Against the backdrop of the #lazyNigerianyouths frenzy centred around the debate over how many Nigerian youths sit back and do nothing while expecting free money because Nigeria is an oil-rich state, Ripples Nigeria presents a list of 20 young Nigerians who are beating the odds to achieve success.
They have through sheer tenacity, and use of their talents and technological initiative developed products and services that have made a great positive impact on their environment and chosen field.
Those who made the Ripples list of young achievers include:
SHOLA AKINLADE, CEO & Co-founder, PayStack
Shola Akinlade is simplifying the difficulties in making and receiving online payments in Nigeria. He and Ezra Olubi co-founded PayStack, a payment processing company which lets businesses accept payments via debit card or money transfer on their websites or mobile apps.
Both software engineers and computer scientists who graduated from Babcock University in 2006, influenced by the tech ecosystem in the university started PayStack in 2014 with small funding from family and friends. Currently, more than 1, 500 customers and companies are using the payment app.
Consumers do not need to sign up to use Paystack. All that is required is a Mastercard, Visa or Verve debit card to pay on Paystack merchant sites. Merchants on the other hand are required to sign up. The initial sign up process takes only a few seconds to complete, afterwards merchants/developers get instant access to test Paystack’s environment and APIs on the go.
RUNCIE CHIDEBE, CEO, Project PINK BLUE
If there’s any hope to fix the decrepit cancer treatment centres in Nigeria, then Runcie Chidebe, 31, is the Messiah. He wants to change the world– saving lives of cancer patients and putting smiles on their faces. Since 2013, Chiedebe has been at the forefront, campaigning for cancer patients in Nigeria, sourcing for funds and calling for reforms in cancer treatment in Nigeria.
He is changing the narrative of saving cancer patients and engaging the government and other stakeholders in establishing a National Agency on Cancer Control to assist cancer victims in the country.
As founder of Project PINK BLUE – a non-profit community-based cancer initiative which was conceived during his National Youth Service scheme in 2013, Chidebe has been providing free breast and cervical cancer screenings for poor and rural women to help phase-out late diagnosis of cancer in Africa.
Since its launch, more than 1500 women have directly benefited from the free cancer screenings, diagnosis, while over one million have been reached through his outreaches and campaigns.
In February, Chidebe pulled a crowd of about 5000 – volunteers, activists, celebrities, media personalities and concerned citizens to embark on a road walk during the 2018 World Cancer Day celebration in Abuja. This has been an annual ritual since founding Project PINK BLUE.
A graduate of Psychology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Chidebe’s works and advocacy have not gone unnoticed – laurels have come his way too. In 2015, he was among the eight young people below the age of 40 selected to attend and receive the Young Leader award at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit in Istanbul based on his cancer advocacy in Nigeria. At the Summit, he was recognized by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the largest cancer-fighting organization in the world with over 900 member organizations across 155 countries representing the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health, research institutes, treatment centres and patient groups.
In 2016, he was a recipient of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) – an exchange program of the United States aimed at developing civic leadership skills on young people. As expected, Chidebe has explored his leadership skills that facilitate social empowerment and justice especially for disadvantaged rural communities who are more at risk of cancer.
Recently, the United States in conjunction with Project PINK BLUE, announced a decision to send two certified medical oncologists through the Fulbright Specialist Program to support and train 40 Nigerian doctors with Medical Oncology Training aimed at building dynamic and excellent cancer treatment in Nigeria between professionals and institutions.
Agriculture is a major contributor to Nigeria’s gross domestic product and small-scale farmers, who produce more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s food play a dominant role in this area. More than 80 percent of farmers in Nigeria are smallholder farmers, and they are generally poor.
Fortunately, one man has vowed to improve the work of farmers in Nigeria. Twenty-seven-year-old Nasir Yammama created Verdant AgriTech – a social enterprise to support rural farmers with mobile technologies for sustainable farming and improved food production. Founded in 2014, Verdant AgriTech has been offering mobile agricultural extension services, market information, managerial support, and access to financial services to hundreds of smallholder farmers in Nigeria. Using low-end phones USSD, SMS and voice services, rural farmers can interact with the system without hitches.
AMBLESSED OLUEBUBE OKAFOR, CEO, Waka-Waka Photography
Amblessed Okafor, 23, wants to change the world with her photography. As a humanitarian photographer, she is using her photography to change the lives of those in her community and beyond. Her photography mirrors some of the ills in the society – the less privileged from disadvantaged communities and what they go through daily.
Her works have impacted on the lives of many – the less privileged, orphans, widows and widowers. In 2017, she took pictures of Virginia Ozioko (of blessed memory), a poor cleaner at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka who has not been paid her salaries for months and put it up on Facebook. Within hours, the pictures went viral and attracted sympathy from social media users who started a crowd funding for her. Within days, more than N100, 000 was raised for the woman to help her pay her children’s school fees and fix other needs of the family.
“I understood her plight. I’ve been there. Not having enough to sustain the family. I have felt pain as a child. Hawked sachets of water on the streets when I was living with an aunt. So when I saw her, I was moved to portray her,” Okafor said.
Her intention for putting up the pictures on social media was to get the school authorities to pay her. “Part of the reasons I uploaded the pictures was to create awareness and get the right authorities to pay them.” Instead, social media users came to the woman’s aid.
Same year, she helped in sourcing for funds and paying the school fees of more than 22 pupils in Asaba, Delta state through her photography. One of the pupils who was gradually going blind was taken to the hospital and a recommended glasses bought for him. She has also partnered with different charities and NGOs in touching lives in the society such as the Canadian-based Gradual Rising of Women (GROW) among others to help some less privileged children on the streets – taking them back to school and buying learning materials for them.
She has organized and participated in Street Photography Walks covering states in the South East and Northern Nigeria where she joined other photographers to take pictures of everyday live in those areas and how the people are surviving despite challenging times.
On February 9, 2018, she won the Philanthropist/Humanitarian award of the year from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
CHRIS KWEKOWE, Co-Founder, Slatecube
In today’s world, no one would ever think of turning down a job offer from Bill Gates – the world’s richest man. But Chris Kwekowe, an MIT-trained young Nigerian did just that when he turned down an offer from Gates’ Microsoft to begin his own start-up.
At 24, Chris Kwekowe is on his way to change the innovation and tech industry in Africa. In 2014, at just 22, Kwekowe and his younger brother, Emerald founded Slatecube – an online website which is set to tackle talent management, skills gap and unemployment in Nigeria and Africa. Through Slatecube, students and fresh graduates sign on to the platform where they learn and acquire industry-relevant skills, after which they get experience by virtually interning at reputable ICT firms, putting their learned skills to use. Their overall experience at Slatecube gives them a chance of getting employed by some international high profile companies.
Reports say the platform has an 80 percent employment rate for its users. And has saved companies over $100,000 in hiring skilled and ready to work employees.
The platform with over 3, 000 visitors each month, boasts of over 157 industry related topics ranging from corporate finance to anger management, is in partnership with 23 schools and organization, and has provided over 1500 virtual internship programmes. Kwekowe is aiming to produce about 1.2 million Africans trained in Slatecube in the future and has hosted innovative and skills development conferences in Kenya and Botswana.
In 2015, Chris won double grants – a recipient of the $5,000 Tony Elumelu Foundation grants and the $25, 000 Anzisha prize for innovative entrepreneurs. He was also awarded the most innovative enterprise by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Beyond Nigeria, Chris wants to provide tech-driven innovative solutions to unemployment in Africa.
CHIDINMA AKANIRO, Founder, YOWA
A business development expert and social entrepreneur, Chidinma Akaniro is a change agent changing the mindset of African youths through entrepreneurship. As founder of Youths of West Africa (YOWA), Akaniro mobilizes would-be entrepreneurs online and off-line for practical training sessions on how to grow their businesses and survive in an ever Competitive business environment.
YOWA is a social initiative aimed at changing the global perception of West African youths by increasing the visibility of great works of youths in West Africa. YOWA guides young Africans through the process of setting up businesses as well as providing business solution services for youth owned businesses in West Africa.
In 2016, Akaniro’s essay on how to address the challenges facing African businesses as a leader won the 3rd Runner-up prize for the African Leadership Essay competition.
In March 2013, she won a 6-million-naira business grant from the federal government of Nigeria’s Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWin) business grant.
An alumnus of Barak Obama’s Young African Leader’s Initiative (YALI) – a program intended to build the capacity of young emerging leaders in Africa in different sectors.
GABRIEL EZE, Founder, Touchabl Pictures
Gabriel Eze is proving to Nigerians especially tech-preneurs that start-ups can also survive in other parts of the country aside Lagos – the undisputed hub for entrepreneurs, innovators and up-and-coming start-ups in the country.
Since 2011, Eze has been working on picture software technology. Between 2017 and 2018, he founded and incorporated Touchabl Pictures – a platform that enable anyone search and shop for anything in any picture just by touching it. It has a camera feature that will enable user touch things in their surroundings, in real-time, and get instant information about it and/or where to buy them. This deeper and more personalized insight empowers businesses and brands with a richer knowledge about consumer interests in their offering and how they can better their product and service experience.
At a time, Touchabl, like every other start-up, encountered challenges and was about collapsing. But Marven Harry, co-founder of Wefix joined Touchabl and things turned around for good.
“With no money to support the project, personal savings drained, the only thing that I had was my guts and Maven. It turned out both were right. Things have returned to normal and everyone is back on their work station firing on all cylinders. We even got new members to the team,” Eze was quoted as saying at that time.
Touchabl is currently available in 10 languages: English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, Ukrainian, French and Hindi and there are plans of expanding to other languages, even local Nigerian languages.
The startup has already seen growth of nearly 200 per cent in downloads, and has a 60 per cent rate with Nigeria, the United States and India making up 95 percent of its user base currently.
In 2017, Eze won the Startup South Pitch Challenge. For the future, he sees Touchabl as global destination for discovering fashion and lifestyles.
In Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno State, stories of suicide attacks, explosions, destruction and abductions are commonplace.
But this city has far more to show off than Boko Haram’s deadly insurgency. This is what Fati wants to help the world see since she ventured into photography; the happy sides of Maiduguri in 2015. With “Bits of Borno” a project created by Fati to document everyday life in Borno State.
With her camera slung over her shoulder, Fati goes about the city sharing photos of survival, hope, redemption and other aspects of everyday life in the city. She has taken about 1,000 photographs, including those of schoolchildren, grandmothers, business people, vigilantes and other locals whose stories transcends life beyond the ravages of the insurgency.
She has performed in exhibitions within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
HENRY OBINUGWU, Founder, VNTS
Henry is a Tech Entrepreneur with broad interests in Hardware or Software Product Ideation, Design, Development and Manufacturing. Technology has always been a constant in Henry’s life. It has informed majority of his life decisions, from choosing to study at the University of Lagos and the United Kingdom where he graduated top of his class to the visions he has for current and futuristic inventions.
Henry founded VNTS as a product development company invested in the ideation, development and production of original hardware products and the accompanying platforms supporting the devices. It is an indigenous organization founded on the premise that Africa is capable of manufacturing intelligent and innovative products tailored to solving Africa’s peculiar tech needs.
NetPremise Router & Extender which is VNTS’ first product, is a solution for weak Wi-Fi signals and poor internet connectivity issues prevalent in buildings constructed with brick walls as is common in Africa and many countries around the world.
Henry says of his firm, “VNTS embodies the resilient spirit of the African entrepreneur. We want to encourage local development of solutions to tech hardware problems instead of the usual expensive practice of importing devices and solutions without access to support and technical expertise.
HAUWA OJEIFO, Founder, She Writes Woman
After suffering bouts of bipolar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) in 2015, and finding no support group ready to help sufferers, the next year in April, 2016, Hauwa Ojeifo, 25, founded SheWritesWoman – an NGO committed to spreading love, hope and support for women that live with mental disorders.
In July, just three months after its creation, SheWritesWoman launched the first 24/7 mental illness helpline in Nigeria and has received calls locally and internationally since, helping people better understand mental illness and most important providing them with the right professional help.
Hauwa’s goal – to help women and people who are living with mental disorders. Today, SheWritesWoman has become a savior to people with mental illness as she holds private mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotlines and found mentally ill persons access to free or heavily subsidized mediation and is advocating for better healthcare.
Last year, Ojeifo was announced as one of the young Nigerians to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders award in June, 2018. The award celebrates exceptional young people aged 18 to 29 from across the Commonwealth and the work they are undertaking to improve lives across a diverse range of issues, from supporting people living with mental health problems, helping children to receive a quality education, to promoting gender equality.
“Mental illness is not a death sentence. It is not wearing rags by the road in a bin pile. That’s the picture that always comes to mind even unconsciously. I always tell people that you can live an extraordinary life even with mental illness. I don’t try to be normal, I am extraordinary despite and in spite of my mental illness,” Ojeoifo says.
IFEANYI ORAJAKA, Co-founder, GVE
Ifeanyi Orajaka, Co-founder of Green Village Electricity Enterprises (GVE Projects Limited) wants to light up the world. Founded in 2009 during their undergrad days, GVE contributes to solving Nigeria’s energy poverty crises especially in rural off-grid communities by providing reliable and sustainable clean energy solutions for residential, commercial and rural off-grid communities.
Having successfully completed six pilot projects to prove operational and financial viability, GVE has become one of the foremost indigenous and innovative renewable energy solutions provider in West Africa.
Orajaka and his co-founders observed chronic prevailing energy problems in Niger-Delta creeks during their undergrad internship while on several oil field facility inspection visits. Then, they came up with a sustainable solution to this using clean energy.
GVE Projects is currently in collaboration with state Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Civil Organizations to assess/qualify sites for projects. At the moment, they are in collaboration with Rivers, Niger, Gombe and Anambra states.
GVE Projects engage locals for 90% of the implementation workforce thereby creating local jobs, transferring skills and building their capacity while creating wealth in the local economy through wages and related expenditures.
On the largest energy access installation, GVE Projects boasts of a 37.8kWp system which is the largest in West Africa.
Orajaka has worked in collaboration with US Power Africa Initiative, IEEE, USADF, USAID, GE, DFID, GIZ, Bank of Industry Nigeria, Deloitte, amongst others which has resulted in the creation of cumulative capacity of 500kW, generated 1GWhrs of clean, reliable and affordable electricity impacting 1320 households.
His projects have also created 500 jobs, trained 260 young people and created N16 million in wealth for the communities they have operated in.
With a population of over 180 million people, Nigeria requires up to 1.8million units of blood every year according to the health ministry. But experts say, Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) is collecting just 500,000 pints of blood annually – a shortfall of nearly 75%.
This is exactly the gap Temie Giwa-Tubosun, the founder and CEO of LifeBank, wanted to close when she started the health start-up in December 2015. LifeBank is connecting blood banks and hospitals, as well as organizing blood donation drives.
Temi has organised blood donation drives at universities across the country, and collected thousands of pints of blood. LifeBank has more than 40 blood banks and about 300 hospitals on its platform. It has moved more than 7,000 pints from blood banks to hospitals, and it is working to create hubs across the country.
GODWIN BENSON, Co-Founder, Tuteria
Godwin Benson, 27, is making learning easy and seamless with his Tuteria, an app that links qualified tutors to students on a range of academic subjects in their area and within their budget. Tuteria was developed based on Benson’s experiences as a tutor.
The app has a ratings system, and allows students to book lessons using an upfront online payment system. Tutors are then paid once the lessons have been confirmed, and Tuteria takes 15 to 30% commission for each paid lesson.
An important part of the service is that both students and teachers are thoroughly vetted before being allowed to use the platform.
The app offers more than 250 skills which ranges from learning to playing the piano, sewing clothes, learning a new language and more. Tutors also cover a range of academic subjects for all ages.
Benson was one of the top 30 finalists of the Aso Villa Demo Day event held in Abuja where he met with the Presidency, and with Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg who both applauded Tuteria’s contribution to education. He emerged a winner of Facebook’s Internet.org Africa Innovation Challenge in Education, as well as a recipient of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Award 2016.
In 2017, Benson’s innovation won a £25, 000 prize from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering where the judges applauded his innovation as a new technology in helping millions who are eager to learn new skills and knowledge.
Benson’s dream is to extend the application of his innovation beyond Nigeria to other African countries.
In a country where thousands of young women still undergo female genital mutilation, what we need is a fighter whose doggedness can withstand community rejection and counterattacks. Gift Audu, 34, is one such fighter who has seen it all: communities that fight her back when she tells them mutilating girls does not promote premarital fidelity, youths in villages who attack her and crowds who leave her standing in an empty hall once she mentions that they should consider dropping the cultural practice.
Gift left her job as a nurse at a federal medical centre in central Nigeria to start a campaign against FGM. She has been travelling all over Nigeria, especially in the south where it is more pronounced, for the past 10 years to denounce the practice. Alongside her husband Augustine Abu, Gift has been visiting towns and remote villages and holding meetings with traditional rulers, tribal chiefs, traditional birth attendants, families, and youth.
Her team designed the first-ever comprehensive plan, which involves using local strategies like dance, football, or traditional wrestling competitions to end FGM.
Before Yaba became what it is today – a tech district of sorts – there were young Nigerians like Iyinoluwa Aboyeji who, though they lived and studied abroad, had larger plans for their home countries.
His plans for Nigeria’s tech scene crystallised in 2014 when he combined forces with his old friend Jeremy Johnson, to establish lagos-based talent accelerator Andela, which recruits and trains software developers and connects them with employers. So far, Andela has trained more than 200 engineers since 2016. It also runs another campus in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
In 2016, the start-up raised $24 million in funding from Facebook founder Zuckerberg. That same year, after helping to build the company to over $100 million market cap in two years, Iyinoluwa left Andela to start Flutterwave, a provider of technology and infrastructure solutions for digital payments across Africa. Today, the company processes over $760 million through 7.5 million transactions for merchants in partnership with financial institutions.
After surviving rape in 2011, Oluwaseun Osowobi was inspired to work to achieve a different future for women. In 2013, she started an online platform on social media to help survivors speak out.
Today Osowobi leads the team at Stand to End Rape Initiative, a non-profit advocacy organization that travels to villages, towns, and schools to raise awareness about the effects and stigma associated with rape, in addition to creating specific programs — such as one teaching young men to respect women — aimed at preventing rape and helping rape survivors through trauma.
The organization has helped hundreds of girls, and uses its website to share stories and videos of rape survivors and encourage people to report abuse. It has also been teaching parents to follow up with incidents of rape, and works with the police to report rape cases.
James Okina was sad and worried about his future when his parents separated and he went on to stay with his father (who is now late). He was just eight years old, and highly impressionable. James joined gangs and played truant, but had a turnaround when a cousin, who visited from Lagos and was leading a different lifestyle, made him to have a rethink and want to become a better person.
At 16, James saw the growing number of streets children in Calabar as a big problem that needed urgent attention. Thanks to his previous experience of hanging out with tough guys in his neighbourhood, James was able to start Street Priests, a non-profit that has successfully taken more than 200 street children off the streets. Most of them were reunited with their parents, while dozens were offered accommodation in a local church from where they continue formal schooling.
Abisoye Ajayi, GirlsCoding
Nigeria’s tech industry may be booming, but the sector is still dominated by men. Through the Pearls Africa Foundation’s outreach program, founder Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, 32, wants to use tech to help girls from the most vulnerable communities realize their potential.
Her GirlsCoding program has reached hundreds of girls from slums, internally displaced camps, orphanages and correctional homes. The organization’s goal is to add 20,000 new female computer programmers to Nigeria’s tech industry by 2020.
Like many large cities in Africa, Lagos suffers from continuously growing amounts of waste without having an adequate infrastructure to treat it. Olamide Ayeni-Babajide started Pearl Recycling, a social enterprise to tackle this problem. Pearl Recycling pays people a token to collect solid waste such as plastic cutlery, PET bottles, car tyres, straws, CDs, wood, old newspapers and magazines and recycle them into marketable office and home furniture such as tables, chairs and home décor.
Tola Sunmonu-Balogun, Founder/President, Harambe Nigeria, 30
Tola Sunmonu wants to put food security on Nigeria’s national agenda and her objective is to start an agricultural revolution that will result in Nigeria being able to feed its citizens and have surplus to export. She is the founder of Harambe, Nigeria, a not-for-profit organisation whose vision is to change the way Nigerian youths engage with agriculture, by heightening their love for the sector.
Her main project is the Harambe Incubator for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (HISARD), a scholarship programme at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) that provides carefully selected students the opportunity to start local agribusinesses.
After two years of innovative projects and events to put a spotlight on Agriculture in Nigeria especially amongst young people, Harambe Nigeria , has moved on to a new level of engagement: providing young agri-entrepreneurs with the opportunities to build and expand their ventures.
Tola, using Harambe is confident she will inspire a new generation of Nigerian entrepreneurs who will lead innovation in the agricultural sector and in turn help diversify Nigeria ‘s economy.
By Linus Unah, Etaghene Edirin, Chinedu Chidi and Patrick Egwu…
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