‘Intellectual properties can transform Nigeria’
Chief Temitope Ajayi is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Silicon Valley Nigerian Economic Development (SV-NED Inc.), a United States based company dedicated to the establishment of bilateral economic relationship between Silicon Valley and Nigeria. She is a social entrepreneur and a passionate community activist. In this interview with ADELOWO ADEBUMITI she spoke about investment in human capital and intellectual properties, the upcoming second Silicon Valley Immersion Programme holding in Lagos, and opportunities that will follow the training for the country.
What informed your decision to hold the second SV NED Immersion programme in Nigeria?
What really motivated me is that Nigeria has 67 percent computer savvy young adults and that is an asset to any nation. In human capital, not many countries have that kind of privilege or are blessed to have 65 per cent young adult educated. We called it intellectual property. Entrepreneurs make a nation. You may call them entrepreneurs but they would graduate and become the private sector. That is my vision for the country. Being a minority woman CEO in Silicon Valley, I see a lot of Middle Easterners, Asians, particularly Indians, who are Engineers all over the place. But I don’t see many Africans there. I had to ask one day, “Where are the Africans?” They told me we have minus one percent Africans in Silicon Valley. Why do they call me Mama Diaspora? It is because I am a mother in everything. Every mother wishes her son is a president, a governor, a doctor or a lawyer. So my wish now is that my 65 percent young adults in Nigeria with their computer savvy acumen and with the little help I can offer become successful. Nigeria has intellectual properties that will transform into billions in revenue for the country. I decided that the only way my young people could make money like any young adult in Silicon Valley is for them to learn about venture capital, startup ecosystem and be a part of the transformative agenda to turn Nigeria from a developing country into an emerging market.
What is the vision behind the programme and how can the country benefit?
This present administration is blessed. For Silicon Valley to have finally agreed to come, train and get our young adults certified and provide employment opportunities for them is like a dream come true for this nation. This is not a seminar or a workshop. This is a serious certification programme. I have never seen a nation where the young adults are so brilliant like Nigeria. I called them rough and ready entrepreneurs. The only thing they need is venture capital. By the grace of God, by this time next year, nobody would be talking about oil again. I would advise the Federal Government to have a parastatal for serious startup in information technology. Sadly most of the people talking about ICT in Nigeria are not certified.
Bill Gate recently advised Nigeria to shift focus from building infrastructures to investing in human Capital and intellectual properties, do you agree with him?
That is what I have been saying all these years. It is because Bill Gate is saying it that people are now discussing about it. Thank God he has said the same thing. I have always being repeatedly talking about investment in human capital and intellectual properties, because that is where the money is. Infrastructural-wise, where is the dividend? Where is the turnover? You do a little to the right and a little to the left. It is called balancing. It is good for us to have these basic infrastructures. I commended them for it. But they have to balance it, because balancing investment in human capital is another revenue generation. We are talking about gross domestic product (GDP). Nigeria is going to bounce back to number one because they have got all its takes, which are entrepreneurs. Anytime I talk, I refer to Ikeja Computer Village. I have been to Saka Tinubu in Victoria Island too. They are business oriented. Even if it is the case of a cell phone they are selling it with pride. Let the government take Bill Gate’s advice on a positive note, it is an honest advice. We have got what it takes, so it is never too late for God’s favour. It is like we are hearing God’s voice through Bill Gate.
Who are the partners that are part of the programme?
I can’t imagine how powerful God works. These are 350 billion dollar companies in America, HP, IBM, Oracle. We are even going to use Cisco WebEx because it is a one-week intensive training and a six-month incubation training. Then we get them certified. Once certified, people will be hustling to employ them all over the world. So if powerful companies are partnering with us and endorsing us, it shows the power of the Almighty God. Recently I met with the Nigerian Association of Software Engineers, I didn’t know of their existence before. This is what we need. We are coming to train and certified Nigerian software engineers and train them in Python, the language of Artificial Intelligence, SQL for data analytics, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Business Intelligence and so many others. Everybody have their own area of expertise and they are going to be certified ready for the job market. During the week, somebody called from America. He said; “ Please Chief, we really like what you are doing, I need six software engineers”. I said Bingo! We have not even started, God has started opening doors.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next 10 years once the country embrace investment in human capital?
Somebody sent me a video from Youtube this week about a driverless car. It is already in Nigeria and people are looking at as if it is magic. We are using it already in Dubai. Even in America, voice command in cars such as Tesla, can instruct vehicles to park and even come back to where you are. In 20 years, that is what everybody would be driving. No more drivers, that is information technology. It is the key word. That is why I am passionate about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Let them start it in the primary school, especially the public schools. I am appealing to the Federal Government to put in only certified individuals in positions of authority.
What should the participant expect during the weeklong training?
It is going to be an intensive training because we are trying to bring the best out of them. We want to put our best foot forward. This is not a joke. If you want to be a millionaire in dollars, you must work for it. Nigerians are very smart in ICT.
So we have to divert them from the negative use of it to its positive application. Please young adults, bickering and complaining time is over. You don’t have to have a degree, you can be an IT artisan, fixing phones and so on. After this particular training, we are going to do another one again, maybe the fourth immersion programme in Nigeria that would be strictly for artisans.
Who are the facilitators for the training?
Ivy leagues professors from Standford, Morgan State University, Harvard, New York State University and San Francisco University are coming. The programme commenced on Monday, April 16th and will end on Friday, April 20, 2018. Don’t forget when Bill Gate was talking about investing in human capital, he himself invested in it in India. I am therefore appealing to him to invest in our intellectual properties in Nigeria the way he invested in polio eradication. If he invest 1.5 billion dollar on these IT graduates, Nigerians would be talking in billions they way they do in Silicon Valley.
What are the highlights of the training programme?
This is strictly academia. We would start in Oriental hotel, then we would have breakout sessions in IBM, HP, Oracle and we are going to use Cisco WebEx. When we get to IBM, the participants will see what we call a blockchain room and have the opportunity for serious tutorials there. We need practicals because we have to get the best out of the people coming. Opportunities like these don’t come often in a lifetime. You see there is something unique about America, no matter how much degrees you have, you still have to pass their own bar and board exams to get certified. Some of our partners are coming to set up incubators, and hopefully by this time next year, we will have thousands of it in Nigeria because the awareness is already there. Also there are companies that want to come and set up assembly plants, call centres and technology hubs. So we will train the youth and get them ready for the America job market.
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