Equipping youth for social transformation
The ability of the youth to unleash latent potential by adapting to changing societal needs is undoubtedly the bedrock upon which nations’ growth can be built.
Therefore, the urgency to engender adequate mentorship and support to release the undeveloped talents cannot be over-emphasised.
Experts on youth matters are of the opinion that talented young people, if given the needed support and guidance, empowered with resources and right mentorship to guide them along the way would transform Africa.
At the just-concluded Social Innovative Programme (SIP) and awards 2018, organised by Leap Africa, ways of supporting creative young Nigerians with ideas and initiatives that proffer effective solutions to identified challenges in local communities across the country formed the fulcrum of discussions.
The participants are social innovators that are highly creative youth. who are championing social enterprise and improving the lives of community members across Nigeria, with focus areas on leadership and life skills, enterprise and digital learning.
The Group Managing Director of SO&U, and Board Chairman, Leap Africa, Udeme Ufot, who described African youths as very talented, said Africa triumph if young people were given the opportunity and needed support to excel.
Also, describing them as Africa’s biggest assets, he submitted that they would do great things for the continent if given the push.
Ufot noted that the role of government’s policies in transformation of African youth to fast track improvement and transformation in Africa.
He said one may not go far or reach the target if he or she waits for government for the all the needed enabling environment.
According to him, “if you start waiting for government, you may not go far.
“All of us need to stand forward, no matter what obstacles may be, take on a positive mind-set, set targets and go for it. Think of these obstacles as things that would energise you and make you more determined to overcome because the prize is really worth it, the success is very attractive and so no shadows of barriers will keep you from where you want to go to.”
The keynote speaker, the Founder and President of Ashesi University College, Ghana, Patrick Awuah, canvassed the need for the older generation to build more confidence in young people to explore.
He opined that Africa is where the action is only, if its people, especially young people, work it well and right, with the right mind-set and vision.
Awuah shared his experience on how his growing up was like, when he had the vision to own a college in order to change the future of the society as well as change the future of leadership.
He also shared with the audience when he joined Microsoft Company in his 20s, and then resigned and returned to Ghana, where his dream of owning a university college materialised.
According to Awuah, for social entrepreneurs, opportunities would be realised only when they have a productive workforce, ethical and effective leadership, saying, “if you don’t have the right leadership who will manage the economy, there will be a problem on growth of the continent.”
He advised the young social innovators at the programme that as climate change would affect growth, there was the need to develop the citizens and ethical leaders that are required to drive fast global continent, and to have a project that is not capital intensive, something that they could start with low income.
Quoting the popular saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, he said: “As you proceed for life support, think about what it takes if you want to go and climb Mount Everest, you train yourself with the task at hand; find people who will train you and join you, find a shepherd to guide you, and go one step at a time before you get to the peak and keep going. You need to find a co-founder, a shepherd and mentor, who can guide you on the way, train yourself to be basically and mentally fit with the task at hand. Then you need to celebrate along your journey as you reach various milestones. Set milestones along the way, when you achieve those milestones, remember to stop and celebrate and re-energise yourself for the rest of the journey.”
On some of the challenges that may be encountered by young social entrepreneurs during their course of exploring to reach their target, he counselled that on funding they should try to have a project that is not capital intensive, and business they could start with low income.
He canvassed a strong and viable team to strengthen a business successfully.
He explained: “You can only be successful by the strength of the team that you have. It is important to find the right team on your table, people who share you values, hardworking and domain expertise to complement you. Great things start small, you have to have a dream where you want to go, and being determined to getting there, ignoring obstacles.”
The Executive Director, Leap Africa, Femi Taiwo, told The Guardian that the aim of the event was to bring young people who are at the fore-front of solving problems.
Sending a clear message to every individual that that Africa youth has the potential, he noted that the young people could solve the problems associated with Africa, if they are well equipped and inspired to an eco-system level support.
“Young people have passion; they need support, mentorship, training to build the system and structure. These are what we do through SIP for the outstanding fellows. With this conference, we get to bring people who are doing more to share their experiences to inspire the youths,” Taiwo said.
Some of the speakers shared their experience on how they were able to change lives through empowerment programmes.
Founder of ‘Mamamoni’, Nkem Okocha, a Fintech Social Enterprise that empowers rural and urban slum women with vocational/financial skills and mobile loans, spoke on how she and her team identify poor communities to empower poor women, teach them different skills that could assist them make income as well as fund participants to kick start their businesses.
She revealed that ‘Mamamoni’, was borne out of passion to empower women because of the experience her mother had when she lost her husband.
She explained that there was basically no form of support to fund their education and household finances when she lost her father, saying the zeal to empower women like her mother, who fall into such a situation influenced her venture into the business.
She submitted that with the partnership and training gotten from different quarters like Leap Africa, to manage capacity and build team made it easier to go into communities to empower women.
In funding some of the programmes through its corporate social responsibility (CSR), Lead, Citizenship and Sustainability, Union Bank, Lolade Awogbade, said the lender has been supporting Leap Africa with SIP for the past four years.
She said Union bank is using solutions created by the innovators, with its workers who are mentors to achieve the success of the initiative.
On how the bank has supported youths with innovative skills, Awogbade said the bank has a lot of programmes that run across its partnerships, and very active in the space when it comes to youths and talent development which is one of its main CSR pillars.
The programme is a one-year fellowship that culminates in an award ceremony organised by Laeap Africa in partnership with Union bank to celebrate young social entrepreneurs across Nigeria and induct a new class into the programme.
A highlight of the programme was presentation of awards and prize donation of N1million each to three outstanding fellows.