Early in September I attended a conference put together by SAND, Students Association of Nigerians in the Diaspora, domiciled in the United Kingdom. The theme of this conference was “Nigeria Beyond Oil: Opportunities in Enterprise and Development”, organized as part of its Annual Nigeria Diaspora Youth Leadership Summit. I met the second plenary of the conference that sought to start a discussion around Nigeria’s options for when our oil runs out, or when the demand drops (both scenarios are already playing out).
The conference also looked at how the doors of enterprise and development could be opened for the larger number of Nigerians to benefit. Below are some of the thoughts and reactions I captured as young people in the audience spoke.
Talking about the (approximately) eight billion pounds that flows into the United Kingdom yearly from education (Nigeria accounts for more than 20% of this figure apparently),
- a young man talked about meeting 46 organisations (so far) in Nigeria to finance his ‘training the trainers’ education enterprise. According to him, one of the directors at one of the organisations told him to “go join/start a reality show and make money.”
- Nigeria lacks avenues for young people to have work placements and internships while they are at university and so they are derived of the opportunity to grow into the professional sphere.
- People who are privileged to be employed don’t put in the work either because they are overworked and underpaid, not in their desired career (but need the job to keep body and soul together), or because they lack the requisite education to be effective in that role. Either ways, they make it harder for the next person.
- There are the ‘I Just Got Back’s’ who are often chosen ahead of other youth who studied in the country because it is automatically assumed that they have a better education thanks to their studies abroad.
What are the priorities for Nigeria at the moment? Creating and sustaining relationships with emerging economies or staying focused on world powers? What does it profit us to be the ‘giant of Africa’ in name and population size only?
Since forever, there hasn’t been a policy regulating Nigeria’s bilateral relations with China so they come into Nigeria to help ‘build the country’ on their terms.
What can we do differently then?
- Nigerians need to move beyond the entitlement, ‘what can my country do for me’ mentality to one in which they are unafraid to give. Graduates need to look beyond being employees to being employers, from complaining to actually putting their hands to the plough and working.
*Major shout out to entrepreneurs who are making things happen despite the hindrances and hostile environment we are all in*
- We need to become creative. Our oil has made us lazy! We have oil today (and a market for it) so assured of a steady stream of income, we do not have the burden of seeking out creative ways to generate income.
- Regardless of who the President is (even if by some odd stroke of fate we had Barack Obama or Mahatma Gandhi as president), they still wouldn’t be able to please/satisfy the entire country. We would still have problems with them. Why? Because they are flesh and blood like us, infallible, and capable of mistakes.
I thought it was a brilliant, robust discussion and it was great to meet new people, explore avenues of collaboration, all the extras that come with these kinds of events. I just have two questions though
- Beyond the talk shop and the networking, where do we go from here? What actionable steps were identified?
- Who organizes an event of this magnitude, in the United Kingdom, without wi-fi?
[Photo Credit: SAND-UK]