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Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo

Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo says young Nigerians are achieving big things outside politics

Nigeria’s Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo has challenged Nigerians youths to attain new goals and reach frontiers, stressing that, many young Nigerians are building the nation outside politics.

Speaking at The Platform Nigeria Event, held at The Covenant Place, Iganmu, Lagos, Osinbajo some Nigerian youths faithfully have contributed to building of Nigeria’s economy.

Noting that they have increased “our national pride and confidence, created opportunities for others, as well as, inspired others to be the best they can be.

He then narrated how he embarked on a tour to businesses owned by young Nigerians. “On the 17th of April, I did a tour of technology businesses and hubs. Paystack was my first stop; here is a safe payment system, which offers seamless money transactions between businesses and their customers.

“It was established in 2016, in the midst of the recession, by two young Nigerian alumni of Babcock University; Sola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi. Within the first three months of 2018, they have processed over N3billion and they generate about 40billion annually for Nigerian businesses.

“The company is today powering over 9000 businesses that did not exist two years ago, creating over 25,000 jobs. Paystack has over 50 employees, all under 35 years old.

“I was also at Andela; a multinational company specializing in training software developers, co-founded by Nigerian-born Iyin Aboyeji, Ian Carnevale, Jeremy Johnson and Christina Sass.

“The company estimates that in the next 10 years, there will be 1.3million software development jobs, and only 40,000 computer science graduates to fill them.

“The company’s vision is to change the culture of Nigeria and the African continent, by developing talent and potential in Nigeria. Today, the company today has 1000 employees worldwide.

Osinbajo said to enable that to happen, government’s role was to mainstream technology start-ups, to be able to benefit from the incentives of industry.

“Kola Oyeneyin’s Venia Business Hub, another point I visited, is one of the earliest business hubs in Nigeria. He has provided an efficient environment for many start-ups, most of who use each other’s skills and technology cooperatively.

“But the pioneer of Nigerian hubs is clearly the Co-Creation Hub or CCHub founded in 2010, by two young social entrepreneurs, Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe. It provides a platform for innovative technology to solve social problems.

“Nearly 50 Nigerian tech driven businesses were incubated in CCHub. Some include the now famous BudgIt, Wecyclers, Genni Games, Lifebank, Gomyway, Vacantboards, Traclist, Autobox, Stutern, Gritsystems and Mamalette.

“All of these businesses were started by young men and women under thirty five. One of the start-ups that came out of Venia Hub is Flutterwave, founded in May 2016 by Iyin Aboyeji and a team of engineers and former bankers. This is a payment technology company that has since processed $2billion worth of transactions on its payment platforms.”

“Tayo Oviosu’s Paga is in a class by itself. It is the leading mobile money transfer service in Nigeria. Paga has 11,000 agents across Nigeria and 6 million users.

“The company has staff strength of 200 and by facilitating payments for goods and services in this way; Paga has enabled several businesses and transactions to take place.

In healthcare, many young people are solving huge problems with ease. Temi Giwa’s Lifebank and Ola Orekunrin’s Flying Doctors are two start-ups using technology and innovation to fill critical gaps in our healthcare industry.

Lifebank works on the blood shortage problem in hospitals, and save lives by speeding up blood donations and delivery to hospitals in Lagos. Their Lifebank app connects and ensures delivery of blood within 55 minutes.

“Ola Orekunrin’s flying doctors is the first air operated emergency medical service in West Africa. Her company provides air ambulances from a pool of 20 aircrafts, and highly trained medical personnel for emergency evacuations.

“The building of a self-reliant nation must mean that the nation should at least be able to feed itself. The response of many young Nigerians to the call of government to grow what we eat and eat what we grow, and also to diversify our economy, is responsible for the phenomenal growth we have experienced in the past three years in the agricultural sector.

The transformation in productivity and increase in investment that Nigerian talent and entrepreneurship have brought to agriculture, is truly remarkable.

“Farmcrowdy is a digital agriculture portal that crowdsources funding for farms across Nigeria. Founded in 2016 by Onyeka Akumah and three other young Nigerians; it operates like a mutual fund, pooling together money from multiple investors to establish farms and hire smallholder farmers to cultivate them, and then paying the investors dividends from the harvests from these farms. In December 2017, it succeeded in raising US$1m in capital funding.

“From November 2016 till date, it has over 3000 rural farmers, all have been able to keep a job, expand their farm operations and increase their revenue, as a result of intervention by Farmcrowdy.

“Farmers like Sunday Ohimai, who is a cassava farmer in Edo State, Esther a maize farmer from Dorowa-Babuje, just outside Jos, who recently improved her small acreage to a hectare. Uka Eje’s Thrive Agric in Abuja, uses the same business model as Farmcrowdy also with great success.

Four years before Farmcrowdy, in 2012, Yemisi Iranloye founded Psaltry; a cassava processing company in the rural town of Ado Awaye.

The starch it produces from the processed cassava is now used by several leading Nigerian food manufacturing companies, including Nestle, Unilever and Nigerian Breweries, as they increasingly replace imported starch with locally-sourced varieties.

Psaltry was one of the companies that found growth opportunities in the midst of the recession, as companies cut down on imports and explored locally available substitution. In 2015, its revenues grew three-fold, and in 2016 it began building a second production line.

There is also Abdul Fatah Sadiq Murtala, 25, from Batagarawa local government in Katsina State. He founded Brio Green Agro Nigeria in 2016. It builds greenhouses and hydroponic systems.

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in the growth chambers without soil. Brio Green is producing Animal fodder feed in a climate-controlled facility, year round using this technology. Brio Green Agro supplies farms and ranches with fodder feed across the country.

Kola Masha’s Babban Gona supports smallholder farmers in Northern Nigeria with financing, agricultural input, training and marketing.

Masha is leveraging his experience in both the private and public sectors, to deliver solutions that are changing the lives of thousands of struggling farmers like Umar Magaji. He is a 35-year-old farmer, who owns 1.5 hectares and, as of this year, leases another 2.5 hectares.

He plans to increase to a further 2 hectares next year. Thanks to Babban Gona, he says, his yields are two to three times what they once were. He has refurbished his house, bought a motorcycle and enrolled his children in the village school. He is hopeful he can perform the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia within the next two years.

Angela Adelaja, founder of Fresh Direct, has perfected an innovative approach to farming, in disused containers, without soil and with very little water. What she’s doing could very well be the beginning of a farming revolution in Nigeria.

“Also while visiting the Workstation Hub in Victoria Island, I had the pleasure of drinking Sola Ladoja’s fresh juice named “pick me up”. It is made by his start up called Simply Green.

Simply Green is a farm-to-bottle raw organic cold press juice company. They use organic and technologically harvested practices, meaning no chemicals or pesticides are used in growing their fruits and vegetables. This is the kind of innovation that young people have brought to agriculture.

In beauty and high fashion, there is very little doubt that young Nigerians have captured, and in some instances, dominated local and international imagination.

So the ground-breaking pioneering works of Deola Sagoe and Lisa Folawiyo have spawned a whole new generation of Nigerian designers, who are confidently using Nigerian and African print, to make bold and unmistakable statements in high fashion.

So today, Deola Sagoe has transformed the traditional Yoruba Iro and Buba, by using laser cut Aso-Oke to create the now famous “Komole”, the toast of brides across the country.

Lisa Folawiyo has on her part, has taken beaded African print to new levels of creativity, and both of them have inspired a new generation of designers like, Andrea Iyama, and 31-year-old Amaka Osakwe, who owns the Maki oh! Brand started at the age of 23.

She is now celebrated in Vogue magazine and last year in the New Yorker, she was celebrated as West Africa’s most daring designer. Her use of Adire in many collections is an intentional ploy to boldly redefine elements of culture. There are also others such as Orange Culture, Mai Atafo, are also literarily making waves in Men’s clothing.

In the beauty industry, Tara Fela-Durotoye, founder of the House of Tara and Banke Meshida, BM-PRO, stand out as pioneers who have influenced a whole generation of beauty experts, and beauty products.

They have opened a new vista in bridal make up. Tara’s training of hundreds of beauty experts and franchising of her House of Tara, has created a whole new indigenously Nigerian beauty industry. This has created thousands of jobs for beauty experts and retailers.

So now we see more ladies with their contours and highlights popping! Elaine Edozien Sobanjo of Shomaya and Joyce Jacob have also introduced Hollywood glamour to the Nigerian wedding make up industry.

By the way, what celebration today can beat the Nigerian wedding? From the makeup, dresses, to the decor, catering, cakes, party planning, and the photography; a whole new industry has developed around weddings by creative young people making an otherwise memorable event, even more memorable, and linking ethnicities across the country in fashion and ceremony.

Today everyone, Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, wear Aso Ebi, their wedding ceremonies are becoming increasingly similar, not by a uniformity that results in loss of culture or tradition, but by a creativity, that brings a standard while accentuating tradition and culture.

The whole nature of the moderation, yet preservation of the traditional engagement ceremony, is such testament to the depth of thought and creativity of those young Nigerians who are internationalizing our wedding ceremonies. The Nigerian wedding has become so popular that film Wedding Party, was a major international commercial success.

It is perhaps in the literary arts, especially the written and spoken word that we see the difficult issues of nation building most poignantly confronted by young people. A new generation of literary torchbearers has emerged.

Talents like Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila, Teju Cole, Chika Unigwe, Chigozie Obioma, Chibundu Onuzo, Abubakar Ibrahim, Eghosa Imasuen, Ayobami Adebayo, Elnathan John, and many more, poets like Titilope Sonuga, Dike Chukwumerije, picking up the baton from the Soyinkas and the Achebes.

Their works expose the complications and the solutions to the issues associated with the mentality of persons in the post-colonial state; how a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society can thrive and survive. And how the major questions that emerge from these records and histories, can be used to build a nation.

The reflection and introspection from their talents, boldness, precision, undiluted expressions and call to action, invoke in us all, exactly what nation building and greatness is made of.

They are not timid, and they represent a growing class of sophistication and confidence that confront lingering post-civil war and even post-colonial aches and pains. They highlight the hypocrisy of ethno-religious barriers often set by the elite, for selfish advantage, and expose the underlying selfishness and failure of statesmanship, that exploits fault lines for political and personal benefit.

They highlight the cancer of systemic corruption, how it has eaten into the fabric of our society and cost us lives, years and retrogression. These writers and poets explore, explain and humanize the difficult issues around social justice, the humiliation and delegitimization that poverty brings, and the failures of the rule of law.

In Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, one of the main characters, a University Professor, tells his houseboy: “There are two answers to the things they will teach you about our land: the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass. You must read books and learn both answers. I will give you books, excellent books. They will teach you that a white man called Mungo Park discovered River Niger. That is rubbish. Our people fished in the Niger long before Mungo Park’s grandfather was born. But in your exam, write that it was Mungo Park.”

This reminds me of one of the proverbs that Chinua Achebe popularized: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” An affirmation of the truth that nation-building is to a large extent about storytelling and the importance of telling our own stories and writing our own histories.

Aniete Isong’s book called Radio Sunrise is a scathing indictment of bribery in the Journalism profession. The watchdogs of our democracy are sometimes mere captives of corrupt politicians and that news and its analysis may often be paid for.

There is no doubt, from what Aniete Isong’s says in her book, and also from experience, that grand corruption remains the most enduring threat to our economy. Just to give an example, three billion US dollars was stolen in the so called Strategic Alliance contracts sometime in 2013. Three Nigerians were responsible. Today, 3 billion dollars is 1trillion naira, and our entire budget, which is an estimate, not the actual cash is 7 trillion! If three people made away with 1 trillion naira and the entire national budget is 7 trillion, you can’t wonder, how come it is that the economy will struggle.

When oil in our country was selling at 100 -114 dollars a barrel, the government then spent 99 billion on Power, Works and Housing (separate ministries then), transport and agriculture got 15billion and 14billion respectively, in total all three ministries got 139billion.

Today with all prices between 60 and 70, Power Works and Housing 415 billion, Transportation 80 billion, 65 billion for Agriculture and a total of 560 billion. How come we can do more with less income? How come we are investing in infrastructure? How come we have started Lagos Kano Standard Gauge railway, the Mambilla Hydro, the second Niger Bridge with 60% less income that we earned a few years ago? The truth is, just as Isong said, if you control corruption, you can do more with far less.

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