By Onuwa Lucky Joseph
Effective November 2020, Simi Nwogugu, currently CEO Junior Achievement (JA) Nigeria, becomes the Chief Executive Officer of JA Africa.
With this landmark announcement made by the Board of Directors of JA Africa, Mrs. Nwogugu is expected to bring to her new role, valuable entrepreneurship and consulting knowledge, and 23 years of experience at JA—including as a volunteer, board member and executive director of JA Nigeria.
As CEO of JA Africa, Simi will provide leadership and strategic execution for JA’s youth development agenda on the continent. She will drive JA’s regional initiatives and programs, including the organization’s expansion into new markets, while securing the partnerships and resources needed for JA’s education and digital skills development programs in Africa.
Reacting to her appointment, Simi acknowledged that “the new role offers me an exciting opportunity to work more closely with colleagues on the continent as we deepen and expand JA’s mission of empowering young Africans for a successful future.”
She is grateful to the JA Africa and JA Worldwide board of directors, she says, “for entrusting me with this responsibility”; further remarking that she looked forward “to working with stakeholders and partners to make their vision a reality.” Simi stated her goal as being “to increase the impact of our work to significantly reduce youth unemployment and poverty across the continent.”
A graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Harvard Business School, Nwogugu is a Goldman Sachs alumna. She also holds a professional certificate in Organizational and Executive Coaching from New York University.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Simi helped bring JA to the country in 1999. JA Nigeria has since grown to become one of the strongest JA member countries in Africa, reaching 1 million youth across Africa’s most populous nation. In recent years, JA Nigeria has been particularly focused on communities in northern Nigeria, especially youth displaced by the Boko Haram crisis.
What JA is about is preparation of young people for the work force and life in general. JA is about entrepreneurship, giving young folks responsibility at an early age, mentoring them and ensuring that they make mistakes early and in easily remediable situations. This gives them gumption to lead lives that are bold and inventive. Simi has done an excellent job of getting thousands of young Nigerians to go this route. It’s no wonder she gets this higher calling to make of the continent’s youngsters a huge entrepreneurial force.
According to Charles Olumuyiwa Moyela, JA Africa Board Chair, “Simi’s appointment as CEO of JA Africa is timely and heralds a new era of growth and accelerated development for JA in Africa. She comes well prepared for the tasks ahead and is poised to scale up and surpass the laudable accomplishments of the JA Nigeria team, which she led passionately.” He believes “Simi’s leadership, energy, vision and partnership credentials will be pivotal to the delivery of JA’s work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship offerings to Africa’s fast-growing youth population,”
The JA Africa network currently spans 14 countries, namely, Botswana, eSwatini, Gabon, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. JA programs and activities in The Gambia, Mozambique, Namibia, and Rwanda are scheduled to be flagged off in 2021.
Asheesh Advani, CEO of JA Worldwide, sees Simi as a natural fit in her new role. “JA helps prepare entrepreneurial leaders for the global economy. Simi is a leader of leaders with a proven track record of serving the youth of Nigeria, and we are delighted to have her join the Senior Leadership Team of JA Worldwide and oversee JA Africa,” Advani said.
The leading nonprofit organization, which marked its 100th year anniversary in 2019, reaches over 250,000 African youth each year, equipping Africa’s fast expanding youth population with the knowledge and skills required to start their own businesses, succeed in the global job market, and make sound financial decisions as adults.
JA’s mandate in Africa, and globally, aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDGs 4, 8 and 17.