehai, which covers many health-related issues. Twenty-six episodes of this highly successful programme (in Amharic, Ethiopia’s principal language), have now been created, each one seen by an estimated 2.6 to 5 million children.

Her Project:

Bruktawit Tigabu’s project goal, listed under the Science and Health category, is to develop a health-education television programme for preschool children in Ethiopia.

For Bruktawit, an Educator-cum-Entrepreneur from Ethiopia, the three greatest resources that has continue to drive her are persistence, hardwork and passion. “I have a passion for children, which I can’t let go and I work hard for it.” She said.

A learning ceremony

As part of the interaction between the young Rolex entrepreneurs and the EPFL community, visits were organized to two of the university’s research labs: the Blue Brain Project, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction; and the Global Health Institute, created to contribute to the understanding, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. In addition, there were presentations of the university’s landmark research in areas such as health and diagnostics, and water and sustainability.

“We are honoured to co-­host the ceremony and to welcome the young innovators and other Rolex guests to our campus,” said Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli, vice president of Innovation and Technology Transfer at EPFL and a member of the 2010 Young Laureates Jury. ”The EPFL wants to stimulate entrepreneurship among students, and the Rolex Young Laureates Programme is a great match for us.”

Rolex Young Laureates Programme

An expansion of the long-­standing Rolex Awards for Enterprise, the Young Laureates Programme, launched in January 2009, honours men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 with inventive ideas to solve tomorrow’s challenges in science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural preservation. Each Young Laureate receives US$50,000 over the course of two years, giving the winners time to focus on their pioneering projects and move forward in implementing them.

The fourteenth Rolex Laureate Award launched the 1st Young Laureates:

Since the inception of the Award in 1976, this was the first time the event was being hosted in Switzerland. Below is more information about the five young laureates honored:

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, 27, Nigeria – intends to boost the living standards of millions of Nigerian farmers through his interactive, mobile radio network. Hundreds of thousands of rural listeners are already receiving and exchanging information on sustainable farming practices and health issues.

Jacob Colker, 27, United States – is changing the way people get involved in community service. His internet-based programme allows volunteers to use their smartphones to donate spare minutes to charitable and scientific organizations.

Reese Fernandez, 25, Philippines – is committed to alleviating poverty by training people to become social entrepreneurs. Her Rags2Riches enterprise has already empowered hundreds of women to earn a living by turning scrap materials into elegant fashion accessories.

Piyush Tewari, 30, India – has set up a foundation to train a network of police officers and volunteers to respond quickly to road accidents and administer rapid medical care. By providing immediate assistance to victims, he hopes to stem the thousands of fatalities that occur on Indian roads each year.

Bruktawit Tigabu, 28, Ethiopia – is building on the success of a television programme on health that she and her husband are producing for preschool children and their parents.

Facts & Figures: Rolex Award for Enterprise

· 25,800 applications received and evaluated

· Since the Awards were founded in 1976, 110 Laureates have been selected

· 95 world-renowned experts have served as judges

· Youngest person to win a Rolex Award: 28 years old

· 47 was the average age of applicants in 2008

· Oldest person to win a Rolex Award: 74 years old

· Women made up 23% of applicants in 2008

Published in The Nation

Read Nnaemeka's interview on CP-Africa

Pictures of the Award in Geneva

“Our Time is Now: Positioning Nigerian Youth for Change”

Molly Carlile, Author of Jelly Beans and Dead Serious Podcast Network, stated "If I’ve learned one thing in the past months it has been to save the energy I used to expend on being angry about injustice and put that energy into thinking and feeling joy, prosperity, sustainability, health and justice for all. This is what will change the world…a ground swell of people pouring their energy into manifesting their “preferred future” instead of being worn down by disillusion and disappointment."

It is so easy to get carried away by all the things around us worth venting our anger on. But then, we end up spending a lot of time being angry, being problem focused, with no room in our mind to think-solution or proffer innovative solutions to those very things that upset us.

LEAPAfrica has given me a new responsibility, to step up to a new level of Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. It looks like yesterday when I first ventured out to Ebutte-Metta to look for a young leader called Dayo Israel to show me how to be an active youth making change. With his team, I learnt about the importance of youth volunteering. In the course of it all, I have learned that although it seems so difficult to effect the change we want to see, we must never give up. A new culture to adopt: let us be more solution focused and stop dwelling on analysis of the problems.

In reminisce; I dedicate the LEAPAfrica award to God, my number one source of inspiration. I also would like to thank my family and friends for their support, despite my “unconventional behavior”. So much appreciation to Mr. Lekan Otufodurnrin for giving me a platform for “Dis generation” in the Nation newspaper. And to Pastor Tunde Bakare, for his contagious passion for God and a new Nigeria.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson once wrote: “We never know how high we are, till we are asked to rise, and then if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies -The Heroism we recite would be a normal thing. Did not ourselves the Cubits warp for fear to be a King”. So many youths today have allowed themselves to be boxed in, “the Cubits warp for fear to be a King”. It is imperative that we all rise up to the call and take the lead in being the positive change we want to see in Nigeria.

Today, we young people in Nigeria have been called to rise and we must stay true to plan. God’s grace is ever sufficient. Nigeria will flourish again- there is hope in our future and a future in our hope.

Meet the winners! (I was covering the Young Laureate Programme in Geneva so my friend represented me during the award ceremony back in Lagos). The best is yet to come, by God's grace!

Sunday, November 07, 2010


“Ratatouille” is a perfect film for a young people, because of its powerful message about following one’s dream. I was enthralled by the scene where the hero, Remy, spoke up about his desire to start creating instead of just being on the rat race like other rats.

Remy, is a gifted young rat that lives in an attic of an elderly woman in France with his brother Emile and father, Django, along with his kinsmen- other rat colony. When Remy’s father discovered Remy’s special ability to smell and taste, he asked him to sniff for rat poison, dimming Remy’s ambition of becoming a renowned chef.

A detailed review on Epinions.com reads: While most of them are fine eating crumbs and digging through the garbage for food, Remy has a pallet designed for must more sophisticated foods. It leads to an interest in cooking, and a love for one specific cookbook that he finds in the kitchen of their "host". The book is called "Anyone Can Cook", written by a famous chef in France by the name of Auguste Gusteau. Remy immediately gains a respect for Gusteau, and takes it to heart that anyone can cook, even a rat that has just recently become interested in the culinary arts. This ends up ruining their stay in the house though, as one day the woman finds him in the kitchen, and through the chase, discovers the entire colony.

While escaping from the house, Remy is separated from his family, and finds himself lost in a sewer that takes him to the underground of Paris. Fighting the fear to emerge on to the streets, he finds himself near the restaurant that his favorite cook actually helped to create. Remy starts imagining that Gusteau is actually speaking with him, and leading him to go to the restaurant…Now he wants nothing more than to be able to cook in this famous kitchen, and when he crosses paths with a new employee named Linguini, who is trying to find a place for himself, the pair could turn Paris on its head by creating mouth-watering dishes that people everywhere could enjoy.

Remy proved that he can be more than just a rat, while Linguini proved that he can be more than just a dishwasher that has to stay in the backroom of the kitchen.

The story has a good message about striving to be more than the role you are given, and it does a good job at presenting a good story about perseverance and how hard work can really pay off in the end.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Youth Entrepreneur- Joshua Ajayi

Twenty-four years old Joshua Ajayi attended Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU). For many people, this institution is not one of the Ivy League colleges in Nigeria. But Joshua did not let the Ivory Tower define him. Before graduating, he started a company called “Awesome Communications.” According to him, he saw the yawning gap between the students in Mass Communication department and the Communications industry, and wanted to do something to ameliorate that condition. “The Communicator was born out of the passion to bridge the gap between communicators industry and the classroom.” He said.

His company, Awesome Communications, is a strategic Marketing and communications firm based in Lagos Nigeria. Not only do they publish “The Communicators” a magazine aimed at informing students about the industry, they also host “The Communicators Forum” which brings undergraduates from different universities and professionals in the industry together on one large platform. “There was not enough interaction between the two.”

As a new firm, the challenge of having enough funds for sustainability cannot be over emphasized. On how he is coping despite the challenges, he said “the God factor and being strategic in sourcing funds by building relationship with people whom will give access to the funds.”

His advice to young people aspiring to start-up their company is to have a clear vision of what they want to do-- “Ask yourself if you are passionate about it. When you face challenges, it is the passion that keeps you to your vision. You must be persistent. Build relationship with right people. Be at the right place at the right time. Meet the right people that will help bring your vision to reality. Do a detailed analysis of the industry you are going into-- be knowledgeable about the field before you go into the market. Do a personal SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis in order to help foster your vision.”

One other important factor he mentioned is mentorship. Before starting off he got different mentors- Legal mentor, financial mentor, inspirational mentor and professional mentor.

Joshua is currently serving (NYSC) in Jos, Plateau State. On how he was able to establish his company while still in school, he said “lecturers were not so frequent in class so those free time I used...” From this example, you can see that you do not need the euphoria of schooling abroad to set the ball rolling to actualize your dream. And also, instead of nagging about circumstances, which seems beyond control e.g. lecturers going on strike, It is important to position yourself right-- do personal research/study and use the stumbling blocks as stepping stones. A transformational education does not begin and end in the Ivory Tower.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Find your bright spot: A woman making a difference

I am inspired by stories of young girls/ladies who have found their bright spot. One of them is Emilia Asim-Ita. Does that name ring a bell? If you are familiar with the Futures Project (Future Awards), Youth Talk on NTA 2 etc. then you’ll know this dynamic lady that simply describes herself as a woman making a difference.

A graduate of Mass Communication, from the University of Lagos, twenty-three years old Emilia is currently the CEO of Thistle Praxis Consulting www.thistlepraxisconsulting.com, a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Consulting firm she started after she moved on from The Future Project (Future Awards). She didn’t just wake up one morning to start her company. She has her recipe, an experience you can trace back to her work “Youth Talk” on NTA 2, The Futures Awards project and other youth development work. All these she did while she was still in school.

Thistle Praxis Consulting that is barely six months old has worked for three organizations and in talks with many more. As a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Consulting firm, the major challenges they see in the sector is the lack of core understanding of what CSR is and should be; proper funding and reporting standards (GRI indices etc). On how they intend to revamp the sector, Emilia said “We expect to promote compliance and proper training on CSR through awareness creation. Then, an increase in organizations implementing CSR policies in mainstream business operations.”

She didn’t just wake up one morning to start her company. She has her recipe, an experience you can trace back to her work “Youth Talk” on NTA 2, The Futures Awards project and other youth development work. All these she did while she was still in school.

How do you combine your activities with studies?
It is quite challenging but unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid it. The option of abandoning one for the other cannot be considered, so I take everything as each comes. Timing is important. Setting priorities for each task and deliverable helps to put some pattern to the chaos workloads.

Was it very challenging for you when you first ventured into youth development work?
It was. Then, the social entrepreneurship sector had not emerged and corporate organizations were clueless about what CSR is all about. Advocacy for young people at all levels and in all sectors is key – always. For each organization and project, what is the succession plan, is there a youth version for the project to ensure that the future is carried along immediately? These are the big questions...So far, a lot of people have grown into this realization. Unfortunately, there are so many other branded or self-acclaimed ‘activists’ who do not pursue what I like to call the Youth Agenda. In summary, the challenges still remain just that they have taken new dimensions; effects and so require new approaches.

Did you often put education on hold to accomplish the other?
I did put a few things on hold to accomplish one or two things, in this sense. One has to take life a day at a time and in so doing, certain things will rank higher in any individual’s priority list. What matters is how long you put something on hold for another and what plans you have to accomplish all that you dream of or have set out to do in life.

What practical steps have helped you create a balance these past years?
New media has helped a great deal. Emails, telephone meetings/conference calls substitute for regular or frequent physical meetings. For over 5years, I didn’t have a life as I could hardly find time for social functions, vacations and even family engagements. However, I have come to realize the importance of creating a balance and have since taken drastic steps to do so. For instance, weekends are sacrosanct to reach out to friends and family – take time to call, pay short visits, show up at social engagements – even if very briefly.

What is your advice to young Nigerians struggling to find their path/purpose and/or those aspiring to start-up a company like you?
There are really no hard and fast rules to starting a business. Do your feasibility study (no matter how basic) to ensure there is a gap your business will fill which ensures demand when you set up.
In order to find your path, there's work to be done. To discover one's self, understand the problem you solve and the purpose for which you were born. Read, learn, ask - self-discovery and the truth are never too far away.

What is your advice to young Nigerians who still believe no young person can “make it” in Nigeria?
That's a big lie. With all modesty, it is not that easy and simple; but its not rocket science either. It is possible to 'make it' - which will mean build a successful career and business and not become rich in an unreasonably short period of time. I have seen people evolve from obscurity to positions of impact and relevance and I think it is possible.

What are the key principles that have kept you on course and eventually helped you start up your firm?
Plan. You can never overplan. Never be afraid to dream BIG; I am a big dreamer and all those who have worked with me before can attest to the fact that I dream big. Even if I am mocked; my dreams always are achievable. So, dream but in dreaming; walk the vision - the future, backwards on a path to where you are - the present.
Principles. Define the principles you live your life by. Its always pays off- even if everyone else is doing the wrong thing. Stick to the right thing. I have learnt that goodwill and integrity can never be bought with money or replaced by wealth. Never abuse relationships, which amounts to abuse of individuals and potential - that ruins people and businesses faster than they can ever imagine.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Find your Bright Spot: The Warri-Makeover

As an undergrad, interning at Warri Refinery of NNPC gave Ogunyemi Bankole Taiwo an opportunity to understand the practical application of what had been taught in the Ivory Tower- Lagos State University. Working at the Tank farm of the Oil movement section as a shift worker, Taiwo was able to transform the paper layout of the Pump house A flow chart to a Computer Aided Design format voluntarily. Due to his computer competency, he was given a bigger task to monitor the pumps and calculate the various Pump heads. He became the youngest of the team that re-scheduled the work instruction mechanism of the department. While in Warri, Bankole got interested in environmental reclamation of wasted lands that were affected by oil spill. In his final year project, he focused his dissertation around this theme, which won him 3rd position in the Society for Petroleum Engineers (NAICE) Competition in February 2010.

During his internship, Taiwo became interested in developing the young people in Warri, dispelling the norm that you only repair the village of your kinsmen. After graduation, Taiwo returned to setup a Youth Development Center called THE VISIONARIES ACADEMY (TVA) focusing on Environment, Entrepreneurship and ICT.

So far, the organization which started on the 26th of April, 2010 has inaugurated Green Clubs in Public and Private secondary schools in Warri, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education; participated in environmental sanitations organized by the State Government; organized a capacity building program for the Green Ambassadors on climate change during the 2010 World Environment Day; and also held the 1st Summer Technology in Delta State- Warri-South LG and Uvwie Local Government. About 616 Public Secondary School Students were trained on the practical use of a computer for two weeks.

Not deterred by the lack of sponsorship for his projects, Taiwo and his team will be hosting the 1st youth-driven Community Service in Delta state tagged ‘Warri-Makeover’ on the 29th-30th of Oct, 2010- to spur the culture of youth participation in Nation Building, at community level and eradicate the culture of “waiting for the government.”

Warri-makeover will feature young people from different parts of Nigeria coming together to paint 3 Public Primary and Secondary School each in Warri, and also plant eco-friendly trees. This will usher a new wave of Community rebranding of Warri whose image has been daunted by the international community as a region where militants are groomed, men are lazy and unsafe environment. With a mission of empowering tomorrow’s leaders today, Taiwo, has pitched his tent in the Warri region, building synergy with youths in Niger-Delta for progressive Social development. For more information on how to get involved in the Warri-Makeover, email bankoletaiwo@gmail.com. Change is possible!

Monday, October 11, 2010


What is working and how can we do more of it? What are young Nigerians doing that is making them outstanding and high achievers despite the limitations in our society? That’s the bright-spot philosophy inspired by Chip and Dan Heath (Yeah, I’m so into the Heath brothers’ book- SWITCH).

Millions of youths in Nigeria can’t wait for the next election, when they will be given an opportunity to vote for a new government leader that will fix all the hopeless problems in our country and make policy reforms that are people-centered. But, as noted in Fast Company, “A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there's a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot -- a ray of hope.” It went on to illustrate this by listing some people who found their bright spot and rose to the top-- Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young couldn't handle stardom, then he spent a year watching and learning how veteran QB Kerry Collins did his job; Alan Mulally was CEO material but scored the top job at Ford only after identifying two key improvement areas with the help of an executive coach; Actress Angelina Jolie triggered her transformation from wild child to humanitarian by moving out of Los Angeles and its culture of bad influences.

In journalism class, we are taught that when a dog bites a man, it is not news. But when a man bites a dog, it should make the headline-- or at least frontpage. In the same tone, it seems people who nag about the many challenges in our society are no longer making news because, being problem-focused is driving us backward. We all need to switch position, become solution-focused and start sharing stories of how people are overcoming everyday challenges to become the best they can be. For example, our story should not be “We failed woefully because of lack of electricity to read for exams” but “We thrived and succeeded despite all the poor infrastructures and limitations.”

There are many bright spots in Nigeria. We just need to recognize them, understand them and learn from them. Feel free to send us stories of any young person you know in your community who has chosen to rise above the limiting circumstances around him/her. It will be interesting to share their story in order to inspire our generation to arise and emulate the winning and solution-focused attitude of these people. Send email to ladyjennies@yahoo.com. Find your bright spot, arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances in Nigeria have kept you, and blaze the trail for others coming after you.

***Feedback:"Find your bright spot" in DIS GENERATION is incisive. May God keep refilling your pen-Egharevba Henry

Monday, October 04, 2010

One Nation, One Voice: “Message of Hope” for Nigeria @ 50

Chip Heath & Dan Heath, the authors of “Switch: How to Change things when change is hard” stated that although analytical qualities can be helpful sometimes, in situations where change is needed, too much analysis can doom the effort. So instead of sizing up the problems in Nigeria and agonizing over them, here is our “Message of Hope”, as we celebrate the golden year- 50th Independence Anniversary. There is hope in our future, and there is a future in our hope:

“Nigeria is a great country… we don't need any prophet to assure us of that. We can see God's hands in everything we do… The answer to moving Nigeria to the next level is in the hands of the youths. Look everywhere and see the power, potential and ability of the average Nigerian Youth--(and you’ll be filled with hope)” Morakinyo Olugbiji, Lagos.

“We are a people strong in will, we are a nation diverse in culture yet united in peace... I salute a blessed nation at 50” Peter Ukhurebor, Miami.

“My message to Nigerians on this occasion of the country's 50th anniversary is to keep the dreams of our founding fathers alive in our time… let's keep working towards the Nigeria of our dreams…let's keep the faith. Nigeria will be great again; Nigeria will stand tall again among nations.” Peter Akoteyan, Malaysia.

“Let us try not to make what happened to vision 2010 happen to vision 2020. I remember I was in primary school when they (the government leaders) set a target for the country to be a better place by 2010…We must start seeing ourselves as better than what we are now. Break the mental slavery. ” Douglas Imaralu, Enugu.

“Nigeria! I am very proud to be a citizen of this great country. I so much believe there is light at the end of the tunnel for us, though we are not where we should be but the good thing is that we are not where we use to be.” Bukola Idowu, Lagos.

“We should never give up on Nigeria. It has been fifty years of chequered history. Let's us join hands together to make the next fifty years the Nigeria that our children's children would definitely be proud of. Nigeria will surely be great again. It's up to Nigerians to change NIGERIA" Arukaino, Lagos.

“As we celebrate Nigeria @ 50, I want the youths to ponder on what our generation will do for Nigeria. We need to depart from the 50 years of self-propaganda and tribalism to evolve a better Nigeria. Lets join hands to build a better Nigeria” BabaTunde Rosanwo, Ukraine.

Happy 50th Independence Anniversary Nigerians! There is hope in our future; there is a future in our hope. God Bless Nigeria.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What about your own education?

Last week, we started an interesting discourse on “What is Education?” Some readers took out time to respond and share their views. What does your education mean to you? Is it preparing you to be competent in what you do?

Education in Nigeria encourages most of us to stop at classroom learning. I realized in college that there was a need to complement my classroom with experiential learning. The type of education I received is one that emphasized so much on succeeding in the classroom and graduating with the best result. This in itself is not a bad idea. However, what is a first class certificate without an ability to translate it into a first class life?

A couple of students the other day shrieked in alarm when they saw an advertisement requesting for students with first class result to apply for internship placement. Their argument was that first class students are not necessarily the best for the job- because they spend a lot of time cramming without taking out time to reflect on how these theories work in practice. Where does one find the balance?

Education as a process

“Education is a process of creating and liberating the mind for social functions” Destiny I. Samuels Ogoja C.R.S

Internship to augment classroom learning

Chioma Chukwuneta, Abuja, in an email wrote, “Volunteerism and internships are areas our nation is yet to explore and also the concept of learning by doing… While an undergraduate, my holidays were spent in libraries because I thought I had no opportunity to do anything else apart from reading to make good grades. This cause is going to bring a lot of change to the mindset of many youths and help them in early development of their skills.

Education is continuous

Every soul on earth is educated. The scope of education goes far beyond attending universities. Right from the day we were born to our last day on earth we are directly and indirectly been educated in one aspect of life or the other and at the same time ignorant or uneducated in one aspect of life or the other. We only go to school to enhance our level of education not because we are uneducated. Muh’d Awwal Yunusa. Minna Niger State.

Nigerian Education system needs revamping

“…I just went through your column on education in the nations newspapers now. It is sad to note that while in advanced economies emphasis is on producing entrepreneur, over here we keep going on incessant strike and producing half-baked graduates who could hardly write correct sentences, let alone solves practical societal problems. I guess the difference lies in the premium place on education in the two world. Keep up the good job. Tony

Monday, September 20, 2010

What is Education?

I'm 12, uneducated, and wish I was.
I'm sitting with a book that my mom,
saved me when she was younger.
But she never got to read it.
She never knew how.
She said: "when you go to school,
come, and read to me, I want to know.
"I never got to read it...
Our school got locked up, and we all left.
Barefoot through the prickled field,
All sad, and uneducated for life.
And I will be just like my mom,
When she was younger,
and She was poor, uneducated,
and lived with hunger.
Read for me, young and kind citizen,
what about is that precious book,
that my mom gave to me...
I am 12, uneducated and I wish I was
somehow educated, and somehow more free.
(Poem by Tetyana Shabanu Klymko culled from Article 2 NEWS, 14, USA).

So many people are in school and do not even know why! Isn’t that so infuriating? An article on Taking IT Global portal themed “Understanding learning & education” read: “When we think about education, we often view school in a traditional, formal sense. Many people believe that true learning can only take place in a formal classroom setting. Others feel education occurs in many different forms and environments. There may not be a definitive answer to the question of, ‘What is Education?’ However, we can start thinking about the purpose of education. Is it to educate youth to be responsible citizens? Is it to develop individuals, as well as society, in order to ensure a society’s economic success? Or is the purpose of education to simply focus on developing individual talents and intelligence? Perhaps it is the balance of all three that defines education?“

Education, in the society we live in, seems to have lost its essence. Now, you hear people saying Nigerian graduates are unemployable and you wonder what they are talking about…

Olumide Idowu, in his article “Nigerian graduates and overfed academic theories” proffer solutions to ameliorate the decaying education system: “…An overhaul of the infrastructure, teaching methods, teachers and curriculum needs urgent attention to make the product of the system not only employable in Nigeria, but also across the globe. Infrastructural turnaround includes decongesting overcrowded classrooms, stocking laboratories that are quickly becoming scientific museums and organizing field trips and corporate visits which are becoming nonexistent. Internships and scholarships ought to be properly managed by Nigerian government board with endowments from corporate and international organizations. Online classes using advanced e-learning techniques have to be available through the Internet access present in our higher learning institutions. Academic teaching needs to focus on how education and theories translate into practical forms, steering student minds towards creativity and innovation… Vocational centers and after-school business training centers should be in place to imbue workplace ethics and managerial skills before being pushed to the corporate environment.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

First Impression: “Excuse me brother, your rejection in showing”

What has not changed in Nigeria since my return home? The nonchalant attitude of some Nigerians towards things, the way they are and loosing faith on reformation.

The young man that drove me home from the Airport didn’t hide his disdain for the condition in Nigeria. He didn’t hide his helplessness or lack of interest to do anything to change it either. He said he was not interested in voting in the upcoming election. And added that he does not think he will ever vote. He does not trust the Nigerian politicians. What is making him so bitter?

Last election, he watched politicians brainwash his neighbors and other voters with a plate of rice, bottle of drink and N500. That was the entire manifesto for change they offered and his neighbors aggressively accepted it, wiped their mouth and cast their vote into a leaking box.

How will such leaders not take us for a ride after they get into office? He asked too many questions, but I had no answer to offer because I think it bizarre that we should all still feel detached and powerless to do anything but nag about everything In Nigeria.

The young Taxi driver made up his mind- not to vote in the next election because none of the politicians catch his eyes or his heart. My advice? If you do not like the leading parties contesting in the election, vote against them. But whatever you do, just cast that vote.

Like the young Taxi driver, there are other Nigerians overwhelmed with the same level of nonchalant attitude. Some have settled to sitting on their hands and watching things happen. Ignoring how possible it is for their action or inaction to changed things- doubting their ability to be and re-orientate others on the change we would like to see in the world.

What other impression have I experienced since my return home? Change is sometimes very slow…Electricity is still epileptic. That is a normal thing, the driver said. The potholes in the drive from Ikeja to my house are still as I left them. Has the government leaders been sleeping or the roads are beyond their repair? The driver travels on the route every time, and like many others he just shrugs his shoulders and drive through.

Nothing will change in Nigeria, unless ordinary boys, girls, men and women rise up to tackle the different challenges of our time. Not by nagging but by the simple art of taking practical actions to provide solutions, by helping one another and by daring to do things in extra-ordinary ways. Waiting for the government leaders in Nigeria, is useless.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Africa: United States’ Agenda for change

When Bako Sabo Kantiok recently completed his Masters Degree in Communications Development in the US, he could have opted to stay back like many others. Even without a valid visa, some would not mind being an illegal immigrant in the US and make do with any job they can find on the excuse that there is not much for them back home.

But Bako, now Programme Officer, Fantsuam Foundation, Kafanchan, Kaduna State, Nigeria, believes there is no place like home, no matter the problems Nigerians have to cope with. “If you don’t fix it, you won’t enjoy it,” he said. Last week, Bako was in the US with two other Nigerian youths, Taiwo Adegboyega Adewole and Ruth Nwukabu Audu, to participate in the first three-day Presidential Forum with young African leaders. Adewole is CEO/MD, Taiwo Adewole and Associates, while Audu is Programme Manager, Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP).
The youths not only had the privilege of hearing President Barrack Obama share his dream for Africa, which he hopes can be achieved through them, they visited the State Department where they were addressed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton , met some US Senators and Congressmen/women and visited some organizations. While urging the participants to stay focused, Clinton noted, “Africa as a continent is brimming with potential, a place that has so much just waiting to be grasped.”

During his Town Hall meeting with the participants at the White House, some of the issues Obama addressed include the trend of US partnership with Africa, leadership/good governance and the need to accelerate the economic growth of African nations. Some of the highlights of his remarks:

High rate of African youth emigrating to the West

“…Given different stages of development around the world, one of the problems that poorer countries often have is that the best educated and the most talented have opportunities elsewhere. And so there’s what’s called the “brain drain” — people saying, I can make 10 times as much money if I’m a doctor in London as I can if I’m a doctor back home. And so this is a historic problem. Here is the interesting moment that we’re in, though — if you look at where the greatest opportunities are, they’re actually now in emerging markets. There are countries in Africa that are growing 7, 8, 9 percent a year. So if you’re an entrepreneur now with an idea, you may be able to grow faster and achieve more back home that you could here.

Now, it entails greater risk, so it may be safer to emigrate. But it may be that you can actually achieve more, more quickly back home. And so the question is for young leaders like yourselves, where do you want to have the most impact? And you’re probably going to have more impact at home whether you’re a businessman or woman, or you are a doctor or you are an attorney, or you are an organizer. That’s probably going to be the place where you can make the biggest change…”

The possibility that Taiwo, Bako and Ruth (Nigerian delegates) may one day wear President Goodluck Jonathan’s shoes

“What I’m hoping for is that some of you will end up being leaders of your country some day. And if you think about it, back in the 1960s, when all these — your grandparents, great-grandparents were obtaining independence, fighting for independence, the first leaders, they all said they were for democracy. And then what ends up happening is you’ve been in power for a while and you say, ‘well, I must be such a good ruler that it is for the benefit of the people that I need to stay here.’ And so then you start changing the laws, or you start intimidating and jailing opponents. And pretty soon, young people just like yourself — full of hope and promise — end up becoming exactly what they fought against. So one of the things that I think everybody here has to really internalize is the notion that — I think it was Gandhi who once said you have to be the change that you seek. You have to be the change that you seek.”

Africa has missed huge opportunities for too long

“When my father traveled to the United States and got his degree in the early ’60s, the GDP of Kenya was actually on a par with, maybe actually higher than the GDP of South Korea. Think about that. All right? So when I was born, Kenya per capita might have been wealthier than South Korea. Now it’s not even close. Well, that’s 50 years that was lost in terms of opportunities. When it comes to natural resources, when it comes to the talent and potential of the people, there’s no reason why Kenya shouldn’t have been on that same trajectory.

And so 50 years from now, when you look back you want to make sure that the continent hasn’t missed those opportunities as well. We want to make sure of that as well. And the United States wants to listen to you and work with you. And so when you go back and you talk to your friends and you say, ‘what was the main message the President had’ — we are rooting for your success, and we want to work with you to achieve that success, but ultimately success is going to be in your hands. And being a partner means that we can be there by your side, but we can’t do it for you.”

On the second day, the delegates met with some US Senators and Congressmen/women including Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Senator Isakon of Georgia, Congressman Donald Payne among others on Capitol Hill, after which they went to the Peace Corps Headquarters, where they discussed and explored innovative approaches to development through social entrepreneurship and increased civic engagement.

Edward Kemp, the Deputy Director Bureau of African Affairs of the US Department of States said the community service element of the forum was designed for the delegates to see how the US does community service and have them share their own experience with the different service organizations. The organizations they visited include: DC Central Kitchen, where delegates had a dialogue with the CEO and Head Chef, and then worked with the Chef; Boys and Girls Club of Washington, to interact with the staff and kids; Capital Area Food Bank, where they toured the facilities, interacted with programme heads and participated in sorting and preparing food for shipment; First Baptist Church Senior Centre, where they met with staff and participated in poetry reading, card and jewelry making with senior citizens.

Coming from a country where Senior Centre or home of the elderly is not popular, Miss Kane Aminatakone from Ivory Coast, who serves as the Vice President of Muslim Students back in her country, said the experience of meeting the elderly at the First Baptist Senior Centre left her feeling more empowered to initiate a similar project back home.

“This meeting shows me religious community can take care of the elderly,” she said. “It helps elderly people break loneliness and gives them a chance to live longer…it is a good social obligation,” added Elycheikh Ahmedtolba from Mauritanian. Ravat from Mauritius said the visit to the senior centre empowered him to see how senior citizens can stimulate young people.
Dayo Israel, social representative to the United Nations unattending the event had initially signed up for Boys and Girls Club of Washington as a result of his passion for youth issues, but later joined the team at the Senior Centre. He noted, “Sometimes we focus on the future and we don’t reflect and review our past. There is an African proverb that says “a youth without a link to the elders is like a tree without a root”…this is what spending time with the elderly did for us. I’m sure when they saw us, they saw hope.” One of the senior citizens said, “We are glad to have them. They are young and excited, so they made us feel good.”

On the last day of the forum, there was a Networking and Partnering Conference at the Newseum, aimed at developing new partnerships and deepen ties between public sector and civil society leaders in the US and throughout Africa. The networking session which provided a platform for participants to engage in discussions with leading US organizations focused on: Economic Opportunity and Entrepreneurship; Advocacy, Transparency, and Human Rights; Social Responsibility, Volunteerism, and Interfaith Action; Leadership and Youth Empowerment; and Innovative Solutions for Global Health.

A “Way Forward” plenary session was held earlier. The panelists included three representatives of the delegates-Thomas Kojo Quayson from Gambia, Lindelwe Fikile Karabo Nxumalo from Swaziland and Patrick Henrico Sam from Namibia; Others were Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs and Maria Otero.

Judith McHale in a closing remark promised that the US government will be reaching out to Embassies and Consulates in Africa to organize follow-up events with participants. “We want to support your efforts to use social media to continue your conversation and cooperation. We will offer small scale transformation grants to support future-oriented and creative proposals that focus on the themes of this forum... we know that with all the best will and efforts in the world, sometimes it takes a little bit of cash to get things going.” She also said that there would be African Alumni enrichment workshops involving African Alumni of US government exchange programmes in order to continue to expand the dialogue to give opportunities to youths active in their communities to be involved locally. “In the first quarter of 2011, there is going to be a follow-up forum in Africa…in different regions of Africa in order to engage more youths.”

She revealed that the Department of State is launching Apps for Africa effort all over Africa. “State Department looks to expand opportunities for technical innovators and programme developers to come together in each country in Africa with civil society leaders to develop technical responses to social challenges. Apps for Africa goals are to convene technologists and developers to explore potential for collaboration on addressing some of Africa’s challenges and creating new opportunities for development and growth. The approach will vary by region and countries. A pilot project has been launched in Nairobi, Kenya.”

She further said “All of you represent the future of this great continent. I would like all of you to move from an era of confrontation to one of collaboration, to an era where we can work together to achieve the full promise of all of your countries,” she said.
Reflecting on the programme and the way forward, Henrico Sam said there was the need to establish a balanced perspective on Africa. “We need to share best practices and success stories…everyone here is a valuable contribution to their community and humanity…we need to cultivate a culture of excellence in moving forward,” he said.

Lindelwe Nxumalo said there was need for more collaboration to achieve the African dream. “I’ll like to say that it is not going to be easy…it is going to take hard work. We have to agitate and keep pushing. It is not going to be a walk in the park. If we know where it is we want to go, the different statistics of things we cannot do can be changed. It is all about attitude and behaviour. Those of us here have the responsibility to do more. Yes, of course, poverty is what we have inherited but the answers to the problems we have are with us.”

Yohannes from Ethipopia added: “When we talk of leadership, it is about servant-leadership. We have seen it at the Peace Corps, the White House, the State Department, and with all the volunteers; it is amazing. We need to take all the things we have learned and share it with our community. For way forward, the most important thing is that we stay in touch, and share our resources to better do what we have been doing. We need to develop scenario of the kind of Africa we would like to see in twenty years… and use that as a frame work to live the rest of our lives to get there.”

According to Adewole, “The present African leaders are failures because they are not carrying people along. The way forward is for youths to be given equal opportunity. We should be carried along. The problems are there in Africa and the solutions are there too.”
Thomas Kojo Quayson from Gambia said, “What I am taking back with me is a lot of hope. When I listen to the way people are brimming with ideas. I know there is hope for Africa.”

By Jennifer Ehidiamen
First Published in The Nation, http://thenationonlineng.net/web3/sunday-magazine/cover/8760.html
August 8th, 2010.