There is no doubt that doing our part in youth development Africa is important. Our continent has the highest youth population in the world and we can only use this to our advantage if we up skill the youth. Unfortunately most governments in Africa only talk about empowering the youth but go on to fill government with the older generation. How do we create a future fit for the young generation if we don’t make space for them now?
Luckily some entrepreneurs are taking on the challenge. Oluwatoyin Ajilore has over 5 years of experience in youth development with a focus on the intersection between education and entrepreneurship. Currently, she is the Founder/Director of Grassroots Business Hub (GBH), a nonprofit organization in Nigeria. GBH is committed to entrepreneurial development for youth-led micro/small scale enterprises towards community socioeconomic development. Oluwatoyin actively works to provide entrepreneurial education, business mentoring, networking opportunities and low-end funds to micro and small scale enterprises and prepare teenagers for a world of business.
In 15 months, GBH has carried out 9 onsite training programs and other external training that have engaged about over 180 entrepreneurs. GBH has facilitated mentorship with seasoned entrepreneurs for 20 micro entrepreneurs (including aspiring ones). They planned and facilitated a course on basic entrepreneurship for teenagers where they have currently reached out to 20 teenagers. They have negotiated partnerships that have provided over 120,000 NGN (about $350) in business funding to 4 businesses.
She has also worked as a Geology educator in General Studies at the University of Ibadan. Oluwatoyin has also volunteered as an educator and self-development mentor for undeserved high school students at Jumpstart Dream Academy. She holds a BSc degree in Geology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria with two Master’s Degrees. One in Economic Geology from the University of Ibadan, and in Mineral Exploration from the Pan African University, as an African Union Scholar. Oluwatoyin is determined to offer every resource and skill she possess to see MSMEs become sustainable and help beat the larger problem of unemployment in Nigeria and Africa.
We asked her why she started the non profit org and this is what she had to say.
Business, for me, has always been an opportunity to create a product/value/wealth. The process of creation fascinated as a child leading me to start my first business (retailing) at 10. Watching this and some of the other businesses I did fail, and observing the same trend of failure in several small businesses owned by friends and families over the years, became a matter of personal concern to me. It was such a recurrent trend that it became almost predictable, with jarring statistics of 80% of small businesses in Nigeria failing within the first 3 years. I started asking myself questions.
Was there a way to forestall, or at least reduce the rampant failure? Was it about the economic terrain we found ourselves in? How about the 20% who were succeeding despite that? Some of my friends built stable and thriving businesses right from scratch? Was there something they knew and we who failed did not? Was there a way to help other entrepreneurs (and aspiring ones) from becoming a part of the failure statistics or at least reduce their chances of failure due to avoidable circumstance? GBH came as the final answer to these questions.