Giving back is a national duty
Bunmi Banjo is the SMB Marketing, and Digital Education Lead for Africa at Google. She drives the initiative by Google to offer digital training to as many Africans as possible. The training program was developed and scaled with local partners. Google realises that the digital opportunity provided in Africa by more internet consumers also means an opportunity to create more digital entrepreneurs who will, in turn, increase employment levels. According to Bunmi, “Youth unemployment across Africa is high. Developing digital entrepreneurship and creating new job opportunities for young people is critical to Africa’s transformative growth.”
Google initially set a goal of training one million young Africans, and impressively they achieved it in just eleven months. They are still working with partners to offer training daily, and many people in diverse parts of Nigeria, are already beneficiaries of this scheme.
While Google is spending a fortune to provide digital skills training in Africa, the recipients are getting this training free of charge. From those in business to those in still in school, everyone gets it free. Before this initiative, Google had also put a tremendous amount of resources into providing Internet infrastructure and software applications to tertiary institutions around Africa, also, free of charge. They are probably the first technological company to realise the deficiencies in our educational sector, and the risks it poses to not only technology adoption, but our global competitiveness in the long term. They have been working assiduously to fix it. These projects fall under their social responsibility mandate, and we thank them for it.
Bunmi Banjo is right when she says that, “the internet is a growth engine and it is for everyone.” She also believes and stated on Google’s official blog post on the project that, “The Internet offers tremendous opportunities to start new businesses and grow existing ones.” Africa needs a technology army to thrive in the future. Technology is not just the quickest way out of poverty for many people; it is probably going to be our biggest source of generating employment in the future. Technology should not be seen as a “nice” thing to have, but as a strategic economic imperative. Rwanda is an African example where this is already happening. The Rwandan government has been the most significant catalyst for the country’s technology growth.
Bunmi lived outside Nigeria for a very long time before she came back home to work with Google on African projects. Together with Google, she has given back more than enough to a country where a lot of us have not done the same, even though most of us got our education almost tuition free and subsidised by the government.
My mentor, Victor Ulinfun, who now also lives in Canada, had seen my complaints on social media about the state of everything in Nigeria, especially with our educational facilities. He asked me a very fundamental question: “What have you done about it?” Victor has a simple belief that those who benefitted from Nigeria when we had great public education can never give back enough for that gift. He believes it is our duty to fix things for future generations. I agree with him, and I believe it now. My postgraduate tuition fees in Sheffield were thirteen thousand pounds and only ten years before; I had paid about twenty-two thousand Naira as tuition fees for my MBA when the exchange rate was still at least twenty naira to one pound. I have paid more for one-week executive education courses at Harvard, than my entire tuition in all my years of school in Nigeria. Giving back is not just a responsibility, it is a national duty.
Transforming Industries, Nations and Lives.
My technology career started from training, and I know what it means to empower people with technology knowledge and the opportunities it brings. I was once in charge of corporate training at GICEN Technologies, and we used training to move the industry from typewriters towards personal computers. As an entrepreneur, my first initiatives were also in training, and they were backed by the European Economic Community intervention fund to empower the oil palm belt in Nigeria. We took advantage of it to provide free training to ‘The Okomu Oil Palm’ company in Edo State, and they went on to become our client for seven years.
We learned everything we now do from working with that customer. They would not have seen the importance of technology if they didn’t have people trained to apply it to everyday processes. Gaining knowledge of how to use technology changes people forever. It transforms businesses and entire sectors. Nations like Rwanda experience technology-led transcendence.
Partnering with Google on digital education has had some indirect effects as well. My driver decided to use the free Internet at the office to do Coursera Courses on Logistics, and he is now helping others learn too as a Coursera Mentor. I am encouraging him to take it up full time. This chain effect of transforming lives all started from training people at GICEN and a farm in Edo State. We are now directly building financial services products, providing training and indirectly providing facilities to help others become digital entrepreneurs. Those one million people Google has contributed to training, will empower the next billion and more. What are you doing in your own capacity?