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At Coworking Conference, Tonye Cole urges Nigerian youth to take action


Kola Oyeneyin, creator, Co-Working Conference Nigeria and founder/CEO, Venia (left); Topsy-Kola Oyeneyin, project director, Co-Working Conference Nigeria, and Tonye Cole, CEO, Sahara Group at the Coworking Conference 2017… in Lagos .PHOTO: Olawale Amoo

After months of brainstorming and fine-tuning plans, global Coworking leading platforms, including DeskMag, Coworking Africa, Co-working Insights and Co-worker, in collaborating with Venia Business Hub, recently staged Nigeria’s first Co-working Conference in Lagos.

Held at the IMAX Filmhouse, Lekki, the event brought together global experts, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, and leading figures in Nigeria’s Coworking industry and explored the drivers of the growth in Coworking spaces in Nigeria, the opportunities and value being created.

Addressing participants, Executive Director and Co-founder of Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, charged Nigerian youths to rise to the challenges from their counterparts in other parts of the continent.

“I’m just coming from Kigali in Rwanda, where they had Africa youth connect programme and young people came from all over Africa to speak. They spoke about the projects they are working on, what they are thinking of and what is happening on the continent. My greatest pain with what I saw there was that, I know that here in Nigeria, we have far more to offer than everyone that I heard from, but we were not represented as I hoped that we would be. So, the challenge that I want to leave with us is that we should not go to sleep and think that the rest of the continent is asleep; they are not,” he said.

Cole, who is also a patron of the Coworking group in Nigeria, observed that, “they are challenging you; they are challenging your space, they are challenging the leadership qualities that you have. They are challenging your innovations, they are challenging you in terms of technology; they are challenging your entrepreneurial skills. And guess what, they are moving fast; from government to ICT, to agriculture, to innovations in manufacturing, to all sorts of things… everybody is awake,” he said.

According to Cole, the continent has suddenly realised that entrepreneurship is the only way that they are going to be able to leapfrog and using technology.

“All everybody is seeking are the opportunities that will enable them to move forward; the youth are taking it and they moving with it. Are you waiting for the government to give you everything? You will wait for a very long time. Are you sitting and complaining that they are not doing these things? You don’t need it; eventually that will happen. But you have to collaborate; you need to sit together and find areas where you can collaborate.”

To the Co-founder of Sahara Group, this is time for young people to think out programmes and ways to impact the society positively.

“Are you thinking of only yourself or are you thinking of more than you? As you sit today with your colleagues, as you listen to people, think that you called for greater than this; you can impact lives, you can change lives, you can do a lot more than this. Think beyond countries, think beyond your borders; know that everything you do have a ripple effect and that you can actually make a huge difference. Take what you are doing seriously; there’s a reason you were called for this,” he concluded.

Other speakers at the event include Kola Aina – Founder Ventures Park; Red Africa Co-founders, Adebola Williams and Chude Jideonwo; Leanne Beesley – Cofounder; Executive Secretary of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Akin Oyebode; Fidelity Bank GM Managed SMEs, Trade Missions & Export, Ken Opara; and COO Nextzon Consulting and Board Member of Lagos Angel Network, Segun Olukoya, amongst others.

“The opportunities that lie in the value-chain of Co-working in Nigeria as a nascent industry is unprecedented. This conference presents the right avenue for players, investors, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to explore the endless possibilities of the sector” said Kola Oyeneyin, the Creator of Coworking Conference Nigeria.

The Co-working Conference is a global event that happens in major cities all over the world from London, Dublin and New York to Cape Town, Penang and Melbourne.

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