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Letter to young Nigerians: Facing the new decade – Part 3

By Yemi Osinbajo
27 February 2020   |   3:19 am
The question for many of our young people today is: what is your passion? How can you take the skills that you have, and add value to the world around you?

The question for many of our young people today is: what is your passion? How can you take the skills that you have, and add value to the world around you? The future is going to depend a great deal on what we do with our passions and how we can sell what we are passionate about to millions of people around the world. I have seen video tutorials on how to make the best soups or bake the best cakes, getting hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram and YouTube, and people advertising on them.

YouTubers like Dimma Umeh are showing us how to do makeup, how to master that highlight and contour, and she told us in one video that she made her first million from YouTube! I have also seen videos of people teaching young women how to keep their husbands, very interesting videos! Thanks to the social media age, whatever ideas and skills that you have can be leveraged for benefit. Your knowledge is of immense importance and you have to find creative ways to take advantage of it. While it is easier than ever to sell your knowledge and skills, it has also become easier and cheaper for you to acquire them.

“The Mobile Prof” in Lagos, for example, is teaching people how to code from their mobile phones, you don’t even need a laptop anymore! The future is about self-education, self-development. It is important for us to invest a little in the incredible opportunities for online education. 

Years ago, it was impossible to do a specialized course in a leading international university without getting an admission, paying a lot of money and when travelling abroad. Today, you can sit in the comfort of your home and get an Ivy League education. Universities such as Harvard University and Dartmouth College, for example, offer full-time online courses on Data Science and Linux Programming through an online learning platform called EdX. This means you can learn a whole new programming language in a year, for less than it would cost you to even get to America! There are new means of self-education and they are more accessible than you might have thought.

There is no question that an exciting future lies ahead. There are breakthroughs in radical technologies, capable of disrupting whole industries, and perhaps even our very conception of work itself. For higher institutions who are getting graduates ready for the world of work, for the graduates, and new and near graduates who are here today, what does the disruption of the workforce by emerging technologies signify for both livelihoods and employment? Today, there are several important implications related to the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies that will change the way we work and our economies. So, we have seen for example that much of what is considered analytical work by lawyers, investment bankers, accountants, and other age-old professions will be performed better by machines in a fraction of the time that humans can. There is a need to train these professionals differently, and with these new opportunities and challenges in mind.

With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Internet of Things, the world of work is in a state of flux, changing as never before, driven by inexorable forces that have an impact, not only on professional services but on manufacturing and trade, global supply chains and the digitalization of the global economy to name just a few. So, for example, the supervision work that managers do is changing rapidly and there may be no more need for it. A young lady who owns a clothing store in Abuja and Lagos, who lives in Abuja was showing me how she can remotely see all that is going on in her shop in Lagos on her laptop in real-time. And she can speak to all her employees from her laptop in real-time. In other words, she can supervise her store herself from anywhere in the world. So, the type of manager you will need going forward will be a different type. Education today must be education for employability, the sort of education that makes us employable and relevant in the technologies and opportunities that present themselves today.

So, our university curricula must be versatile and dynamic. The focus must be on innovation, critical thinking, interdisciplinary thinking, design thinking, synergizing and collaboration with others across the world to solve problems. The era of cramming the teacher’s notes and regurgitating for high grades is over. The graduate of the future is a problem solver, a thinker, an entrepreneur.

Our educators, policymakers, schools, universities must now adapt their curricula, policies, and projects to improve the skills that enable the graduate to nimbly and constantly respond to the ever-changing face of the economy and the workplace. A student of humanities today equipped with the right skills and mindset will be a crucial part of the collaboration required to build an application that will redefine an aspect of the business.

In other words, a student of History, English, Languages, without any previous scientific training or knowledge, can with the right skills being taught today, with self-teaching, develop applications that will change business and industries, earn a lot of money. Applications are developed through collaborations; there are those that are scientists, there are those who come from the point of view of imagination and others from the point of view of the design; all of them collaborating together. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was more of an artist than a computer scientist. Yet he developed some of the most incredible applications that we have ever seen and made the kind of profit that makes people wonder whether they are not in the wrong profession. A man or woman of ideas, no matter your degree, can become, in collaboration with others, the designers or owners of the next application that will make billions and create jobs for millions. This is the exciting future ahead of us, the opportunities are limitless.

I want to urge all of us, especially the young people who are here, to note that we are in the best times in the history of mankind.  Let nobody tell you about the good old days. I said before, and I am quoting someone, I’m not so sure who he is, he said that “those who remind us of the good old days are probably suffering from memory loss.” We must not allow them to keep talking about the good old days. We are in the best times possible today. And the reason why these are the best times is that we are in the most technologically advanced human history. This is the most technologically advanced moment. This is the most advanced moment in the history of mankind, we have never been advanced as we are today. It was Fareed Zakaria, the CNN journalist, who said and I’m quoting him that, “the smartphones that we have today, have more computing powers than all of the computing power that took men to the moon on the spacecraft, all of the computing powers that were in that spacecraft, we now have a hundred times of that computing power in the smartphone that we carry about today.” So, we are living in a time of sheer magic! We must take every advantage of it and I know the young people today, especially those in this Federal University Dutse, are rearing to go. The future is certainly bright!

Osinbajo is Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.