Young professionals gathered to learn new ways to think about economics and social restructuring as they seek practical solutions to national issues. Timi Olagunju, 30, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Lagos in Nigeria, took part and reports on the conference.
Fully armed with the concrete conviction that “no problem can be solved with the level of consciousness that created it”, young professionals from academia, politics, business, and civil society gathered on a Saturday in March to discuss the current economic downturn and uprising in different part of Nigeria, corruption in government, national restructuring, and unemployment.
During his opening remarks, Dr. Charles Odionye, convener of the ‘UpRise Africa’ Conference, stated that “with the recent economic downturn, joblessness, and fall in oil prices, it is becoming increasingly key for young people to acquire and develop skills, ideate, align forces in order to become producers, job creators, and exporters.”
Dr. Odionye, who also doubles as the founder of AfriWell Initiative and IWell Consulting, continued: “The era of complaining is over, we must begin to proffer practical solutions through innovations to the different socioeconomic-health problems we face.”
One of the key speakers was the youngest member of parliament in one of the states in Nigeria, Chima Obieze. He took a historical look at the Nigerian state from when Nigeria gained independence in 1960 until the present, and dissected the word ‘Uprise’ to mean a situation in which someone or a group of persons who have been docile, tolerant and quiet over a situation decides to ‘come up’, ‘rise up’, ‘stand up’, ‘arise’, ‘resurrect’, or ‘spring up’ to challenge the status quo.
In this case, the status quo means “misleaders and bad governments, that have mounted the saddles of leadership across Africa, over the years, leaving no trail of hope for younger generations,” according to Chima, who said “I propose a revolution of the mind”. He made an open call to young people to register in political parties and contest for political offices across the continent, where possible.
I had opportunity to be another of the key speakers, in my role as Co-Founder, Nigerian Youths in Motion (NYM) and recipient of the President Obama Award for Young African Leaders. My remarks echoed the tripartite matrimony among problems, solution, and wealth. My message to participants is that ‘nations remain poor because the citizens see problems as problems, not as opportunity to create solutions and wealth’.
Prosper Prince Ogbonna, the youngest faculty member of Onitsha Business School, took the participants through the Opportunity Identification and Creation process. He distinguished thinking from reasoning: thinking being the ability to create solutions from a problem, whilst reasoning being the ability to analyse problems and infer deductions (not solutions). According to him, most literate Africans are taught to reason (generate logical deductions), but rarely think (generate value and wealth; solutions). He stated the need for young people to start thinking by rethinking the processes, products, and services we encounter on our daily basis.
Sir Dr. Bejoe Okeke, a World Bank consultant, awakened the financial and investment potential in Conference participants. He stated the need for fiscal discipline, and pledged to help the participants facilitate low interest loans for their growing business.
Leonard Nwadike, founder of the nonprofit GOYED, took the young people through the several portals for mobilising funds for startup businesses and nonprofits both locally and internationally. He emphasised the need for young people to focus on developing viable ideas first and applying the principles of evaluative thinking to their ideas.
Finally, Dr. Charles Odionye, the convener, echoed the need for ‘Mind revolution and innovation’ and pledged to start from Onitsha in Nigeria.
“We hope to train and engage over 10,000 young people in different skills and impact projects within the next five years. We have different platforms to do so. Currently we run ‘AfriWell Role Model Forum (ARMF)’ and Innovation to Impact (ITI) Academy,” he said.
Several participants provided concrete feedback and comments. For instance, Mmesoma Nwoye said, “I am impressed to see this amazing programme, converging young people across the nation in the commercial city of Onitsha.”
Chidi Valentine, one of the event coordinators, stated “I believe that UpRise Africa, will help enhance the development of Nigeria and Africa at large. We are blessed with a youthful population, so we need to stimulate innovation and skill acquisition in all spheres,” while Ms. Chinyere Eze, a ‘YouWin’ awardee and CEO Crescendo Entertainment said “the time is now for over 100 million economically active young people in Nigeria to Rise up and force their way to relevance. We must begin to innovate, network, and add value to our community, then money will come”.
Reach me on Twitter @timithelaw
Photo credit: courtesy of Timi Olagunju
About me: I give leverage to your voice in the Courts of Law and in the Courts of Public Opinion. I do this as a Legal Practitioner, Public Policy analyst and as an author, majoring in human rights, public policy and information technology law.
I am a graduate of the University of and the Nigerian Law School. An avid public policy analyst and advocate of change, I speak and write about legal and socio-economic topics, entrepreneurship and IT law. LinkedIn: Timi Olagunju e: firstname.lastname@example.org t: @timithelaw #TACTS
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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