Looking at connecting disadvantaged youths to the digital economy

People say talent is equally distributed across the world, but opportunities are not. This is one reason why the brightest of minds waste away in obscure places while average minds bask in the limelight – even though they really do not have much to offer.

There is a genius somewhere that does not have the access to the necessary infrastructure they need to thrive and become better. Perhaps it could be a worthy cause to see how we could do something about it.

This is the 21st century, distance and location should no longer stop people from getting equal opportunities as everyone else.

I have enjoyed working in the hinterlands, away from the hustle and bustle of major cities like Lagos and Abuja, the serene environment in these places gets my creative juices flowing. After I moved out of Lagos in 2007 to study Physics Electronics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, I doubted if I would ever move back fully.

My usual routine is to hop into Lagos and other commercial centers (and seal business deals), then hop out to work on the job before coming back to deliver it.

Technology will only get better in making distance irrelevant. These days, you can work anywhere and earn your wages and add value to people anywhere in the world. I believed in these chain of thoughts so much that in 2013, I came up with the Akure StartUP Drive project.

I came up with the project because I wanted to prove that with the right blend of training, seminars, mentorship and various events, a city like Akure could harness the young minds enrolled at the University there and build tech driven startups that could shake the world. I was able to leverage the little exposure working on my startup idea, Gistcaster had given me so that the Akure StartUP Drive project could put up an extra flag on Nigeria’s tech map.

I worked on the project for a while but I hit some snags along the road and also I had finished schooling in Akure and had to return to Lagos before going on my compulsory year of national service.

These days, those thoughts are nagging me again, hitting me at the back of my head. I have therefore decided to go forward again with that idea.

We need to provide opportunities to youths in other cities asides Lagos and Abuja. Nigeria has the capacity to have more than a dozen major tech hubs spread across.

I believe that youths in any town can be trained and connected to the global economy with digital jobs that are “oil-economy proof”. Effectively leading into development of a Nigerian BPO firm as well as multiple startups by entrepreneurial spirited youngsters that go through the training.

After some research, I have selected the small city of Ikere-Ekiti, in between Akure and Ado-Ekiti in South Western Nigeria as the location to execute this vision.

I wish I could take all the credit for this brilliant idea, but I cannot; Indian companies have been doing this for decades. Many big companies in the USA outsource parts of their operations to India.

On the home front, we have initiatives like Pinigeria’s Digital Jobs and companies like Andela all working along this lines. The major difference between my approach and theirs will be the focus of our training and the fact that I am strictly limiting myself to Ikere-Ekiti and neighbouring cities like Akure.

Getting Started

I intend to start by simultaneously growing out both sides of the platform. I will have to build a client relation/sales and marketing office in Lagos, a front office where clients can meet and interact with us (and also a nice address to post on our website).

People love dealing with businesses they can easily find in the neighbourhood and that is understandable. It is human nature, my project cannot change that.

The second front is the backend, I am currently growing a list of skilled people living in Ikere-Ekiti and environs so that they can start tackling clients projects as they come in. We will then reach out and start empowering more young people with the skills and resources they need to also take on digital jobs.

This is an adventure I am truly interested in kicking off and the question: “Can we really connect the youths in Ikere-Ekiti to the global economy?” is ringing in my mind. The answer seems to be a resounding YES, but time will tell.

I know this adventure will have a lot of lows and highs, training people takes a lot of effort with few results to show for it. I know this first-hand because I have devoted a great chunk of my time into training people these past few years, but with patience, it yields fruit; it always does. I am ready to be patient.

We can spread global opportunities to every young person regardless of where they are. Many great people are working on this already and I am happy to also tackle it from my end.

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