By Onuwa Lucky Joseph
If Nigerians are universally agreed on any one thing, it’s in their consensus that their country has a perverse penchant for giving its young people the short end of the stick. And one not to complain about by these aforementioned young people, else they get a literal whack of the stick – now wielded as a baton by law enforcement agents.
It is tragic that things are this way in a country with an acknowledged youth bulge. Its governments at the different levels make a ruckus about youth empowerment but often does not follow or carry through. The Nigerian factor always somehow interjects to ensure nonsuccess of well mouthed articulations.
And so, young Nigerians tend to be this way and that, nowhere near clear sighted as to what direction to toe. The frustration that attends their half-baked education (and this holds true for the greater majority whose school calendar is truncated year after year by ASSU/FG fisticuffs and other obligatory altercations), and the widening lack of jobs – at 33%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the second highest in the world. It’s a situation that has left millions of young Nigerians with dimmed hopes for their future.
It is this seeming dreary landscape that has birthed quite a number of private and civil society players all are scrambling to help fill the void, to give some meaning to existence and to reroute the feelings of angst into one of purpose. One of the more prominent such organisations is Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), an offshoot of the global body Junior Achievement Worldwide which was founded in 1919 in the USA by Theodore Newton Vail, Horace A. Moses and Winthrop M. Crane.
JAN is acutely aware of the big boots and the weight of the history it has inherited and so is putting in all it takes to acquit itself creditably on these shores. JAN knows that in the end, it would be judged by how significantly it is able to dent the reality that young Nigerians are forced to grapple with.
In view of the spectacular success of JA Nigeria Chapter, its pioneer Executive Director, Simi Nwogugu, was elevated last year to the position of CEO Junior Achievement Africa, in which place she is expected to help ensure that JA gets African youths on track for today’s challenges and the inevitable success that attends the efforts of those who apply themselves and stay on track.
Simi’s successor, Mrs. Foluso Gbadamosi, has hit the ground running, so to speak, knowing also that a whole lot is expected of her and the entire JAN team. And so, March 16th, 2021, JAN organised its well-attended Q1 Stakeholder Engagement Session, to remind everyone about what JAN stands for and to use the opportunity to appeal for support from well-meaning organisations and the general public.
But let’s cut back a little. If one were to ask why JAN is critical in today’s Nigeria? The simple answer would be because it fills a void where it has overwhelming competitive advantage as a result of its history and more than 100 years of putting its sundry theories into practice.
JAN is about entrepreneurship (from the cradle, more like it), and it’s about business and economic empowerment. It’s also about getting young people all revved up about their prospects as future Boss Dudes and Boss Ladies, but all of this in a way that retains the glamour while not forgetting the hard work required. It’s the quintessential path to nation building, especially in today’s global village where businesses are snapped up across borders in a way that makes those borders seem nonexistent.
Why line up for jobs when you can create jobs? That’s the JAN mantra. And that came up amongst the stakeholders who attended the QI Stakeholders meet. First Bank’s, Folake Anii-Mumuney related her elation whenever she hears from past mentees; how their faces light up as they recall the encounter that opened up their lives to bigger things. Folake says she those moments mean the world to her and to First Bank.
Dave Uduanu of Sigma Pensions is all gung-ho (as would be expected) about Financial Literacy and the need to start saving early so that at retirement life is more of a cruise than the obstacle course it is for most Nigerians. He finds kinship in the Bankers Committee, represented by Ms Abiola Biya, for whom financial literacy should begin from primary one to ensure it percolates effectively as the youngsters go through life. ‘The earlier the better’ is their mantra. And Anii-Mumuney echoed as much when she said “your money should work for you” rather than the case we have where the vast majority of Nigerians work sun up to sunset for money that remains elusive…
Ifeyinwa Dozie of MasterCard talked about how her company is helping girls get better engaged with STEM, a reason why MasterCard would keep partnering with JAN for the Girls4Tech program.
Rolake Akinkugbe-Filani and Sade Hughes, both of Mixta Africa, also expatiated on how they are helping ensure diversity in the entrepreurial space as well as helping deploy greater use of technology in the real estate sector.
Zakari Momodu of Aliko Foundation, who anchored one of the sessions also made the point about his organisations interest in the development of young minds to become productive citizens.
It was heartwarming to see a roll call of corporate heavyweights who are all throwing their hats into the ring to ensure that Nigeria’s young people are focused about entrepreneurship and business. Names like Channels TV whose Adeola Olumeyan anchored the first session, Prudential Zenith Insurance, Union Bank, Veraki Partners (its Managing Partner, Olaniyi Yusuf, is current JAN Chairman). Others include Deloitte, Schlumberger, Citibank, Google, Novelis and Agile Communications headed by Rufai Ladipo, a former MD of STB McCann, Lagos.
Iyin Aboyeji, clearly the poster boy for JAN, was formally announced as Board Member and appropriately so, having chalked up so much by way of achievements in such a short time. Iyin, who credits JAN with teaching him ‘how to create value in a structured way’, believes that as a society ‘we have too many things yet unbuilt’, and feels it incumbent on himself having been privileged to get a JAN training, to help make JAN more mainstream and accessible to a lot of other young Nigerians. Iyin, for those who may not know, was Co-founder and former MD of Flutterwave, Co-Founder and MD of Andela, and now CEO of Future Africa. He’s an enterprising rolling stone who gathers great value as he rolls along.
Chairman Olaniyi Yusuf talked up the virtues of JAN and volunteerism, stating that Junior Achievement is one organisation where the Board Members pay to serve. Wow! It’s that great a privilege, he said, knowing how much it impacts on legacy and posterity.
Foluso Gbadamosi on her part was upfront about the need for greater partnership and involvement for all the programmes in the pipeline this year. The great overarching intent for her leadership is to do in 5 years what it took JAN to achieve in 20 years. And what’s that? Getting an additional 1million youngsters on its programmes by 2025.That is, one million young Nigerians from the 36 states of the Federation solving problems via digital education largely, in view of Covid 19.
In a sense, JAN is really about succession management that seeks to replace the older generation (eventually) with a more forward looking and fully prepared generation that takes Nigeria to a next level that’s not the product of political fables. It’s important that more corporates and individuals identify with the JAN objective, key in effectively and help meet and exceed the one million mark.
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