Odejobi… Opportunities around youths are endless
Niyi Odejobi is a senior executive in one of the largest multinational organisations in Nigeria. He’s also the Managing Partner of an Ibadan based hospitality company. The finance, technology and analytics expert with over 15+ years’ experience spanning finance, investment banking, research, bigdata, business strategy, and technology spoke to DANIEL ANAZIA on his passion for youth development and new project, ‘The Business Roundtable’ – a social development and youth empowerment advocacy non-profit organisation.
What is the idea behind the Business Roundtable?
The Business Roundtable is a social development and youth empowerment advocacy non-profit intervention initiative aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, employment opportunities, innovation, access to market, and skill acquisition for all residents of Oyo State. I decided to create the program to assist the Oyo State Government with the unemployment issues the youths currently face within the state.
The initiative will among its other objectives, develop programmes designed to train and place unemployed Oyo residents in jobs while also focusing on programmes designed to drive innovation within the Oyo ecosystem. The major aim is to reduce the high unemployment rate in Oyo State through increase in private sector involvement, employability training, skills acquisition programs and aiding business growth with the overall objective of creating jobs.
You hosted a Youth Entrepreneurship Summit in Oyo on June 25, what’s behind the idea?
Yes, BRT held its maiden edition of its Entrepreneurship Summit, and it was organised to engage the youth, giving them a chance to discuss issues they face and for their voices to be heard. The event was held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan Hotel, and had in attendance some young successful business owners operating in Ibadan and within Nigeria, who discussed how they built their businesses and shared their success stories. During the event, in conjunction with our partners, we provided business grants and job opportunities to some participants based on their pitch.
The summit like I said is aimed at creating jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities in Oyo State was driven with three strategic pillars — supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem, giving people skills they can use to work and support technology, innovation, the ecosystem, so that people can do things in a new way, scale them through tech and create jobs in the whole process. Doing this, we are at the same time, supporting the whole ecosystem by helping people solve problems they have with government, MDAs, Agencies, etc., so that there can be no barriers in doing business in Oyo State. Other areas of focus for BRT are: capacity development, business advisory and support, promotions, march to market, creation of linkages and support for people to get skills that they can use to work.
What informed the choice of the speakers and panelists?
Since the summit was about youth inclusion, we painstakingly took time to select the best speakers and some successful young entrepreneurs and talent in Nigeria who are able to teach, mentor and also provide opportunities to the youths, especially in Oyo State. We had the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka as a representative from the State Government and Guest Speaker. He spoke on the actions being taken by the government on youth inclusion, job creation, capacity building, and more interestingly Agric Business, which has recorded a huge success in Oyo State already.
The keynote speaker was the Commissioner for Finance in Ekiti State and the pioneer/former Executive Secretary of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), Mr Akin Oyebode. There was Rev Idowu Ogedengbe, the Executive Assistant to the Governor of Oyo State and the State focal person on Human Capital Development.
We also had young entrepreneurs in the State and beyond including, Etop Ikpe, the Co-founder and CEO of Cars 45 and Autochek Ltd; Tayo Bamiduro, the Co-founder and CEO of Max.ng and Max Okada; Temitope Ogunsemo, a technology entrepreneur and the founder/CEO of Krystal Digital, an information technology company providing information management system to government-owned secondary schools in Nigeria, with an asset base value worth over $5million as valued by Forbes. Other speakers and panelists included JJ Omojuwa, Aare Gbenga Eyiolawi (CEO Titan Farms), Habeeb Okunola (CEO, TILT Group), Shola Ladoja (CEO, Simply Green) and a host of others.
What are the opportunities you see around that the young people do not see?
The opportunities around the youths are endless. We have started occupying political positions, holding sensitive positions in private sector firms and creating tech and fintech companies. We see young Nigerians eager and ready to work but there are limited jobs or no skills to perform the required jobs. Where there are shortages of skills in the state, employers have gone to neighbouring states to get skills in construction, healthcare, drilling and so on.
Hence, we hope to partner with a couple of stakeholders to bring international standards to certification to artisanal skills and we will do this in different skills. We would skill them up and place them in sustainable jobs. We would also be looking for companies that are looking for people to work and use a supply and demand method, where we then know what the demand is and supply the skills needed. We would do this in construction, health, entertainment, hospitality, and of course the creative sector in general.
BRT would partner with the private sector to setup the Oyo State Innovation Hub and collaborate with various private companies, like SLOT Academy, IFES Foundation, Levant Soap Factory, OxFam, GeniusHub and SabiHub amongst others, to have a large amount of interested individuals, aspiring/existing entrepreneurs to get properly trained on any of the technical and business skills available.
How do you plan to sustain this initiative?
Our strategy is a clear cut out one. Like in the just concluded summit, where we deployed various methods like teaching, mentorship and sharing of success stories with participants by our distinguished panelists, we would continue in the same manner but with a review of every summit, so that we can close the gaps where there is need.
We are happy that the participants were able to acquire the desired skills in a short time. The training is a continuous process even after each summit. Like in the just concluded event, we had participants partake in the breakout sessions, where they discussed selected topics with the panelist. We also allocated participants to selected panelists for mentorship sessions even after the event. We hope to engage the government more on job creation, youth inclusion, and capacity development.
On sustainability, we hope to attract more stakeholders to join us and we intend to engage the government more on our objectives and more importantly, ensure the employment trust fund bill is passed and implemented.
What drives your passion for youth development?
I’m very passionate about supporting young people, especially entrepreneurs and helping them scale, not just for the immediate impact this has on their organisation but more for the multiplier effect it confers on the larger society and economy. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs in various life-cycle stages, supporting them with interventions and resources to help them thrive. I’m resolute in my belief that entrepreneurs and their businesses are key to creating jobs and wealth in emerging economies. I’m passionate about supporting entrepreneurs and connecting them to resources to help them scale, hence the reason for the creation of The Business Roundtable.
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