Bridging the developmental gap
Dr. Tosin Ajayi, the Group Managing Director/CEO of First Foundation and Chairman/CEO of Africa Future Limited is a strong believer in the conscious development of the human mind as he has pioneered the advocacy for a paradigm shift in medicine and healthcare with particular emphasis on healthcare reforms, the business of medicine and healthcare, information technology in healthcare and the necessary capacity building for healthcare to flourish. He is still vigorously pursuing his lifelong objective of transforming Africa, as he believes that Africa, the cradle of the human race, cannot, and should not be neglected in the development of the world. He now preaches re-orientation and knowledge transformation of our collective mentality to meet the 21st Century model of human performance. The strong believer that mankind now possesses the knowledge and tools required to transform Africa and bridge the developmental gap spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this exclusive interview with NNAMDI NWOKOLO and JOHN SYLVESTER.
Nigeria used to be the pride of Africa, at what point did we get it wrong?
As a people, we were developing ourselves before the British came. They came and established the standards and they became a mirror for us and our children. Our children wanted to be like them and that was when people like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Ambrose Alli and the rest were the symbol of hope for Africa. At that point, our schools, the Teachers, Doctors and Nurses were internationally acclaimed because they were imitating the British. Then, independence came and the next generation of our people did not see those Memes and standards, what they saw was our people who have changed the system of doing things. Corruption became the other of the day and has been the bane of our development. We got it wrong when we departed the path of sanity and left our values; we became a nation that is not willing to reward excellence, pursuing mediocrity and primordial sentiments. We got it wrong when we departed from hard work, diligence and scholarship.
Is that what motivated the setting up of Africa Future?
Africa Future is basically geared towards developing children that’ll be different from us all? We must all create a new strategy of doing things for a better future. Our children must not grow to be like us as that means stagnation. Our intention is to conquer all that through knowledge using technological tools and Memes to develop our children. For example, our efforts changed the face of healthcare in Nigeria and I discovered that it’s a little drop in the ocean. A people that cannot harness the resources around them, is really below human level. There must be a paradigm shift; nobody is going to come to Africa to do it for us. We have to stand by ourselves and do it. Our consciousness must be improved; it must grow for us to recognise that the 20 per cent of landmass we are occupying belong to us and it has all the wealth to make us prosperous. The challenges we face is a system issue and you cannot change the system with our present consciousness.
We cannot do anything to change the system and it shocked me when I discovered that there’s little we can do, except we come up with a strategy that works. As humans, why have we not changed the system? For example, when Buhari came as Head of State some years ago, corruption was the bane of our development; after so many years, he came back as President and corruption is even worse now. The challenge is that our children are growing up like us and all efforts to change the system are concentrated on adults. The other challenge is that corruption has eaten deep into our body polity and no country survives under such circumstance. Our systems are rotten and needs to be corrected, so we have to start the correction by re-orientation and knowledge transformation of our collective mentality to meet the 21st Century model of human performance. I strongly believe that mankind now possesses the knowledge and tools required to transform Africa and bridge the developmental gap.
How does Africa Future intend to bridge this gap?
We have a very young population; a young population begging for development and modification. Mankind has produced the greatest tool ever through ICT, which can be used to change the story of Africa. Africa Future intends to change Africa in a generation using technological tools and it’s possible. The idea is to use information technology tools that are around us today and put something there that will change our children. That way, we can start producing children that are not like us. We intend to concentrate on the children that are coming behind and make sure that they look at the world and see a world we were not able to see. Through Africa Future, my team and I are leading a new movement that will cause change and create Africa as a department in our faculty. The project is basically focused on developing children as there is no other route to development.
These technological tools could influence them negatively:
Nobody has used technology tools to build African children before; we are just using technology for globalization. Using technology for development is a different ball game. You have to turn that technology to build them. Singapore and Malaysia are deploying technology to build their children. It is not that technology develops, rather you can use the tools of technology to develop our children and it will be faster. Africa Future focuses on developing vibrant children because if our children grow to be like us, it then means that forever we’ll remain the same, and it doesn’t matter if we make all the money in the world. For example, Jesus said it clearly; ’unless you become like one of these children, you will never taste the kingdom of heaven’, and the kingdom of heaven is development. You need a childlike mind to be able to develop. When I discovered it, I marveled and if Africa does not see it this way all our efforts will be in vain. Before we can behave better, we have to be more developed as the way we behave is according to what we know and the level of our development. This is where the crucible is, how has mankind being seeing things better? From the beginning of time, mankind have been seeing things better through endowed and talented people in their midst who do things differently and they learn from it.
From your experience, what does it take to build a sustainable business?
The critical factor for building a sustainable business is the system itself. That is the biggest problem we have as a nation because a corrupt system cannot engender sustainable businesses. Meritocracy has been thrown to the winds over the years that most businesses survive on the strength of who they know. Before we can build sustainable businesses in Nigeria, the system has to change for the better. We must all look for functional strategy that works. We don’t even know how to govern ourselves. Unfortunately, jobs are advertised with winners in mind, so where is the benchmark. The good news is that we are all beginning to be aware that we cannot continue to live that way. What has stunted our development is corruption. It has destroyed our life and the infrastructures the British left. This has made people like us to start thinking of what else to do as all we’ve done in the past weren’t successful.
How do you identify business opportunities and measure their viability?
The success of any business in Nigeria depends on who you know, but all that has to change as it kills creativity, management and competition in the business environment. For any business that is doing well, there’s one big man behind it who knows so many people or probably a politician. The day he is no more there, the business dies off with him, but we have to change it for a better future for our children. The most important thing is that there’s no short cut to success because success is as a result of so many factors. Honesty, perseverance, integrity and hard work are all key factors for success to be achieved. Hard work doesn’t kill rather it sharpens someone to be able to meet the challenges of life.
People misconstrue success, what does success mean to you?
A very good question, fortunately I’ve seen so many successful people in Nigeria. For example, I’ve seen successful drivers, gatemen and bricklayers etc. a successful person is that who uses that in his hands correctly to enhance the lives of others or for the benefit of others. A successful person is someone who has done well in the service of others. The problem with Nigerians is that we don’t want to fail and we want to be at the top always.
We have to collaborate with government and everybody as no single person can solve the problem of the world. Before you start anything, you need to collaborate with people as nobody does anything well without humility. When you are humble, you see the best in other people. I want to also add that if you are in a position of authority, you ought to be able to synergize and galvanize the various human resources and put them to effective use. It is only when this is done that we can be able to have quality development in the society.
What drives you?
Right from my youth, I’ve always been interested and attracted to things that develop human capacity, makes us better, and projects the future to be a better time for all of us. From the time I graduated till now, I’ve not faltered. Making money, for me is not more important than making development. What many of us don’t know is that the amount of money we are all craving for is not what you need. The future of this country depends on doing things correctly.