Deji Oduntan, Obi Ozor, Chidi Nwaogu and Shola Akinlade, do these names sound familiar? Maybe and maybe not. These are the most sought-after young Nigerian entrepreneurs in 2019 who are playing significant roles in the areas of transportation, logistics, publications and fintech.
For the development efforts of the Nigerian nation to yield tangible and sustainable results, the energies, resources, creative talents and labour of the nation’s largest demographic must be harnessed. Young people are needed as catalysts for developing the country and for exploiting the abundance of resources to create the kind of nation we all want. The youths are not only leaders of tomorrow, but partners in the progress of today.
As Nigeria’s population grows—it is more than 180 million now—and as our cities faces critical challenges like housing shortage, traffic congestion, poor infrastructure and lack of adequate transportation systems, young people are stepping up to tackle some of these challenges using, you guessed, technology. Take Deji Oduntan of GOKADA, an e-hailing motorbike service in Nigeria’s largest city Lagos for example. Gokada is helping Lagosians beat the city’s legendary traffic snarls to get to work and cut down the long hours lost to gridlock.
Then there is Obi Ozor and his team at Kobo360, a Nigerian digital startup that is delivering faster freight and cargo transport services around the country. Even as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) kicks off, Kobo360’s G-LOS (Global Logistics Operating System) is ready to power the ACFTA, from west to east, north to south to deepen productivity and reduce supply chain friction.
Publiseer, a multi award winning free digital publishing platform owned by Chidi and Chika Nwaogu is providing independent authors and artists a chance to have their works seen by the rest of the world and to profit handsomely from their own content. Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi are solving Nigeria’s long standing problem of payment for ambitious business owners by building an online financial solution startup, Paystack, which makes it easy for businesses to accept secure payments from multiple local and global payment channels.
From the instances cited above, it goes without saying that young people are the wheels that drive innovative initiatives that begets true development. They are the catalyst that accelerates the pace of development and progress of the nation. They are needed because they are the most active segment of the society and the major determiners of peace and economic progress of a nation. If Nigeria wants to accelerate growth and development, she must appreciate the importance of the role of young people in driving the change that we all want to see. She must provide a climate that would allow young people to thrive and create innovative solutions to our problems without boggling them down with bureaucracy and corruption.
Our greatest demographic asset as a nation today is our young people. They make up more than 67 percent of the entire population. For us to profit from this asset as a nation, increased efforts towards making quality education more accessible, affordable and available across the nation must become our topmost priority. Our young people must get quality education—an education with a curriculum that is unique and freshly designed to meet the everyday needs and the challenges of the nation.
“In our contemporary time,” says Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a Nigerian professor, inventor, engineer, author, and entrepreneur at Fasmicro, “U.S. has the best universities and it remains the most dynamic global economy. As I have written, on Mines of Knowledge, any nation that dominates the accumulation and processing of knowledge typically “rules” the world. From the Babylonian Empire to the American empire of today, when you win on Knowledge you win on economy and human development.” Nigeria cannot afford but to win here.
In the 21st Century, the natural resource that matters most is the talent of a nation’s citizens. The role of top-grade higher education of international quality in helping young people become catalysts in the achievement of the Nigerian nation’s efforts for development and progress is as important as soul to body. Top-grade education is a lever to human and social development. Apart from imparting skills and knowledge in the citizens, education eliminates ignorance and intolerance; it enlightens and empowers the citizens for employment and peaceful coexistence.
Education is pivotal for the discovery of one’s innate abilities, factual self and potentials. Education is exposure and responsibility combined. It exposes young people to a new and dynamic way of life and it creates a sense of responsibility in them to give back to the society by contributing their skills and training in the development of their community. Top-grade education is the only way young people can learn and develop the skills needed to drive the nation forward.
Today, Nigeria has the largest population of young people on the African continent. This workforce is enough to replicate Silicon Valley in every State in Nigeria in 3 years. With increased access and investment in top-grade quality education, we can have more of the likes of Deji Oduntan, Obi Ozor, Chidi Nwaogu and Shola Akinlade in every home, in every community and in every state, and we could make Nigeria the envy of the world.
With concerted efforts to educate our young people, Nigeria can enjoy top-notch sustainable development and stand tall and proud in the comity of nations and say, with the intellectual capacities of our young people, we are becoming a first world country.