Simbi Wabote: Nigeria is fertile for solutions-driven entrepreneurs
By Pelu Awofeso
One of the keynote speakers at the just concluded 2021 JCI Nigeria Africa and The Middle East (AMESA) Summit, and Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote, has said that the youths in Africa hold the key to the continent’s economic and technological advancement.
However, to tap into and channel that rich and resourceful pool of human resource to these ends requires visionary leadership, not just in politics but across various strata of society.
Where’s the Leadership
“We have them in politics, royalty, religion, business, sports, academics, and even in music and arts,” he said while speaking on the topic: “’Leadership, Youth, Entrepreneurship and Regional Cooperation”, adding that: “The circle of leadership influence could be amongst a group of friends, in a classroom, in a village, nation, or across dynasties.”
Nigeria, the host nation of the summit, he argues is replete with great leaders, past and present, who serve as role models and continue to be the leading light in forming and shaping the direction of the country.
Delegates included JCI members from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Jordan, Southern Africa, Togo, Turkey and Western Europe.
“I dare say that we need to cultivate leadership qualities if we are to succeed in our endeavours. It is this quality that gets someone to be spotted for promotion into the role of a supervisor amongst his/her peers in an office. It is what makes a business idea mooted in the corner of a room become a conglomerate of international repute,” he said.
What follows is an excerpt from his presentation.
I am proud to say that Nigeria is full of leaders making their marks in their various fields. Many of the Nigerian JCI Senators in the room and online are making their marks in various fields of endeavour. I relate with some of you personally and I know the wonderful works you are doing as leaders. I celebrate you all and congratulate you for being part of this program and showing the light to our Jaycees.
Youth, in the context of Nigeria, is defined by the National Youth Policy of 2019 as people between the ages of 18 to 29 years.
Embracing the age of technology
The youth population of Nigeria can be conservatively estimated to be over 55% of the entire population of Nigeria. Hence with an estimated population of over 200 million, there are 110 million youths.
This indeed underscores the need for most of the government’s policy to be centred on youths as they are the largest demographic group among the entire Nigerian population.
One of the questions that bother me is how do we keep this huge number of youths occupied? I am worried that we are gradually losing the means of keeping them engaged in useful activities. For example, we need to rethink how we connect with the youth out there so that they come in droves to join JCI Nigeria or any other youth groups.
I know most of the JCI Senators here, including myself, are not part of the TikTok generation but we need to support the young ones here on how to reach and connect to their colleagues out there.
We must adapt our modus operandi to reflect the era of technology we are in. Even the era of technology, websites are slowly giving way to social media sites where your reach is determined by the content you push out and your influence is gauged by your followership.
I call on the current Exco and members of JCI Nigeria to come up with strategies to pull many of the youths out there into our fold. We are full of contents, we are not boring, we groom leaders, and we are Jaycees!
As I move to discuss entrepreneurship, permit me to read out our creed that says: We Believe: That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life; That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations; That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise; That government should be of laws rather than of men; That earth’s great treasure lies in human personality.
What a beautiful creed! Let me draw your attention to the part that states that ‘economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise’. Did you know that Free enterprise is the godfather of entrepreneurship? This creed requires that the entrepreneurial mindset should be in the DNA of all Jaycees without any reservation.
All over the world, entrepreneurs, especially the small and medium scale enterprises are the backbone of all thriving economies and Nigeria is no exception. For instance, 96% of all businesses in Nigeria are owned by SMEs. Similarly, SMEs are responsible for 84% of employment while they contribute 48% to the national GDP of Nigeria.
The environment in Nigeria is free and fertile for entrepreneurs.
For any society to prevent falling into decline, the mantle of leadership and entrepreneurship must fall on the youths from time to time. It is the ideas and energy of the youth that enables us to do some amazing things today such as being able to connect with someone in the other end of the globe within seconds.
I believe that there are young minds with such creativities, and even much more, seated in this room. I encourage you to go after your passion and avoid the crew that only complains about everything without any solution; they will only drag you into depression.
One simple idea I can give you is to create a business model around anything or any situation you dislike rather than complain and quarrel over it. Turn your anger model to solution model for goodness and enterprise.
Whether it is the nuisance of mosquitoes, the disgust you feel when you see heaps of refuse or pot-holes on our streets, or developing car-pooling app to decongest the road of too many vehicles, I encourage you to see every challenge or problem as an opportunity to wear your entrepreneurship cap to help human kind in your own little way and also prosper while solving the problem.
The AfCFTA Advantage
Regarding regional cooperation, the commencement of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is the next big evolution of cooperation at the regional and continental levels. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened the momentum of the roll-out, the agreement represents a huge opportunity for African countries to put their house in order to derive maximum benefits from AfCFTA in the energy and other sectors of their economies.
With the world’s largest free trade area and a 1.2billion-person market, AfCFTA opens up a new horizon for many decades to come.
My day job at the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB)is how to put strategies in place to get more and more entrepreneurs to heed the call to invest locally to deepen local content practice in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry as well as enhance patronage of those investments.
Some highlights of the initiatives we have delivered to create conducive business environment for entrepreneurs and employment opportunities are as follows:
- Completion and commissioning of our 17-storey headquarters building complete with 1,000-seat auditorium and multi-level car park;
- Completion of 10MW power plant for supply of electricity to our new headquarters building;
- Completion and commissioning of the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery; three (3) other modular refineries are nearing completion
- Creation of the $300million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund managed by BOI and another $100million fund for Working Capital and for Women in Oil and Gas in partnership with NEXIM Bank;
- Launch of the $50million Nigerian Content Research & Development Fund
Lastly, please feel free to complain bitterly about any situation you don’t like but I implore you to kindly put on you thinking cap make money out of it in a legitimate way.
According to Peter Drucker, “the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity”. Let us be the change we wish to see.