WeForGood: Sustainable Solutions Africa Conference ignites new generation of entrepreneurs
It is no news that unemployment, poverty, inequality and environmental degradation are some of the major challenges that have plagued Nigeria and Africa for a long time, and while there are several NGOs and organisations set up to curb these challenges, the weight of the issues and their attendant effects seem to be focused on drowning all efforts to provide a lasting solution to the issues highlighted. It has now become evident, more than ever, that if we must record any success whatsoever as regards sustainable development on the continent, the job cannot be left to just the governments or the civil society.
Everyone, including the non-traditional players such as businesses and entrepreneurs, must play their part. People, the everyday consumers, know this, which is why there is now a higher calling for entrepreneurs to build businesses that are impactful and sustainable.
What is a sustainable business you may ask? A sustainable business is one that is not only profitable. It is one that has huge positive impact with minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society and economy and the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, provide a viable roadmap for entrepreneurs committed to championing businesses that are built to last.
The good news is that there are a few organisations already working relentlessly to inspire a new generation of sustainable and impactful entrepreneurs who do not just start businesses to make money, but are more interested in creating solutions that will improve their immediate environment and ultimately, the world at large.
One of such organisations is the WeForGood International, a sustainable development consulting firm that focuses on communications, training and programmes that target the fulfilment of the SDGs, with the overall mission to champion the emergence of a new crop of African leaders who are committed to its sustainable development.
Recently, the organisation put together a first-of- its-kind conference that didn’t just inspire participants but focused on teaching them how to successfully start and run their businesses by acquiring marketable skills, with the Sustainable Development Goals as a guide in order to create cutting-edge sustainable solutions that will improve Africa and, indeed, the world at large. All of this and more were achieved at the Sustainable Solutions Africa Conference, which took place on Monday July 15, 2019 at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Victoria Island.
According to the Brundtland Report, People, Planet and Profit, are the core of a sustainable business and the earlier each business owner incorporates it into his business culture, the better. To achieve this, however, there’s need for increased awareness to ensure that more aspiring and even existing entrepreneurs understand what a sustainable business is and how they can build it. This is why the Sustainable Solutions Africa Conference was put together; to show and expose the minds of young people to the possibilities of building skill-based businesses that are sustainable and that can outlive them.
The event, which pulled leading professionals in their different fields, was organised to commemorate the United Nations World Youth Skills Day. Over 200 attendees were present to not only network and listen to what each speaker had to say, but to also witness the official launch of the Sustainable Solutions Africa 30Under30 Project, a blended fellowship and accelerator program by WeForGood International.
Speaking at the event, CEO WeForGood International, Temitayo Ade-Peters, said the conference was organised to rekindle a desire to embrace and explore skill acquisition and skill- based opportunities in its participants. According to her, “to tackle the menace of unemployment in Africa, young people must begin to look at acquiring skills with which they can create opportunities for themselves and for others by having sustainable development as a guide always.”
According to her, “while achieving the entire SDGs will not create a heaven on earth effect, the positive impact will stabilise many of the tensions the world is battling with and create a society that is socially fair, resilient, predictable and secure; a society where people, irrespective of their colour, status or orientation enjoy economic prosperity.” she noted.
The first session for the day was opened by Tosin Oladosu-Adebowale, CEO of Turning Trash To Treasure, a sustainable solutions entrepreneur who has experienced emotional and domestic abuse and decided to turn her mess into a message. Ms. Tosin is also the Founder of Star of Hope, an organization that helps women to make a living from recycling waste into beautiful products.
In her speech, she highlighted the importance of purpose if businesses and solutions must be sustainable. In her words, “it is pertinent for business owners to start thinking of how to build their businesses without affecting the next generation and the environment.”
“Sustainability is in three phases – the environment, the people and the society (that is, social sustainability) and purpose is what drives sustainability, even patronage from people comes from their understanding of the purpose of your art,” she explains.
Her eye-opening session made way for the first panel for the day. One spectacular characteristic about this panel was the diversity in the experience of each panellist and this was evident in the depth of content and wisdom shared. Achenyo Idachaba Obaro, Founder MitiMeth, Olamide Ayeni Babajide, CEO, Pearl Recylcing and Ayoola Jolayemi, CEO, SwiftThink Limited deliberated on the topic Purpose Driven: Key to Building Sustainable Solutions?
A major highlight of this session, which was moderated by Adedoyin Jaiyesimi, Head of Communications, Content Craft, was the revealation of the three questions every business owner must answer to ensure that his idea is sustainable: What need is your business meeting? What problem is your business solving and; What question is your business answering? According to the panel, once entrepreneurs can answer these questions effectively, they are well on their way to creating sustainable solutions that will outlive them, provided the right structure is implemented.
The panel did justice to their topic and participants had nothing but appreciation for them. Each panellist had a unique angle and depth of knowledge about the topic.
This enriching conference was taken to another level when Francesca Rosset, Managing Partner, Kinabuti, took the stage to speak on how to address the need of youth empowerment. During her session, she shared mind-blowing facts about the rate of unemployment in Nigeria and the need to step up to ensure that more youths skill up and take advantage of the numerous opportunities that abound in the country. She said, “the African Youth population is estimated to be 850 million by 2050, and the job creation ability is 350 million behind requirement.” This means that more work needs to be done to ensure that young people are not just employed, but gainfully and sustainably employed.
Francesca’s eye opening session made way for the second panel discussion of the day: Starting Small, Growing Steady, Attracting Clients and Money. This was the focus for Bruno Oaikhinan, Chief Inspiration Officer, Bruno’s Place; Francesca Rosset, Managing Partner Kinabuti; Mazi Ukonu, Co-Founder Recycle Points and Femi Oye, CEO Green Energy and Biofuels, all members of the second panel and they sure did justice to it.
A major takeaway from this session, moderated by Kayode Olaniyan, Convener Sustainability Table Series, was the importance of providing value. Skills will not be enough if clients are not offered valuable experiences. The panel also emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to keep reinventing themselves and their products to stay relevant in the 21st century.
As expected of an event that attracted young people, the event was also spiced with entertainment; there was a spoken word performance by a poet and musical interlude by a guitarist.
The climax of the conference was the official announcement of the 30 Fellows admitted into the Cohort of the 30Under30Project, a blended fellowship and accelerator launched by WeForGood International to promote skills for sustainable development, specifically for reducing unemployment on the continent, starting with Nigeria. With awesome young founders aged 18-29 and great initiatives from all over Africa, it was particularly challenging to select the top 30 that were finally accepted to join the 2019 cohort, according to the selection committee.
WeForGood International has made efforts to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are employed to provide a better Africa. But the work has only just begun. With the new cohort of the 30Under30 Project, there is a huge responsibility to train and coach them to have more impact whilst also actively searching for other forward thinking young people who are interested in making Africa a better place. This training and mentoring is particularly important in ensuring that young people find purpose and create something sustainable even beyond the euphoria of the conference.
In the same vein, for each participant, it is time to put in the work and not just embrace, but also explore skill acquisition and skill-based opportunities relentlessly. It is time to go back to map out strategies and create solutions that will create a positive impact and stabilise many of the tensions currently faced across the continent. Indeed, everyone must begin to do better, think different and act responsibly.
The Sustainable Solutions Africa Conference was put together with the partnership of IHS Towers, as well as the support of the United Nations, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Guardian Angels, Kinabuti and Mitimeth.
About WeForGood International
WeForGood International is a sustainable development consulting firm that focuses on communications, training and programmes that target the fulfilment of the SDGs, with the overall mission to champion the emergence of a new crop of African leaders who are committed to its sustainable development.
The firm supports organisations in their journey towards purpose and profit, from strategy to execution. With a solid training and coaching arm, WeForGood is able to help young people and professionals gain the right leadership skills to create sustainable value in competitive landscapes and their online community brings people and organisations together to act on causes they care about.