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Stories by Moses Nosike

Mrs Ibilola Amao is another Nigerian woman who took time to educate herself with burning passion for  youth development, entrepreneurship and infrastructural development in Africa. She is also the Principal Consultant of Lonadek, a firm that develops, stems talents promotes capacity, competence for national development and socio-economic transformation. She is the Project Consultant of Vision 2020 Youth Empowerment, Restoration Initiative of the Cedar STEM and Entrepreneurship Hub. Amao is a member of the Governing Council of the Energy Institute (EI), UK, a member of the Board of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) business group, Nigeria, among others.

In this interview, Mrs Amao talks about the challenges of Small and Medium Enterprises and what can be done to develop it. She also lamented the bastardized educational system in Nigeria as well as the braindrain that has adversely affected every sector of Nigerian economy. Excerpts:

Our society is growing with alarming youth unemployment, crime, etc. what is the way out?

Education, enlightenment, empowerment, engagement and entrepreneurship (5E’s) of sustainable

development is the way out of delinquency, militancy, terrorism etc. These unfortunate acts are the result of unemployment and under engagement among the youth. By creating plans, programmes, initiatives and activities that develop youths, tomorrow’s leaders, strategic thinkers and planners who are groomed to make a difference would evolve. Africa needs youth who can see solutions where others see problems, issues and challenges. I am working hard to develop young people with a “Look Inward” approach. Where is the problem, issue or challenge? How can I with a few like-minded others form a team, cooperate, collaborate and coordinate our resources to solve the nation’s problem? Is it possible without the government? Can I with other like-minded people start a pilot with the hope that others would follow? What little drop of water do I have that with others can make a mighty ocean?

As a committed change agent I invest my time and effort in career counselling, industry awareness and youth empowerment hence the formation of “The Vision 2020: Youth Empowerment & Restoration Initiative” a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) driven programme in May 2006. Also, to nurture the leaders of tomorrow, we at Lonadek set up a STEM and Entrepreneurship Hub to develop youths and young professionals. Our passion at Lonadek is to empower the local workforce and businesses that provide services in high technology industries such as: Energy, power, oil, gas, infrastructure etc.

It seems most Nigerian youths lack skills for self-employment compared to Asia, America, and Europe…

We have a bastardized educational system in Nigeria, unfortunately. The few passionate teachers and lecturers are not given the right or any incentives at all. Our laboratories are dilapidated. Most of our best brains are not in education and some educators are not sold out to excellence, transferring knowledge and technology. Our best brains have been attracted to entrepreneurship, banking, oil, gas and communications. The brain-drain epidemic continues to ravage us, as we witness more of our best brains in the sciences especially medicine and technology, migrating to other countries where they are better paid. It is sad that, by implication, we actually fund the educational system in many nations because we failed to improve ours. A lot of Nigerians expend foreign currency on medical tourism because our best doctors have left and our hospitals are ill-equipped. Our best and greatest human resource capital and assets are in diaspora. If Nigeria can create a conducive environment for Nigerians-in-diaspora to return home, we would change the society much faster, education starts at home. Nigerians here can learn quite a lot from such returnees in terms of following due process, doing the right thing, etc and they would start towing the line. Correction from a change focussed government must be complimented with correction from within the home front. A balance is required.

If we can celebrate, promote and iconise self-employed vocationals, professionals, technicians, artisans, just like the Nollywood and music stars, our youths would embark on fruitful and rewarding careers based on their potential, talent and passion.

SMEs and entrepreneurs in Nigeria are yet to gain ground for economic development, what is your advice?

Government must invest in Infrastructure, power and energy. As soon as we have power, more SMEs would evolve and survive. Most SMEs fail today because profit goes to fund power supply so SME owners end up working for diesel and generator sellers. If the power and infrastructure equation is solved, we would create more jobs and wealth for youths when we start processing our natural resources and raw materials into finished products, preserve more perishables and reduce wastage. Bulk produce would be easily moved out of the hinterland to the cities where they are much required. Reverse migration would happen because the infrastructure to commute is better. If power and broad band is available in remote parts we would see industrial, trade and knowledge parks developing outside the congested cities where greater quality of life and comfort is available.

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