Andy Esiet, Calabar
Poised to position Akwa Ibom youth for global success in the 21st century, a consortium of experts from the state in different fields have commenced a bullish training and an empowerment programme for youths in the state.
This is coming with a charge for them to be innovative in all their endeavours as they hold the key to unlock the economy of the state, and indeed the nation.
The experts led by the former Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil, Barr. Udom Inoyo; include Barr. Aniekan Ukpanah, the Managing Partner of Udo Udoma and Bello-Osagie, a leading commercial law firm in Nigeria; and Mr. Nsikak John, who is Head, Enterprise Innovation at the Nigeria Exchange Group (NGX) partnering with Africa Fintech Academy –a strategic development partner.
Inoyo who disclosed this at weekend in Uyo during the Akwa Ibom Tech Week 2021 grand finale organized by Start Innovation Hub and sponsored by the Inoyo Toro Foundation, a nonprofit making organization, said “our mission is to support innovative solutions that will stimulate capacity development and enhance economic growth in the state”.
While delivering his keynote address at the one day ceremony, Inoyo who is the Chairman of the Inoyo Toro Foundation that has been running for the past 14 years promoting education by empowering diligent teachers in the state, told the youths, “as you know, the 21st-century economy will be largely anchored on technology and innovation, and if this country must make progress, we must look in your direction”.
In this regards, he said the experts are offering the youths something different and sustainable through a pitch competition as an opportunity for innovators in Akwa Ibom State to pitch their ideas and start-ups hence invitations were extended to 72 applicants among the youths and “we will be having a special session on October 8, 2021, dedicated only to the pitch competition, at the E-library, Uyo with prizes and benefits”.
He said the prize money ranging from N300, 000 to N1, 000, 000 for the top three winners to immediately support the advancement of their businesses will be made available. Barr. Aniekan Ukpanah, the Managing Partner of Udo Udoma and Belo-Osagie, a leading commercial law firm in Nigeria has donated the N1, 000, 000 prize money for the winner of the pitch competition, in addition to some hours of free legal service/advice. One of us, Nsikak John, who is Head, Enterprise Innovation at the Nigeria Exchange Group (NGX) has facilitated a partnership with Africa Fintech Academy – a strategic development partner. The Academy will deploy a build and grow boot camp for all the 72 idea owners. The full value of the build and grow boot-camp/capacity building, as well as community membership, comes to N1.5M per participant and over N100M aggregated value for all 72 of you”.
At the end of the training camp, Inoyo said, all the participants “will be inducted into the Africa Fintech Community platform with access to markets, partners, and investors. The top five ideas will also be given access to provisioning sessions at the NGX Innovation Hub to assess their qualification for either the incubation or acceleration programmes” charging the youths not to waste the great opportunity which will be a continuous thing to train and empower Akwa Ibom youths on how to fish rather than receiving fish.
“The society is bedeviled with many problems, but these struggles are also opportunities, which some of you have already identified”, he said, adding, “I salute you for this, and for being audacious, savvy, and ready to conquer the world, notwithstanding your name, location, circumstances of birth, etc. I thank you because in stepping up to be counted, we are assured that the future of this state is secured and that the industrialization drive of the government of Governor Udom Emmanuel will not be a waste. I also thank you because knowingly or unknowingly, you have re-defined the Akwa Ibom youth. But to ensure sustainability, you must go further to expand your base, take interest in governance, as well as fashion a pragmatic template for the Akwa Ibom project.
“If there is any subject that should engage everyone’s attention today, it should be about evolving a society that creates opportunities for our youths and challenge their psyche in terms of not only how they see themselves, but also how the outside world perceives them. I have been worried that though the Nigerian society has not always been optimal in value creation, especially for the youths, things have degenerated, with today’s youths significantly disadvantaged. If it was bad in my days, the situation today does not inspire hope”.
Despite the nation’s numerous challenges, the human capacity building guru said, “there are opportunities, especially as regards the harnessing of knowledge to invent unique solutions and develop skill sets that are local in demand, but nationally relevant and globally competitive. I am therefore certain that you hold the ace to propel this state’s and indeed Nigeria’s development, creating significant value and impacting humanity positively”.
He said, with Udom Emmanuel administration making deliberate effort to diversify from oil, and given that his administration is adopting technology-based processes to enhance governance and administrative procedures, “I see an opportunity for young Akwa Ibom’s technopreneurs to come up with innovative ideas to help the government meet its objectives”.
On how to overcome some of the challenges in Nigeria, Inoyo said, “I think the starting point is to acknowledge that the current employment space is too small and choking for your intellect, skills, and potential. Neither are you cut out for the unfortunately, evolving temptation to hang around politically inclined jobs and appointments, which we all know are not sustainable in the long run. Additionally, Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $514 billion (nominal) relative to a population growth rate of 2.6 percent (2019) is not enough to support our socio-economic needs.
“That, therefore, means you must not only succeed here but must be willing to explore new frontiers to test and market your capabilities. You must be smart to access multiple frontiers with promising economic opportunities and must be determined to break technological barriers, crippling self-doubt, and forging ahead with appealing dispositions. Never say it cannot be done!”
He concluded with a challenge; “My young friends, this is a journey into the future. You hold the key to unlocking the economic opportunities in Akwa Ibom State and in solving our local problems, thereby creating a more comfortable life for our people. In the process, you will make money, good money, and legitimately too. Be assured that on this voyage, as you walk with integrity, hard work, and diligence, you will never walk alone”.
In his opening address, Johnson (the organiser) who was full of praises for Inoyo Toro Foundation for sponsoring the tech week, bemoaned, “you have redefined support and the impact will be trans-generational as we have been hungry for such in our quest for global success in a digital economy”..
He said, “the Akwa Ibom of our dreams is a smart city with a thriving innovation ecosystem driven by local content. We know this is possible because if we can dream it, we can achieve it. We cannot achieve this effectively without government and academia working together with the private sector for the common good of the people”.
Making reference to the EFInA data, he said that “36 percent of Nigerian adults or 38 million adults, remain completely financially excluded. When data like this give us reason to proffer solutions, the regulatory landscape says otherwise. Not just in finance but power, education and other sectors. Where regulations don’t stifle, there will be an infrastructure deficit but we still believe we can position ourselves for global success in the 21st century”.