Olumide Adeleye once again manages to inspire us, as young people, to be greater than ourselves. He speaks on behalf of Nigerian youth after Mark Zuckerberg’s much publicised visit to Nigeria and Kenya. 

On the 30th of August, the world’s 7th richest man and founder of Facebook, 32-year old Mark Zuckerberg, came to visit Nigeria.

One very striking thing about his visit was that his main point of call was neither Aso Rock nor the office of the Lagos State governor as many would have done. Instead, he went to Yaba –  a place where some of the nation’s young Information Technology entrepreneurs gather.

I have been to CcHuB a couple of times. It is not housed in an overly impressive or gigantic building. The beauty of the place is not where they are but what they do. They incubate (mostly tech) startups and give many young people a chance to birth and grow their dreams.

Let’s put some things in perspective: Nigeria is officially in a recession. Food is now much more expensive. People are losing jobs. Employers are unable to pay salaries. The Naira is crumbling daily and the CBN seems out of ideas. The Solid Minerals ministry is looking for nickel to mine (and if they eventually do, the cycle which is exploitative of the local communities would be replicated all over again). Mr President is looking for oil in the North. There are no well known grant or loan schemes for startups or SMEs. Rather, we’ve been hearing – for the past one and a half years – how PDP ruined the country, and how Jonathan is responsible for all our national woes. There are no serious plans. There is no national vision. There is nothing to look forward to.

I have posited various times that the government needs to strongly encourage small businesses and startups (and innovation among young people), especially in the soft industries (such as technology and media). In India, I saw firsthand how thousands can be employed exporting phone call services to countries like the US. At that point, a weak currency becomes an asset, not a liability. The same logic explains why a lot of US firms import app development services, website design, animations, movie editing and VFX etc from India.

Do you know how many billions of dollars we can make as a country just by placing some attention on such industries? Do you know how many digital job opportunities we can create just by removing the obstacles that have stopped companies like Paypal from making payments to Nigerians? Do you know that tech and media-related skills can get us out of this recession? Do you know that with fewer inputs, ICT can serve us far better than crude oil or solid minerals?

Even for more traditional industries, we can amplify their impact and reach using technology! My wife Moremi Onabolu Adeleye for instance, is working on aso-efi.com to sell native “aso-ofi” clothes. With a website, social media and solid payment systems, her reach can be amplified far beyond that of the seller at the local market. If our exportation laws and mediums are better simplified, she can easily export aso-ofi all around the world. She will therefore be leveraging on technology to provide Nigeria foreign exchange for something as normal as aso-ofi.

I’m happy about Mark’s visit. You know why? Because it passes a very strong message: that young Nigerians are much more important than they think we are.

We have always been ruled (politically and financially) by older people. Nigeria is in a mess today mostly because of these people. Our laws do not even allow young people to govern! And the cabals of power are so strong that a man who ruled Nigeria when Mark Zuckerberg was born is back on the throne making outdated decisions on behalf of our children and us.

However, for the first time, young people have a strong power that not only gives us a voice, it also gives earning potential. If used effectively, it may also eventually tilt the balance of political power in our favour. We are in the age of technology. We are in the age of the internet.

To all the young people out there, this is our time! For the first time in the history of the world, we can make millions in our rooms, have global relevance and air our opinions strongly.

Let’s spend our time arguing less about Jonathan, Buhari and Saraki and more about how we can move our generation forward. The shocking truth is that they don’t care about us. If you doubt me, find out how many youths are on Mr President’s cabinet today. Or find out why Nigeria’s performance at the Olympics was so dismal.
Congratulations to young Nigerians. We are in the age of “power to the youths”!

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