Tasking Nigerian government agencies to improve performance – Part 1

In a recent conversation with a group of friends, I posited that although we may all agree that the buck stops at the desk of the President of the country or the Governor of a state, many government agencies in Nigeria have been constitutionally created to deliver interventions and other public services. The actions and inactions of government agencies and parastatals affect us daily, sometimes positively and, on occasion, negatively.

There are various ways through which government agencies and parastatals affect the economy and the society in general. These institutions provide direct services and assistance to members of the public; they regulate and control various economic and non-economic activities; they also provide stabilization and foster growth of the economy. Each government agency was created to carry out at least one of the above-mentioned functions. While the agencies themselves are under the oversight of the various ministries, Nigerians should demand optimal performance from them.

Oftentimes, not enough public attention is put on these agencies. As a result, their performances or the lack thereof are not discussed enough to ensure they are working efficiently and living up to their constitutional duties and responsibilities. If this is done, various agencies should be held accountable for poor service delivery and weak implementation of government policies.

This article will provide the first part of my overview on some government agencies. This month, I will examine three agencies that are very important to the socio-economic development of the country. I will look at why they were created, how they have fared and how their poor performance affects us all.

National Orientation Agency

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) is one of the important agencies in Nigeria. For a multicultural country like Nigeria, the importance of setting up the NOA cannot be overemphasised. For one thing, most observers would agree that civic education, political education as well as putting out the appropriate information are necessary components in driving appropriate citizens’ participation in the political process. Unfortunately, knowledge of all these are limited in the Nigerian polity.

According to the NOA’s website, the main objectives of the agency, as provided for in Decree 100 of 1993, include ensuring that government programmes and policies are better understood by the general public; encouraging informal education through public enlightenment activities and publications; awakening the consciousness of Nigerians to their responsibilities with regard to promoting national unity, among other responsibilities.

However, the archaic nature of NOA’s website, which has not been updated in recent times, tells anyone that visits the site that the agency is not even fulfilling one of its basic functions, which is to mobilize favourable public opinion and support for government programmes and policies.

The NOA is supposed to be the de facto translator of government policies by breaking down the policies for better comprehension by every Nigerian. In an era of fake news driven by the ubiquity of the internet, and mistrust of government caused by the failure of previous administrations, there is no better time for the NOA to be more effective.

In my conversation with friends as I alluded to earlier, someone made a remark that I found intriguing. He opined that the Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) – created during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and later metamorphosed into NOA – was far more effective than the current NOA.

To some extent, I agree with him. So, when you see Nigerian citizens who don’t know their rights and are struggling to understand government polices, blame it on the NOA.

Universal Basic Education Commission

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is a federal government agency saddled with the responsibility of coordinating all the aspects of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme. The programme was introduced in 1999 and aimed at providing greater access to basic education as well as ensuring its quality.

Amongst the functions and objectives of the UBE programme are free formal basic education; compulsory, uninterrupted nine years of primary and junior secondary school education; introduction of the rudiments of computer literacy; and community ownership of schools, including participation in decision-making process in the schools.

State Universal Basic Education Boards (also known as SUBEBs) are the states’ equivalent of UBEC. SUBEBs are saddled with the responsibility of administering the basic education programme and policies of the state governments in line with the Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education Act of 2004. SUBEBs oversee Early Childcare Development and Education (ECCDE), the six years of primary education, and three years of junior secondary education in the states.

Without mincing words, the UBEC and SUBEBs have failed in their objectives. SUBEBs have now been reduced to contract-sharing bodies, which governors of some states use to appease political associates. Sham contracts are awarded to provide sub-standard renovation of some schools. Sadly, the children of most of these governors never get to attend these schools.

SUBEBs, as currently structured, are set up to be inefficient. An ideal structure would be to give local governments full responsibility to run basic primary education as it’s obtained in most developed countries. For instance, Japan has three levels of government. They are the national, prefectural and municipal governments. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for the education system from early childhood to upper secondary school, including establishing national curriculum standards, setting teacher and administrator certification programmes, as well as pay scales. It is also responsible for developing requirements for setting up schools.

MEXT allocates funding to prefectural and municipal authorities for administering schools. Municipalities are responsible for the supervision and the day-to-day operation of schools. This system enables better early educational outcomes. Therefore, when you see primary schools in Nigeria in poor shape and they have poorly trained teachers, it is because of the failure of UBEC and the SUBEBs in the states.

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was established in 1993. It was created by Decree 15 of 1993 and amended by Decree 19 of 1999. The current enabling law is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. NAFDAC proclaims that its vision is “safeguarding public health.”

Its functions, as provided in the enabling law, include regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devises, packaged water, amongst others. The lives of Nigerians and Nigerian residents are literally in the hands of NAFDAC.

While the agency has historically performed well in terms of reducing the proliferation of fake drugs and tackling drug abuse, Nigerian citizens continue to die from drug abuse, consumption of contaminated food items and fake drugs. It is quite popular now to find the marketing and promotion of non-approved creams, weight loss mixtures and sex-enhancing mixtures online and in retail stores. No one can really say how safe these mixtures are. Many families have lost their loved ones due to fake medications purchased online and from drug stores.

Clearly, NAFDAC needs to do more in safeguarding public health. In a country where qualitative healthcare is limited both in terms of access and availability, the only palliative is effective and stringent regulation to safeguard the health of the Nigerian people. The next time you hear someone lost his or her life from using fake drugs, put the blame on NAFDAC.

Let us imagine for a moment what it would look like if these three agencies improved their service provision to an optimal level. Nigerians must endeavour to put a spotlight on these agencies to ensure they live up to their statutory responsibilities.


Posted in Africa, Canada, Governance, Government Agency, Parastatals, Public Sector | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nigerian start-ups need government support

In my column in the May 2019 edition of this publication, I posited that entrepreneurship education (EE) and government support for start-ups are key factors that have set the United States and China apart as the world’s entrepreneurial powers. Government support is very important to the survival, growth and sustainability of the start-up ecosystem in those countries. Sadly, the Nigerian government has not started doing enough to support start-up activities in the country.

Start-ups have been variously defined as companies in “the first stage” of their operations and “initially bankrolled by their entrepreneurial founders” (Investopedia); or “fledgling business” enterprises (Merriam-Webster). Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and CEO of Warby Parker, an American online retail company, defined a start-up as “a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” The start-up process can take a long period of time. A company that has operated for five years could still be regarded as a start-up.

With recent developments in the Nigerian start-up ecosystem, it is evidently clear that government support will be of immense benefit to both the start-ups and the economy in general. Even without government support, Nigerian start-ups have created new frontiers, disrupted existing markets and created several jobs. So strong is the impact of the Nigerian start-ups that they got the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, who visited Lagos three years ago. That was his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. The highlight of his trip was his visit to Yaba, an area of Lagos that is now widely regarded as the Silicon Valley of Nigeria. Zuckerberg met with about 50 local start-up founders at the Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), the city’s innovation centre.

In June of that same year, two months before the Facebook founder visited Lagos, his foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, invested $24 million in Andela, a start-up that trains software developers in Africa. In November 2017, Facebook announced some initiatives to further drive innovation, skills development and economic impact across Nigeria. In May 2018, NG_HUB was launched in Yaba, Lagos.

The hub, an aspect of Facebook’s Nigeria initiatives, has a virtual reality lab, a creator lab, and a co-working space. It brings together developers, startups, and the wider community to share their ideas, skills, and time. The hub promised to train and support 50,000 students, SMES and entrepreneurs across the country through series of digital skills training.

In terms of government’s efforts to support entrepreneurship, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, inaugurated the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group of the Nigeria Industrial and Competitiveness Advisory Council in June 2018. The group was given a charge to draw up a roadmap for promoting the technology and creative sectors to enable the sectors create jobs, contribute to economic growth and improve the well-being of Nigerians.

When the council was created in 2017, it had 50 members, including 28 tech entrepreneurs. Some of them accompanied the Vice President to Silicon Valley in a bid to attract foreign investment into the Nigerian technology ecosystem.

The Vice President’s office is also in charge of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which introduced Startup Nigeria – an intervention programme whose aim is to support innovation hubs and help to increase entrepreneurial and innovation capacity across the country. Nevertheless, we are yet to see a concrete plan from the government regarding support for start-ups.

Nigerian start-ups are creating value for the society, including supporting one of the government’s prime agenda of job creation. A couple of months ago, I was introduced to PiggyVest (formerly called Piggybank). PiggyVest is a financial technology start-up that allows users to save money through its platform. Founded by Odunayo Eweniyi and Joshua Chibueze, the company has raked in $1.2 million in funding since it started. I enrolled on the platform and frankly, nothing in my adult life has been more helpful in terms of savings. The company has grown its registered members to about 195,000 with over N1 billion in monthly savings.

Then, there is Paystack, which provides online and offline payment services to businesses across Africa. The fintech has grown to process nearly 15% of all online payments in the region. It has also raked in about $11.7 million in funding, mostly from venture capitalists. Mines.io, a digital consumer credit platform for emerging markets, has received $17.2 million in funding.

These start-ups are not restricted to the fintech sector. They exist in agribusiness, healthcare and transportation sectors. Recently, Kobo360, a logistics start-up founded in 2017, raised a total of $30 million in funding for expansion. Its $20 million Series A round was led by Goldman Sachs. The remaining $10 million was working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks. Considered to be the Uber of freight logistics, the company uses its app to connect truckers and companies.

Developments in the growing e-logistics and transport space saw the launch of ORide, a bike hailing app, in May 2019. ORide’s parent company, OPay, a mobile-based platform for payment, received $50 million from Chinese and American venture capitalists in July 2019. The introduction of ORide is a pivotal moment in the emerging Nigerian motorbike hailing market. Other players in the market are Max and GOkada.

Other start-ups providing solutions in various sectors include Thrive Agric and FarmCrowdy in the agricultural sector; LifeBank in the health sector; Estate Intel in the real estate sector; and KiaKia in the lending and credit sector. The existence of these companies is indication of the compelling opportunities for investment and job creation in the start-up sector. The government cannot afford to treat the sector with short shrift.

Singapore has become a regional powerhouse for technology because it is backed by a supportive government. Recently, the government announced that it has set aside $29 million to support 5G research and innovation to drive the island nation’s aspiration of becoming a 5G innovation hub. Singapore’s government policy is to combine business-friendly policies with heavy investment in the tech sector.

Acknowledging that access to capital is very paramount to start-ups, the country rolled out series of funding schemes to help start-up companies at different stages of growth. Two of the schemes are the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) start-up grant, which provides about S$50,000 seed funding for early stage start-ups; and the IDM Jump-start and Mentor (i.JAM), which grants between S$50,000 to S$200,000 to start-ups through government-appointed private sector incubators. The start-ups must demonstrate their proof-of-concept.

Aside funding, the government of Singapore supports start-ups by providing an environment for innovations to thrive. The country has a commitment to keep research and development (R&D) spending at 1% of GDP. Furthermore, it has pledged to invest US$14 billon into scientific and technological research as part of its Research Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.

In India, the Narendra Modi government has come up with several initiatives to support start-ups and foster a culture of innovation. The government has ensured that there are policy initiatives geared towards helping start-ups to raise funds for growth and expansion. Amongst the government initiatives are the Start-up India, launched in 2016. The initiative promotes and assists entrepreneurship by mentoring, nurturing and facilitating start-ups through every stage of their development.

There is also the Digital India which was setup to make all government services accessible electronically. The primary aim is to build India as a digitally-empowered society and knowledge economy.

Governments around the world continue to build strategic programmes to attract innovative start-ups and talents to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture in their respective countries. The start-up dream has become the new chase. You do not have to be a citizen of a country to be eligible. All that is required is to start your venture in the country. Start-up Chile was created by the Chilean government to attract early stage and high-potential entrepreneurs to help bootstrap their start-ups, using Chile as a platform to go global. Funding ranges from $15,000 to $90,000.

Start-ups and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED), an acceleration initiative of the Minas Gerais state government of Brazil, supports both local and international entrepreneurs to develop tech-based projects. Funding ranges between $21,000 to $25,000. The French Tech Ticket is a French government initiative created to attract gifted and ambitious individuals from all around the world to start their start-ups in France. The funding for the programme is $48,000.

Sweden has proven to be the most ambitious of all when it comes to supporting start-ups. Little wonder most of the notable start-ups like Spotify, Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga, Skype and Soundcloud started there. The country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and the capital, Stockholm, is the world’s second most virile tech hub on a per capita basis, behind Silicon Valley. The country’s average internet speed is only bettered by Norway and South Korea. More than 60% of the country has access to a superfast fibre optic broadband and that figure is projected to rise to 90% in 2020.

Nigeria is among countries with the highest cost of mobile data as a percentage of average income. Despite these hurdles, the country remains a top destination for start-up funding in Africa, coming only second to South Africa. According to WeeTracker, a leading African media company, South Africa attracted about $241 million in start-up funding in 2018, while Nigeria attracted about $134 million during the same period. Kenya came in third position with $111 million.

Nigerian governments at all levels must begin a policy shift towards supporting start-ups in their respective jurisdictions. They need to understand that the more start-ups they have, the more solutions, the more jobs, the more the revenue, and ultimately the more investments that will flow in.

The government must work with respective stakeholders to bring down the cost of data and increase the internet penetration rate. Government policies and programmes that help to promote access to credit for start-ups will be crucial in enhancing the country’s innovation capacity.

At a time when some of our youths are engaging in fraudulent acts via the internet, there is no better time to start directing their skills and passion to something more productive and fruitful. The government must realise that promoting start-ups will play a central role in achieving the country’s aspiration to become a top global economy.



Posted in Africa, Agriculture, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Fintech, Innovation, Lagos, Nigeria, Payment Solutions, Startups, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Startups 2019: The 25 hottest Canadian companies to work for now

The 2019 LinkedIn Top Startups list reveals the 25 hottest companies where Canadians want to work now.

With the 2nd annual Top Startups ranking, we uncover the breakout companies commanding professionals’ attention today: the ones that are growing massively, scrambling industries, shifting talent flows around the world and, often, altering how we work and live.
Our editors and data scientists parsed billions of actions generated by LinkedIn’s 645 million members — and looked at four pillars in particular: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from our flagship LinkedIn Top Companies list. To be eligible, companies must be 7 years old or younger, have at least 50 employees, be privately held and headquartered in Canada. (You can learn more about our methodology at the bottom of this article.)
Looking to land a job at one of these fast-growing companies? You can stay up to date on new postings by turning on job alerts for a curated list of these startups: Click here, add your desired job title or function, location and any other details, then toggle the job alert to “on.” You’ll get a notification when any new job goes live so you can be the first to jump at the opportunity.

1. Element A1
Headcount in Canada: 442 | Headquarters: Montreal | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Artificial Intelligence, Python, Machine Learning | Largest job functions: Research, Engineering, Business Development | What you should know: Element AI builds artificial intelligence-powered software for enterprises, including its first publicly available product that helps automate document reading and processing for businesses. For applicants with wanderlust, Element AI has open roles across the world, including in Paris and Singapore.

2. Wealthsimple
Headcount in Canada: 211 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Software Development, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Operations | What you should know: Wealthsimple aims to make investing simple and accessible to everyone by combining human financial advisors along with a low-fee, diverse portfolio that minimizes risks. The startup, which said it was closer to an IPO after a $75 million funding round in May, has 25 open positions across teams, including its brand, investments, product and production units.

3. Clearbanc
Headcount in Canada: 114 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: E-commerce, Digital Marketing, Finance | Largest job functions: Finance, Engineering, Business Development | What you should know: Clearbanc gives startups the money they need to grow without having to give up equity in their companies. Clearbanc, which aims to invest $1 billion across 2,000 companies this year, provides anywhere from $10,000 to $10 million to help young companies expand their marketing efforts and, ultimately, revenue. Instead of taking equity, Clearbanc sets up a revenue-share model and charges a percentage fee.

4. CCI
Headcount in Canada: 70* | Headquarters: Mississauga | Year founded: 2017 | Most common skills: Quality Assurance, Recruiting, Regulatory Affairs | Largest job functions: Legal, Sales, Human Resources | What you should know: Cannabis Compliance Inc. is one of Canada’s first consulting firms to advise on regulatory issues around cannabis. The startup not only helps companies gain government approvals and stay compliant, they also offer training for professionals who want to break into the industry. The startup has more than 10 open positions, including “Financial Controller” and “GM, Toxicology.”

5. League
Headcount in Canada: 200 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Health Care, Insurance, Software Development | Largest job functions: Engineering, Support, Business Development | What you should know: League has built a one-stop app for employees to access their lifestyle and health care benefits, streamlining everything from insurance details to unique company perks in an easy-to-use hub. The startup, which counts Unilever and Shopify as customers, is hiring for more than 30 positions across its teams with a focus on sales, product and engineering.

6. Drop
Headcount in Canada: 58 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: SQL, Analytics, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Marketing, Business Development | What you should know: Fintech startup Drop turns your everyday purchases — like Uber rides, coffee and groceries — into gift card rewards. Drop hires applicants from both startups and Fortune 500 companies to help grow its more than 3 million-member base. The startup is now hiring for 8 roles with a specific focus on engineering as it continues expanding its platform.
7. Connected
Headcount in Canada: 182 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Java, Software Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Product Management, Arts and Design | What you should know: Connected helps brands build better software products, partnering with them at any point in the product development lifecycle. If you’re looking to land one of its 8 open roles, be ready to show off your hard-earned skills. But, that’s not all Connected is looking for: The startup also seeks smart, kind and curious professionals, says Marketing Manager Kelly O’Hara.

8. Dialogue
Headcount in Canada: 315 | Headquarters: Montreal | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Health Care, Nursing, Software Development | Largest job functions: Health Care Services, Engineering, Sales | What you should know: Virtual health care startup Dialogue helps you and your family access therapists, nutritionists, nurses and more at the moment you need them. The startup has more than 30 open roles, hiring for health care professionals as well as sales, marketing and global operations expertise. Late-stage candidates can expect to complete and present a case study, an important moment to stand out with “out of the box” thinking, says COO and Co-founder Anna Chif.

9. Integrate.ai
Headcount in Canada: 71 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2017 | Most common skills: SQL, Python, Analytics | Largest job functions: Engineering, Research, Support | What you should know: Customer intelligence-platform integrate.ai — founded by former Facebook and Instagram executive Steve Irvine — uses AI to help create more meaningful digital interactions between people and businesses. To snag one of the startup’s 11 open roles, you’ll need to “love people,” one of its core values.

10. Ritual.co
Headcount in Canada: 226 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Java, Software Development | Largest job functions: Engineering, Operations, Sales | What you should know: Ritual makes paying for and picking up your order at more than 5,000 restaurant locations easier than ever through the concept of “social ordering” on its mobile app — and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Ritual is hiring for more than 60 positions with most open roles available on its engineering, operations and sales teams.

11. Mejuri
Headcount in Canada: 95 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: Adobe Photoshop, Merchandising, Digital Marketing | Largest job functions: Marketing, Arts and Design, Operations | What you should know: Mejuri sells fine jewelry — without the retail markups. The jewelry brand continues to dazzle: It recently opened its third brick-and-mortar store and raised US$23 million in Series B funding in April. The startup is continuing to grow rapidly and is now hiring for more than 20 roles, primarily across its retail and technology teams.

12. Ada
Headcount in Canada: 120 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Analytics, JavaScript, User Experience | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Business Development | What you should know: Ada, which has grown from two to 120 employees in three years, enables enterprises to create a seamless customer experience through its AI-powered chatbot platform. The startup has raised $21.5 million to date and is now on the hunt for 24 open roles as it scales its product, engineering and sales teams.

13. PathFactory
Headcount in Canada: 94* | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Analytics, Salesforce | Largest job functions: Sales, Engineering, Support | What you should know: PathFactory ultimately helps business-to-business companies nurture, educate and convert potential customers by improving how they consume company-created content, customizing it for each buyer using AI and in-depth analytics. PathFactory recently welcomed CEO Dev Ganesan, who has deep experience in the software-as-a-service and content management space.

14. Openacre
Headcount in Canada: 52 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, SQL, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineer, Business Development, Marketing | What you should know: Engineering and product teams are growing particularly quickly at Opencare, which aims to change the patient-health provider relationship by making preventative care as accessible and convenient as possible. Want to get in but don’t see the right job? “We encourage people to introduce themselves even if the job posting does not 100% match their skills,” says Mike Bettley, senior manager of talent acquisition.

15. Flybits
Headcount in Canada: 75 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Java, Software Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Business Development, Sales | What you should know: Flybits empowers banks to offer personalized and relevant financial services to their customers by combining bank data with contextual data, such as a customer’s location. The startup’s recent US$35 million in Series C funding has paved the way for even more growth with more than 20 open roles across Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., primarily in its technology and sales divisions.

16. Certarus
Headcount in Canada: 101 | Headquarters: Calgary | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Petroleum, Oil and Gas, Energy | Largest job functions: Operations, Accounting, Engineering | The basics: Certarus developed a “virtual natural gas pipeline” system that compresses, transports and integrates natural gas for the industrial sector, which ultimately helps lower operating costs and reduce the environmental impact as companies seek to displace diesel and propane projects. The energy startup has more than 40 jobs open across its Alberta, Ontario, and U.S. operations.

17. StackAdapt
Headcount in Canada: 132 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, User Experience | Largest job functions: Sales, Support, Engineering | What you should know: StackAdapt, a native advertising platform, is looking to hire 11 people across its teams, including marketing, platform quality and revenue — and not all the roles require a four-year college degree. “Often, relevant experience is more telling about candidates’ potential,” StackAdapt COO Vitaly Pecherskiy tells LinkedIn.

18. Loopio
Headcount in Canada: 114 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Software Development, User Experience, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Support | What you should know: Loopio’s software streamlines how to respond to requests for proposals, requests for information and security questionnaires, allowing internal teams at companies such as IBM to collaborate more efficiently. Between now and the end of the year, the startup plans to hire about 30 new team members across all functions, from marketing to engineering to sales, says Alexis Macdonald, senior director of people operations.

19. Collective Arts Brewing
Headcount in Canada: 115 | Headquarters: Hamilton | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Brewing, Sales Management, Social Media Marketing | Largest job functions: Sales, Operations, Accounting | What you should know: Collective Arts brings together the creative process of brewing craft beer with emerging artists and musicians. The self-described grassroots company is hiring for 10 open positions, including a brewer and a forecasting coordinator.
20. Ample Organics
Headcount in Canada: 94 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Software Development, SQL, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineer, Information Technology, Sales | What you should know: Ample Organics is a trailblazer in the burgeoning cannabis-software industry, which helps producers track everything from growth to clientele. The privately funded startup grew its employee base rapidly over the past year, though very recently had to scale back. The readjustment isn’t slowing the company down as CEO John Prentice expects its client base to continue to grow.

21. Swift Medical
Headcount in Canada: 85 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: Software Development, C++, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Information Technology, Business Development | What you should know: Swift Medical’s app can assess the severity of a skin wound with the wave of a smartphone, then help medical professionals streamline everything from tracking the healing progress to documentation and claims submission. Swift Medical is already used by more than 1,000 organizations and is monitoring more than 100,000 patients each month. Looking to join the team? The startup is now hiring for five new roles across its engineering, sales and marketing teams.

22. Borrowell
Headcount in Canada: 72 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Software Development, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Product Management, Business Development | What you should know: Fintech startup Borrowell reached more than 1 million users and closed a $20 million Series B funding round in June, furthering its mission to help Canadians make more informed decisions about their credit — for free. Borrowell is dedicated to achieving gender parity, with 47% of its team currently made up of women.

23. Greenhouse
Headcount in Canada: 168 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Merchandising, Social Media Marketing | Largest job functions: Operations, Sales, Marketing | What you should know: Healthy beverage company Greenhouse, which has 25 open jobs, is focused on growing its sales and events marketing team across Canada as it takes its plant-based products nationwide. Not based in Toronto? Greenhouse also has workers located in Mississauga, Quebec, Ottawa, and soon, Vancouver.

24. #paid
Headcount in Canada: 51* | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Digital Media | Largest job functions: Marketing, Sales, Engineering | What you should know: Forget influencers: Creators are in the spotlight with #paid. The media platform helps companies such as Starbucks and Toyota connect with their fans, leveraging them to create marketing campaigns that will resonate broadly. #Paid, which is pronounced “hashtag paid,” then helps manage, measure and optimize those creator-led campaigns. The startup is now on the hunt for a brand strategist, controller and more.

25. Venngage
Headcount in Canada: 55 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: JavaScript, Web Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Marketing, Arts and Design | What may surprise you: Venngage makes it easy for anyone to make beautiful infographics, reports and data visualizations. It’s already being used by organizations such as Google, Forbes, Harvard University and WIRED. Venngage has two openings — office coordinator and DevOps engineer.
Jessi Hempel

Senior Editor at Large at LinkedIn



Posted in Canada, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Fintech, Healthcare, Innovation, Startups, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nigeria and the population debate

The relationship between population growth and economic development has been a recurring theme in debates on economic development since the publication of An Essay on the Principle of Population, the 1798 book by Thomas Malthus. The British scholar argued that population growth would depress living standards in the long run. To be sure, subsequent studies have shown a negative correlation between population growth and economic growth.

Nevertheless, the Malthusian theory continues to influence development policy around the world over two centuries after it was first propounded. For instance, the population of a country is factored in several statistical measures of living standards. The gross domestic growth (GDP) per capita of a country is obtained by dividing its GDP for a particular period by its total population in the same period. By implication, annual economic growth needs to keep pace with the rate of population growth for a country to have a high per capita GDP.

At an annual growth rate of about 2.7 per cent, Nigeria’s population is estimated to reach 400 million by 2050. The country will become the third most populous country in the world, behind only India and China. Nigeria’s population, estimated at 201 million in 2019, according to Worldometers, was 95.3 million in 1990. The infrastructures, healthcare systems and educational institutions have been overburdened by the rapid rise in population, a situation that has led to the current level of poverty.

Think of it as a man and his wife with four kids. They are living in a three-bedroom flat and they have a combined income of 200,000 naira per month. The man and his wife go on to have three more kids, while remaining at the same income level. Your guess is as good as mine. The family’s quality of life will nosedive. The dynamics of a country are, however, different than those of a family unit.

Therefore, it is relevant to note that a large population is not entirely bad. As a matter of fact, African countries are expected to experience more population growth than countries elsewhere. It is estimated that by the end of this century, almost a third of the world’s population will be in Africa and a large part of that will be because of Nigeria’s huge population. This can be a huge advantage for Africa. But it all depends on whether or not the continent can make a demographic transition by investing in human capital development.

Historically, population has always been a point of concern for nations. Sometimes, the concern arises due to overpopulation and in other situations it is about underpopulation. Plato and Aristotle of ancient Greek both concluded that cities should have small enough people for efficient administration. But they also agreed that nations should be large enough to defend themselves from hostile neighbouring nations. In ancient Rome, a series of laws were instituted to encourage early marriages and increased fertility rate to expand the population and achieve increased productivity. Laws were also enacted to provide tax breaks and preferential treatment to those who complied with those laws.

Nations continue to do what is right for them at every stage of their development. Australia uses the family tax benefit payment, free immunization scheme and other benefits for working women to encourage citizens to have more children. Whereas India’s two-child policy makes anyone who has more than two children ineligible to run in local government elections. Some states in India have even provided disincentives for non-politicians to have more than two children.

Israel sought to increase its Haredi population by giving families with many children economic support through government assistance and child allowances. In Japan, where the population is shrinking, the government encourages women in the country to have more children. Two years ago, Spain appointed a Minister for Sex to encourage couples to have more babies to reverse the negative population growth rate the country is experiencing.

China’s one-child policy is arguably the most popular population planning system in the world. The policy, which was discontinued in October 2015, was instituted in 1979. The policy was introduced to alleviate the social and environmental issues China was going through at that time. The government estimated that the policy prevented about 400 million births; the policy made China a more educated society as the country achieved a demographic transition.

Interestingly, there are varying opinions about the effects of population change on a nation’s economic health. Economists like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams believe that poverty and famine have nothing to do with overpopulation. They believe such ills are caused by bad governments and bad government policies. However, Paul Ehrlich, in his 1968 controversial book, The Population Bomb, provided a different opinion. In his words: “We must cut the cancer of population growth.” He said, “if this was not done, there would be only one other solution, namely the ‘death rate solution’ in which we raise the death rate through war-famine-pestilence, etc.”

It is difficult to proffer a demographic policy for a country like Nigeria, where important issues are politicized, ethnicized and religionized. But whether we like it or not, we don’t need experts to tell that unbridled population growth is a precarious path to follow. The country’s leadership needs both the moral and political will to find the appropriate policy to reduce the population growth, boost economic development and develop human capital.

Studies continue to show that education of women and girls could play a major role in reducing and controlling the population growth. It will also be necessary to raise the legal age of marriage for girls.

In Bangladesh, people’s attitudes towards large-sized families and the use of contraceptives among married women changed through awareness and education. The country’s fertility rate decreased from an average of more than six children per woman in 1975 to slightly more than three today. In a 1990 research by economists Gary Becker, Kevin Murphy and Robert Tamura, the authors demonstrated that where there is abundance of human capital, rates of return on human capital investments continue to rise. And societies with abundant human capital have less fertility rates and consequently small families as they concentrate on growing human and physical capital, rather than having more children.

Based on the findings by Becker, et al, an increase in Nigeria’s human capital stock will inadvertently reduce the high rate of infant mortality and eradicate the need of some parents who feel they should have many children as a form of social insurance in their old age. Government must also strengthen social protection systems for the poor.

Without a doubt, education is the key to achieving Nigeria’s demographic dividend. No country has achieved demographic transition without educating their people. In the meantime, the National Population Commission (NPopC) should be mandated to raise awareness about the benefits of having fewer children. More investment and education should focus on promoting the use of contraceptives, especially in low-income communities in the rural areas.


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Promoting intrapreneurship in Nigeria’s public sector

In my last column, I highlighted the imperative of promoting Entrepreneurship Education (EE) in Nigeria given the positive correlation between EE and innovative start-up activities, which have positive impacts on the economy. This month’s column focuses on intrapreneurship, which is a way of expressing “entrepreneurial” abilities within an existing organisation.
The term, intrapreneurship, was first coined by Gifford Pinchot and Elizabeth Pinchot in a paper the couple wrote in 1978. The concept was further promoted in a 1985 book, Intrapreneuring in Action, by Gifford Pinchot and Ron Pellman. While entrepreneurs are concerned with starting an organisation to provide a service and contribute to the economy, intrapreneurs innovate and create value within organisations as employees or as public servants. Intrapreneurs are not focused on starting their own businesses. Rather, they are focused on the organisations they work for to improve their performances.

If you have ever worked with or had any dealings with state and the federal government agencies in Nigeria, you must have experienced the inefficiencies and outdated operations in most of those agencies. As someone who deals with the government at both the state and the federal levels, I can say the lack of innovation in the public sector is alarming. It is arguably one of the greatest impediments to our development.

There is a dire need to promote intrapreneurship within the Nigerian civil service. Intrapreneurs are employees with the mentality of entrepreneurs. They are invaluable to their organisations because they think big and do beyond the bare-minimum.

When organisations give some autonomy to their workers on certain projects or provide the enabling environments for their intrapreneurs to thrive, they often reap the rewards. Notable results of intrapreneurship include the building of the P-80 Shooting Star, a fighter jet designed by the Skunk Works at Lockheed Martin in 1943 and which was a game-changer during World War II. Skunk Works is a moniker for the Advanced Development Programs (ADP) of the US-based global security and aerospace company. Some of the well-known aircraft used by the US military and the air forces of a number of countries today, such as the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-22 Raptor, were engineered by this group.

Another intrapreneurship group is the Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the birthplace of laser printing, computer mouse and Ethernet. There is also the Nokia Bell Labs, which is the birthplace of transistors and some of the well-known programming languages. The Post-it Note, Facebook’s ‘Like’ button, the Sony PlayStation are all products of intrapreneurs within organisations. A classic example of an intrapreneur is Paul Buchheit, who led in the development of Gmail while working at Google. He is also known for his work on Google AdSense.

These intrapreneurship achievements were possible because the organisations and their leadership did not allow Corporate Immune System (CIS) to hamper the “entrepreneurial spirit” of their employees. A CIS develops when organisations allow bureaucracy and various rules to become stumbling blocks and impede employees from expressing their skills to achieve innovation. It is not only very imperative to empower managers; all employees should also be empowered to become more innovative and flexible in carrying out their daily activities and routine tasks.

For the Nigerian public sector to become efficient, an environment that promotes innovation must be established. The leadership of the civil service, beginning with the President, needs to show strong commitment because leadership is ultimately responsible for providing the conditions that facilitate an intrapreneurial attitude.

In developed economies, much focus is on the public sector to improve and deliver services to citizens efficiently. In 1990, the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s (IPAC) Award for Innovative Management was instituted to recognise federal and the provincial governments who demonstrated exceptional innovations in addressing the wide range of issues facing the society. As part of the country’s drive to improve public service deliveries, senior level bureaucrats were directed to explore ways to foster innovation in delivering government policies and priorities. One outcome of this policy is the engagement of Canadians through their smartphones to provide awareness on energy efficiency.

Governments at all levels operate in environments where change is a constant. To provide effective leadership and optimal service delivery, government institutions have to move from the sporadic to the systemic. Lack of innovation is the reason for much of the government inefficiencies and failures in the delivery of public services in Nigeria. We are not moving forward and the country has lost competitiveness largely because senior civil servants are scared of change. Government ministries, departments and agencies are unable to determine the cost to society as a result of their inefficiencies, let alone improve their performance.

Every low score on the indicators of the ease of doing business rankings of the World Bank can be linked to the inefficiencies and lack of innovation within the public sector. A couple of months ago, the signpost of my company located in one of the Southwestern states was forcefully taken away by the state’s advertising agency on a spurious charge. The agency alleged we had not paid a particular tax, even though we already made payment. The agency could not find our payment because of the absence of a proper database management system. Mine was definitely not an isolated experience.   

To achieve efficiency, service delivery should be measured against certain key performance indicators (KPIs). In healthcare, for instance, key deliveries could include shortening the average length of stay in hospitals and the average waiting times. When these are known, it helps in the allocation of resources. In the judiciary, a key delivery would be shortening the average time it takes for a case to be concluded. Slower courts decrease citizens’ confidence in the justice sector. This, in the long run, deters private investments. For tax administration, a key delivery would be to reduce the cost of collection ratio – which is administrative cost divided by the total revenue collected.

There is an urgent need to transform our public service. We need a modern, people-centered public sector that is flexible, responsive, adaptive and innovative. To meet the expectations of Nigerians, we need to accelerate the pace of the modernisation and renewal. The current laws, rules and structures in the public sector are neither flexible nor responsive enough to allow for a virile intrapreneurial environment.

In his 2002 book, “System Failure: Why Governments Must Learn to Think Differently,” Jake Chapman highlights the obstacles to learning and innovation in the public sector. These obstacles include the pressure of uniformity in public services, the reliance of civil servants and ministers on command and control mechanisms, lack of evaluation of impact of previous policies, pressure for immediate response to the crisis of the day and a tradition of secrecy that limits feedback and learning.  

Today, Nigeria is faced with the dilemma of providing unique identification (ID) for every Nigerian residing in the country and abroad. However, last month, Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), Aliyu Aziz, said the government plans to provide digital identification of all citizens by 2024. Achieving this would require innovation, especially because it would entail consolidating the existing databases such as the Bank Verification Number (BVN); the voter registration database; biometric data of mobile phone users, among others.

Public sector innovation is always aimed at addressing a public policy challenge and a successful public innovation is one that achieves the desired public outcome. To build a virile, efficient and innovative civil service where intrapreneurs are allowed to showcase their skills, there is a need to institute a governance process that can deliver on clearly articulated objectives. Government institutions must have well-articulated job descriptions, not the type of job descriptions that put employees in a box. Personality tests can also be used to create intrapreneurs. These tests provide insights into employees’ habits, needs and strengths. Role switching is another way through which intrapreneurs can be created. Letting employees remain stagnant in a role that doesn’t match their skills does not encourage innovation.

A well-defined pay structure can also encourage dedication and innovation. A pay structure that rewards employees who go the extra mile and are innovative also helps to create an intrapreneurial environment. Some organisations even ask for presentation of formal proposals or business plans from their employees.

Creating an intrapreneurial environment where innovation thrives is not an easy task. But an organisation that doesn’t have intrapreneurs will remain stagnant or eventually cease to exist.


Posted in Africa, Entrepreneurship, Governance, Innovation, Intrapreneur, Intrapreneurship, Leadership, Nigeria, Public Sector | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Millennials Are Geared To Create Impactful Change In The Nonprofit Sector

“Harnessing the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people.” This is the challenge of the 2018 Hult Prize. Whether teams are seeking to provide adequate protein sources to urban slums or working to bring educational opportunities to children all over the world, competitors work closely with The Hult Prize Foundation, which embodies a range of characteristics similar to those of the millennial generation. Hult Prize is global in nature, promotes connectivity and networking, and exemplifies the intersectionality between social change and startup culture.
These attributes seem to be integral aspects of the millennial mindset, and of the ways in which millennials run businesses, nonprofits and startups. From my seat as chair of the Hult Prize Council, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to witness what is becoming one of the most powerful generations of our time, as it bridges the gaps across generational boundaries and adds new dimensions to the work of the nonprofit sector.

Millennials Have An Innovative Mindset
Why have millennials been able to accomplish what other generations could not? Cited as the first generation to be less well-off than their parents and facing obstacles such as limited job opportunities, soaring costs of living and student debt, millennials seem to have the odds stacked against them.

Yet, somehow, they have created a global community, like that of the Hult Prize, that promotes the freedom to explore ideas, take initiative, experiment and fail. I have seen this generation build upon experience and find the motivation to get back up, improve, try another way and work towards successfully solving the world’s problems.
Through crowdfunding, Facebook fundraisers or other online giving sites, millennials are able to be philanthropic with the interest to make change happen for less. Nonprofits should turn their marketing efforts toward these young philanthropists and also leverage this generation’s skills within the sector to create a greater and more effective reach.

By bringing in their friends and contacts to help support a cause, a giving community can develop, which can result in funding projects. As a visible demonstration of reaching a goal to create change, millennials can be fulfilled by their ability to make a difference, regardless of gift size.
Millennials recognize the need to empower each other with this innovative mindset. From my perspective, they have been able to put this into action through increased connectivity, due to technological advancements and their generation’s shift toward a global mindset, as they create solutions to improve the state of the global society.

Millennials Are Connective By Nature
In some ways, there is a disparity between the technology savviness of Genration X, Generation Y and baby boomers, but technology is the glue that connects millennials and the generations before them. This kind of advancement is natural and expected, creating a movement.
Millennials recognize the value of connection, boldly pushing the boundaries of existing tech and creating opportunity where tech falls short. The technological capability of this generation combined with their entrepreneurial spirit enables greater access to global issues. With this increased global exposure, I have seen millennials adopt a sense of being part of an international community. They engage prior generations’ wisdom, experience and shared vision for positive social and economic change.
Nonprofits are in a unique position to take advantage of the tech-savvy skills and connectivity of millennials by making these skills integral to their operations. Technological capabilities improve the understanding of the grant-acquisition process for their innovative ideas while building global communities of members and donors who support their efforts.
The connected nature of the millennial generation gears these young professionals toward successful careers in nonprofit work. Nonprofits can put these skills to practice and use them to make social change. Further, connectivity is important for the donor community that supports these nonprofits. The impact is measurable via technology and through platforms that demonstrate impact.

Millennials Are Entrepreneurial
This entrepreneurial spirit is prominent on an international level. I have seen an abundance of startups that target niche markets and possible social improvements spring up all over the world. And universities now offer entrepreneurship courses and degrees as part of their curriculum. Risk is an accepted challenge, and business is seen as both a means to profit and as a tool for creating social change.
As I look at our ever-changing world, there is a notion that business isn’t only a source of income and employment. Millennials, in partnerships with the generations before them, have reimagined business enterprises as a means of improving lives and making the world a better place.
Impact investing is a trending form of support for nonprofits, in which the risk involved is understood while doing good for the world. By offering philanthropists an alternative beyond traditional grantmaking and giving them an opportunity to create change, I have seen impact investing attract younger philanthropists who may be slightly more open to risk. And the impact can be measured, which is extremely important to the savvy donors of today.

Millennials are often deeply invested in the organizations with which they work and the causes that they give to. This social-change mindset can be leveraged by inviting millennials into the nonprofit sector. Employing entrepreneurial millennials with this mindset will drive business solutions for nonprofits because of their personal investments in the successes of these organizations.
A movement is happening, whether we are conscious of it or not. We have an opportunity to work with a generation that has a robust understanding of the success-and-failure process that comes with creating social change. Looking forward, we have a real opportunity before us. Millennials are with us to work toward what older generations wanted to achieve — and to do it for people in every corner of our rapidly changing world.

By Sheryl Chamberlain
Forbes Nonprofit Council



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4 Ways Millennials and Nonprofits Are Perfect for Each Other

Millennials have become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and employers that ignore the millennial influence do so at their own peril. Many millennials started their careers during the Great Recession, or during its repercussions, with huge societal pressures: record-breaking amounts of student debt, a likelihood of earning less money than their parents, and a higher cost of living. Despite these obstacles, 60 percent of millennials want a sense of purpose in their work and 77 percent chose their job based on that desire, according to the 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey. These factors create the perfect environment for nonprofits to attract, hire, and retain millennials workers; Nonprofits are starting to take notice. Below we make sense of some recent data that we think demonstrates four ways that millennials and nonprofits are perfect for each other.
Millennials Care
Millennials feel accountable and connected to the broader world and consider the workplace the primary environment for their impact. The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 finds that within the smaller sphere of influence that the workplace offers, millennials can connect with their peers and those they serve more effectively. By definition, charitable nonprofits are mission-driven organizations, and one million-plus charitable nonprofits in the United States give millennials the opportunity to explore the type of work that drives and inspires them. Working for the good of the broader world or local community fulfills millennials’ desires to focus their energy and intellect on purposeful work. When working for a nonprofit, millennials can feel their influence; seeing the fruits of their labors fuels their drive, that in turn helps their nonprofit employers achieve greater impact.

Millennials Want Flexibility
Work-life balance and flexibility are so crucial that these factors are cited as among the top five reasons millennials leave a job (source: Ernst & Young’s Global Generations Research). The bottom line is that millennials want more than just work; they want the ability to enjoy the world in which they feel connected and accountable. Millennials are shifting the societal and cultural norms away from a world in which their parent(s) worked nonstop, to one where they value work-life balance for two working adults. Millennials are almost two times more likely than their parents to have a spouse or partner also working full time. Unlike previous generations where one partner may have primarily tended the home, millennials look for flexibility to allow for time to care for personal and family responsibilities. The NonprofitHR 2016 Nonprofit Talent Survey found that the top culture and engagement priority for the nonprofit sector was to improve organizational culture. Offering and encouraging flex time promotes a work culture of trust and support, according to a recent Future of Work Report done at Boston University. Ultimately, incorporating the flexibility millennials seek in order to meet the priorities of the organization benefits both employer and worker. What we’re seeing is that millennials are paving the way so that work-life balance becomes not only a cultural norm, but also a shared value by both employers and employees.
Millennials Want Stability
Stability and flexibility are not mutually exclusive and can be used as complements to promote loyalty and trust. Contrary to some common misconceptions, millennials are no more likely to jump from job to job as previous generations were, nor are they disloyal to a stable workplace as long as they feel connected. Using U.S. Department of Labor data, the Pew Research Center compared millennials to their older colleagues, Generation X (Gen X), and found that millennials are just as likely to stay at their current place of employment as Gen Xers were when they were the same age. College-educated millennials are even more likely to stay at their jobs longer than their Gen X counterparts. If nonprofits can shed this stereotyped misperception, and provide connectedness and flexibility, an unwavering dedication to the nonprofit’s mission can provide a stable environment to engage and retain millennial workers.

Millennials Don’t Like Labels
Nonprofits are required to be nonpartisan, a condition that both encourages public trust in the sector and promotes comfort to millennials who do not want to be labeled as part of a specific political party. Charitable nonprofits are prohibited from electioneering and partisan political activities under the tax code, which protects the nonprofit sector from partisan politics. The 2016 Millennial Impact Report studied how the 2016 presidential election influenced millennials’ attitudes and engagement in causes they believed in. The report found that millennials are breaking away from traditional institutions, such as political parties, as they engage in efforts to effect changes in society. They shed previously used titles and labels, not wanting to identify as “liberal” or “conservative,” as to avoid being construed as confrontational, whether in real life or on social media. While millennials are actively engaged in causes they feel drawn to, regardless of the political landscape, they do so while bucking the word “activist.” Instead of a bullhorn, they use their business cards to show their commitment. Nonprofits can leverage millennials’ desire for a less divisive government, which is consistent with the role charitable nonprofits play to find solutions to social and other problems in a nonpartisan manner. Millennials could be among a nonprofit’s most effective policy advocates!
The great news is that millennials may already be moving towards choosing their employment and careers within the nonprofit sector based on their engagement in causes they believe in and belief in their ability to impact the world around them. By exploiting their own unique structures and mission-driven DNA, nonprofits are perfectly situated to provide a work culture that gives millennials the flexibility and stability they need, and in return enjoy the benefits of committed employees who find a sense of purpose in the mission.

Tiffany Gourley Carter  via Millennials


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Promoting entrepreneurship education in Nigeria for job growth

The rate of unemployment – including graduate unemployment – in Nigeria is alarming. While the unemployment rate across the entire working population was 23.1%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the jobless rate among Nigerians between the ages of 15-34 was 29.7% in the third quarter of 2018.

Apart from a weak economy that is haemorrhaging jobs, one of the factors responsible for the high unemployment rates in Nigeria is an obsolete higher education system that continues to churn out graduates, many of them having neither employable nor entrepreneurship skills.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for a paradigm shift that entails training students to become highly skilled entrepreneurs and job creators upon graduation. This requires entrenching entrepreneurship education (EE) into the academic curricula of tertiary institutions. But the big question is whether entrepreneurship can be taught.

A 2014 World Bank report identified EE and training as a catalyst for innovation and job creation initiatives among university graduates, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where graduate unemployment rates are high. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has also said teaching entrepreneurship is key to combating unemployment. This suggests that entrepreneurship can be taught and learned. Promoting an entrepreneurship culture particularly entails teaching a set of cognitive and non-cognitive skills, including those that will enable students identify opportunities, take risks, and also have the ability to persevere through failure.

Some years ago, the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) introduced entrepreneurship development programmes into academic curricula of universities. In 2012, the Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme was established by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) as a way to promote skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development among young graduates. However, findings on the outcomes of these programmes have revealed that there are not enough trained lecturers and instructors to teach EE in the country’s tertiary institutions and during the NYSC programme. Instructional facilities or materials for teaching EE are also sorely lacking.

Entrepreneurship Education is not a new concept in education. In 1947, Harvard Business School’s (HBS) professor emeritus, Myles L. Mace, taught the first entrepreneurship course at HBS. Since then the number of programmes in the field grew as EE became popular in the 1980s in Western countries.

In a research article, published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, Chien Wen Yu, an Associate Professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, concludes that there is actually a strong relationship between the level of EE in a country and the amount of start-up activities. The article, “Understanding the Ecosystems of Chinese and American Entrepreneurship Education,” shows that entrepreneurship education, as well as government support for startups at industry level, are the factors that have set the United States and China apart as the world’s entrepreneurial powers today.

The established entrepreneurship education system in the U.S. is underpinned by strong institutions and processes, including business incubators, accelerators, and protections for patents and trademarks. Each institution or process exists to play a role to advance entrepreneurship and innovation.

Placing a high priority on innovation and entrepreneurship, the Chinese government has, since 2015, been expanding the scope of its “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” campaign. The campaign involves financial support and tax incentives for entrepreneurs, with the aim to make the economy more innovation-driven. Over the last two decades, the Chinese economy has produced billionaire entrepreneurs such as Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent; Lei Jun, co-founder and chairman of Xiaomi; and Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chair of Ali Baba Group.

These two countries understand that while traditional courses such as medicine, accounting, finance, marketing, and so on are useful, the new economy also requires the supply of other skills and aptitudes. For example, innovation, complex critical thinking, networking, negotiating, team work, social and emotional intelligence, and creativity are valuable and must be learned by any entrepreneur that wants to be successful.

Innovation is a vital element of the entrepreneurship system. Innovation involves creatively coming up with new ideas and novel solutions to address various social needs or problems. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said innovation is the key to Africa’s jobs crisis and the bulging youth population.

Innovation is also what gives businesses competitive advantage. Therefore, it is important that new and would-be entrepreneurs are taught how to think creatively and innovate. Integrating innovation and creativity into EE curricula can go a long way in attracting more students, reducing graduate joblessness and boosting overall socio-economic development.

Another critical unit of the EE is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are those entrepreneurs who seek social change by finding solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. In recent times, academic institutions are introducing entrepreneurship students to this concept, developing a unique business model whereby they can make profit while addressing societal challenges.

Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, Founder and CEO of WeCyclers is a Nigerian social entrepreneur. Wecyclers is a recycling company. It has an innovative approach of using fleet of cargo-bikes to collect waste from low-income and densely populated urban neighbourhoods across Lagos State. The company provides incentives or “point” to households for every kilogramme of waste material collected. Those “points” can be turned into rewards. The waste is then used as raw material for the local recycling industry. In 2018, Nairametrics described her as “Nigeria’s queen of recycling and environmental sustainability.”

Some people have misconstrued entrepreneurship to mean simply starting a small business. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every great business or innovation in the world today was started by an entrepreneur and had myriads of chances of failure.

And without a doubt, entrepreneurs play a major role in economic development. According to the Organization for Economic and Co-operative Development (OECD), small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) account for 60-70% of jobs in most OECD countries. SMEs also constitute over 95% of enterprises and account for 60-70% of jobs in most OECD countries. Indeed, they are considered the backbone of the entire British economy, accounting for more than half of the trade turnover of the United Kingdom.

Nigeria must develop its human capital to be globally competitive. One of the ways to achieve competitiveness is by supporting entrepreneurs that will drive innovation in the economy. Training students who graduate only to become job seekers is an underutilisation of the country’s human resources. There needs to be a coordinated policy support to deepen entrepreneurship education in tertiary institutions. And like China and U.S., the Nigerian government must also provide financial support for entrepreneurs and selected sectors that would drive big and fast job growth.


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The rise of a new Tribe

The Cambridge dictionary defines a tribe as a group of people, often of related families, who live together, sharing the same language, culture and history. It is in this light that tribe in this piece has been used to describe the tribe of young and middle aged Nigerians who possess similar traits. Traits like blazing new trail, ardent belief in the country in spite of obvious drawbacks, innovating businesses that do good to the society while they also profit from it. A new tribe that understands that continued and persistent complain will not add an inch to their personal well-being or development. This new tribe, if anything has brought a slim glimpse of hope. A new tribe of progressive, versatile and entrepreurial Nigerians. These new tribe understand that their fate is in their hands, they understand that if no one does its part nothing changes. Most importantly, while this new tribe believes that good governance and good leadership play a huge impact in shaping our society they also understand that governance alone doesn’t build the society.

As an entrepreneur and a student of entrepreneurship, I continually look for traits that set apart one entrepreneur from the other. I continually search for the skills that drives their innovativeness and I must confess that these new tribe continues to leave me awestruck. I begin to imagine what and how it would look at if government played its own role excellently by providing the much needed infrastructures.
From healthcare to financial technology to agriculture, education and transportation, this new tribe are doing new things and in some cases innovating and changing how we do things.

In Education there is Tobi Obasa of Davton Learn and and Gossy Ukanwoke of Edutech. While Davton provides a platform for people to learn and sit for certification exams Edutech takes pride in taking African universities online , one degree at a time. Kiakia, She Leads Africa and Social Lender pioneered by Olajide Abiola, Yasmun Bello Osagie and Bade Adesemewo respectively are blazing the trail in lending and financing. Kiakia provides a smart and convenient way to borrow money and lend out money in real time , She leads Africa helps young African women achieve their dreams while Social Lender is a lending solutions based on social reputation. I actually find the solution provided by Social Lender very innovative and you can check them out. These new tribe exist in every facets of our society and to be honest they all are not getting it right but the passion , the commitment and the risk they take set them apart. Time and space will not permit me to go into details into what the start-ups or organizations started by this new tribe do, you are free to check them out at your convenience.
Healthcare is not left out, in this category we have Temitayo Omotayo of Mobile Dentist, Bayo Ojelabi of Highrise orthopaedic, Temie Tubosun of Life bank ,Dr. Ola Orekunrin of Flying Doctors and my good friend Dr. Femi Olaleye of Optimal Cancer foundation.
The Agriculture sector presents a lot of young, passionate entrepreneurs with great innovations amongst these are Osagie Azeta of Crop Safe Agro Allied, Femi Owolabi of Morakempire , Onyeka Akumah of Farmcrowdy,Mosunmola Umoru of HoneySuckles and Nasir Yammama of Verdent Agritech. In financial technology and payment solutions, an area that I find fascinating , you will find my high school senior Mitchell Elegbe of Interswitch, Yinka Adewale of Kudi.Ai , Iyinoluwa Aboyeji of Flutterwave, Simeon Omonobi of Simplepay and Tayo Oviosu of Paga. It is incredible how these various platforms have transformed the way we make payments online.
Transportation and automobile presents the likes of Deji Oduntan of Gokada , an Uber like platform for okada, Etop ikpe of Cars45, Tobi Ajaji of Jetvan automobiles and Bankole Cardoso of Easy Taxi.
Blazing the trail in online and ecommerce are Fikayo Ogundipe of Tolet.com.ng, Lanre Akinlagun of Drinks.ng, Kola Ajayi of Myshayo.com, Mark Essien of Hotels.ng, Obinna Ekezie of Wakanow ,Raphaeal Afaedor and Gbolahan Fagbure of Supermart.ng .

There are also some online store sensations on social media, they stock products and post on those platforms and sell to customers. They make convenience and prompt delivery their competitive advantage. In this category we have Pinkreach Kiddies an online kids store, Snap Addict an online camera store and Yeti Adeyeye of Yetik collections that stocks perfumes , watches and sunglasses. These online and social media stores have also lead to the introduction of so many logistics start-ups that help in delivering the products.
Revolutionising how entrepreneurs start their business with low cost rented office and virtual office is the Box Office Hub, while Foodie24lagos is revolutionising how we eat by providing a 24hour food delivery platform.
In the oil and gas sector specifically in the LPG downstream value chain a bunch of young lads are changing how we buy cooking gas as well as bringing LPG closer to consumers . There is Okebugwu Ikechukwu of Sargas Energy, James Atiti of Doowe Inc., Emmanuel Uwandu of Kiakia Gas, Kayode Oluwadare of ATOGAS and my own younger brother, Tope Olutuyi of Topgas.
Surprisingly , this new tribe have also ventured into social enterprises, these include Bilikisi Abiola of Wecyclers, Adeneyo Idachaba of Multimeth and Njideka Harry of YTF all providing solutions to different social problems.
There is also Hussain Yakubu of Linkifin, leading a financial technology firm that focuses on supply chain finance while Jobberman .com co-founded by Ayodeji Adewunmi is changing how we recruit and search for jobs.
Supporting start-ups with incubation labs and accelerators are Bosun Tijani’s Cocreation Hub and Wennovation Hub co-founded by Wole Adetayo , Michael Oluwagenmi and Idris Ayo Bello.
In Entertainment and lifestyle we have Jason Njoku of IrokoTV and Damilola Asolo of Dapper Wedding Hub. Kendal Ananyi’s Wifi.com.ng is also changing how people access the internet. Branding and communications present the likes of Ronke Bamisedun of BWL agency while Adebola Williams and Chudi Jideonwo preside over Red Media.
In the civic sector and civic engagement is Seun Onigbinde’s BudgIt, helping Nigerians better understand how government’s budget works.
Interestingly the political space also possess its own share of the new tribe, in this category is my friend Tope Fasua, the presidential candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), he is also a co-founder of the party, there’s also Kingsley Moghalu a presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party(YPP) as well as Omoyele Sowere of the African Action Congress Party (AAC) and a host of others. It is worthy to note that while the entrance of this new tribe into the political space may not have any effect on the 2019 presidential elections what they have started today will surely change the course of our politics in the coming years.
The list of this new tribe is not exclusive to those outlined above, there are others making waves, solving problems and creating innovative firms that are changing how we do things who are not mentioned here.
This piece doesn’t in anyway try to advertise or promote the aforementioned businesses but to encourage the teeming youths in the country who think all hope is lost. To be frank, the dearth of infrastructure, lack of security and poor enabling environment can be so discouraging but the fact remains that challenges always present opportunities.
While we give kudos and keep hope alive with the rising of this new tribe it is important to mention that we need more members into this new tribe. We need new tribe in our Police Force who will begin to truly protect its people, shun corruption  and treat its people with dignity. We need new tribe in the armed forces who will start treating Nigerians with respect.

We need new tribe in politics and leadership who will start to understand that their role in governance is to truly and genuinely serve the people. The civil service is also not left out, we need new tribe there, who will start to understand how truly important an effective and efficient civil service means to the society. We need new tribe amongst our clerics both Muslims and Christians who will stand up and speak truth to power always, regardless of where they come from or their religious affiliation.
Folks, every facet of the society is begging for the rise of a new tribe. In 2019 become one. Start something. Build something. Solve a problem. Do business with integrity. The old way can no longer take us to where we need to be. We need problem solvers. The society is full of so many society ills begging for solutions.
May the new tribe keep rising.


Posted in Africa, Agriculture, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Fintech, Gas, Governance, Innovation, Inspirational, Lagos, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, Nigeria, Payment Solutions, Personal Development, Politics-, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want To Make Money In Africa? Start by Solving Any of These 5 Serious Challenges

When most people look at Africa, there are two very strong but opposite images that emerge:

Some see a continent where there are too many challenges and others see a land of vast opportunities. The interesting thing is, Africa’s biggest business opportunities look like scary difficulties. That’s why most people miss them.

This article looks at five opportunities entrepreneurs can explore to create significant impact on the continent.

1) Agribusiness
The United Nations estimates that Africa’s agribusiness sector could be worth $1 trillion by 2030, and there are several lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs who start businesses, no matter how small, that help to solve the food shortage problem in Africa.

The opportunities in Africa’s agribusiness space is massive. The continent has 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, a conducive climate for agriculture, and an overwhelmingly young population that guarantees a vast labour pool. These agribusiness opportunities include vegetable farming, cassava farming, livestock farming (fish, chicken, pigs, ostrich, snails).

2) Jobs
On the surface, it looks like there aren’t enough jobs in Africa. When you look closely, you find there’s a structural gap in Africa’s job market: employers of labour are having a hard time finding suitably qualified candidates to fill vacancies.

What if there was a quicker, more effective and affordable way to match open job positions with the best candidates?

Several smart African entrepreneurs are already rising to the challenge.

In Nigeria, Jobberman.com, which was started by three university undergrads in 2009, has become Nigeria’s Number One job search and recruitment portal. To date, it has helped to match more than 40,000 people with jobs.

3) Health and Well-being
The size of the continent’s pharmaceutical market is expected to reach $65 billion by the year 2020.

To meet the demand for health services, the continent needs a consistent supply of medicines and doctors. However, at the moment, most medicines consumed in Africa are produced overseas. What Africa needs is a strong base of drug manufacturing companies that are based in Africa, and entrepreneurs like Uganda’s Emmanuel Katongole are already taking advantage of this huge opportunity.

4) Education
Inadequate access to quality education at all levels is a nagging problem across the continent. With many public schools falling below the mark, there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to provide affordable quality education.

Some entrepreneurs on the continent are already taking a swing at the problem. Omega Schools, based in Ghana, is a chain of low-cost private schools that offers basic primary education to children from poor families at an incredibly low and affordable fee (less than $1 a day per student). Bridge International Schools in Kenya uses a similar low-cost model to provide affordable education to thousands of children in East Africa for less than $5 per month per student.

5) Transportation
As Africa’s population and economic strength grows and the continent becomes more urbanised, the demand for transportation will grow exponentially, especially in towns and cities. And governments alone cannot meet this demand.

Yes, entrepreneurs cannot build roads and public transport systems, but they can create solutions that can help people get to their destinations quickly and more efficiently.

City transport services like Nigeria’s OgaTaxi, a social ride-pooling app, have joined global players such as Uber and Taxify which have entered the African transport market to crack the continent’s transport problems and harvest the opportunities in this emerging market.

Do you still see problems instead of opportunities?
It’s the same with everything in life. This article is intended to open your eyes to the possibilities around you.

Have you noticed a serious problem or suffering in your environment? What will you do about it?


British Council Enterprise

Posted in Africa, Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Fintech, Nigeria | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment