Message of Hope

Aanu Damola Morenikeji (ADM) and Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo - as the latter affirms his hope for Nigeria and Nigerians

Leading the Future

ADM and some pupils at one of his programme.

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

Aanu Damola Morenikeji and Obiageli "Oby" Ezekwesili (CFR); World Bank's Vice President for Africa.


Aanu Damola Morenikeji with the Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun after becoming the first recipient of the Ogun State Youth Award for Excellence in Health and Community Service.

Friday, 22 July 2016

On Perseverance and Little Big Things

Keep doing what you do, as long as it makes positive sense!

Over the last few weeks, I have been having conversations about perseverance, failure and excellence. I heard humbling experiences of friends and colleagues as we all shared moments where we learned from failure and not-too-good moments. When some of these people talk about the successes of what they do, it seems they had never 'down' moments.

Tonight, Wisdom and I were checking my cabinet, when we came across the raw hand-written manuscript of a book I wrote in 2006. Ten years ago! Wisdom did some c
alculations and we both screamed 'Wow!'. I laid on the bed and smiled as my 14-year old brother read and pointed out some mistakes in the manuscript. He was equally challenged.

Have you been bothered about the mistakes you've made (or are making), just breathe. Breathe and breathe. Take out time to review and learn from your actions and the experiences of others.

Lessons: Keep records of the little / big things you do. Take time to review and reexamine what you do. Learn good lessons. When though time comes, remember why you set out, seek relevant lessons from others and quit not.

It works; in business and life.

July 22, 2016. Ng.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Growing with Young African Leaders

If there is one thing i crave insatiably, it is growth.

Damola Morenikeji and Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Few weeks ago, I joined other young African leaders / professionals selected (out of over 14,000 applications) for the US President's Young African Leaders Initiative RLC Fellowship. I grew. I am still growing - daily.

Our individual commitment to growth is paramount; it influences our leadership, actions and results. The daily actions by friends and partners (even you and others on this platform) to drive positive change around the world is equally commendable. I see you - like I had, before now.

Let's keep growing, doing and being. We can #BeMore.

[Photo: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US Assistant Secretary of States for Africa) and Damola Morenikeji at the US Ambassador's Office in Ghana]
Other images, courtesy the US Embassy in Ghana are below.
Damola Morenikeji, US Ambassador to Ghana Robert Porter Jackson and Amewuda Getrude

Some of the Young African Leaders hosted by the US Ambassador to Ghana

Monday, 28 March 2016

The ‘Iyalaya Anybody’ Lessons on Innovation and Development in Africa

by Damola Morenikeji

Most times in the development space, we have to look beyond headlines and taglines and focus on lessons from pieces and lives. I read Prof. Pius Adesanmi’s keynote address titled “Iyalaya Anybody: Pencils, Nigerian Innovation, & Africa’s Path in the 21st Century”** delivered last week in Lagos, Nigeria. Beyond the ostensibly ‘obscenity’ that may come with the title, he distinctively approached the theme of innovation and the development of the African continent with conscientious audacity, thought-provokingly.
The world is changing. Innovation, knowledge-based growth, vision and corresponding actions are important factors for national development – in this case, I prefer to say continental development. While I applaud futuristic initiatives as the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, we need to place all hands on deck to innovate, act, review our actions, evaluate progresses and further scale up development. Like I shared with a colleague some nights ago, these ‘Agendas’ are achievable, if like the United Arabs Emirate, we – among other things – build strong institutions, promote strong societal values embedded in a culture of excellence in leadership and responsibility, invest in education and human capital development. No nation ever moved up the development ladder by trivializing inclusive governance and human capital development.
We get to respect and appreciate the borderless possibilities that exist only when we try; when we try to live responsibly, knowing that the fate of the African continent depends largely – not only on the actions of her governments but also of her young people. For several days, I have been opportune to meet and interact with some of the brightest young minds in the continent. One thing they possess in common is an audacity to change the narrative. Whether through entrepreneurship, civil society leadership or public management, they can be dubbed as ‘innovators of the public’ – apologies to Ashoka, solving some of the various problems in their various spaces across the continent, with or without public institutional backing.
A visionary leadership in all countries in Africa positively encouraging youth innovation is unarguably an answer to the question of how we may live in the realities of the envisioned Africa come 2063. Some other questions are worth answering: do we have to wait till 2063? Can we get Agenda 2063 achieved years before the deadline? Can we learn from the successes and failures of the Millennium Development Goal/Agenda (MDG) and commit ourselves to the task at hand? Can we harness the innovative prowess of our young people, in an environment that promotes creativity, innovation, peace, mutual respect and dignity? Can we recheck the foundation laid in anticipation of development, and mend or re-lay weak ends for this and future generations? Can we be truthful to ourselves and review our preparedness for the journey? Can we consciously encourage home-grown youth-driven innovations?
The experiences of several other innovative young Africans sometimes make me imagine the level of progress we might have further made, if we had better climate that genuinely supports what we do. However, I resonate with Prof’s opinion that the absence of this climate can result in positive doggedness and a resilient positive attitude raised to a square of what is required in other societies.
Another important factor, we must learn not only to change the narrative by doing, but also by telling. We need to tell our own stories. We need to encourage ingenuity. Recalling the story of Dziffa Akua Ametam, the 23 year old founder of the Ghana-based e-commerce platform,, whom I met at a Breakfast meeting recently, and the stories of several others, we are reminder that while changing the development narrative, we need to be proactive in telling our story; what my friend, Adenike means when she advises on blowing your trumpets. While rankings, fellowships et al may be helpful, we need to go beyond that and have a strong record system. It is in this light that I feel the toils of Jidenma’s Celebrating Progress Africa, Innovation Prize for Africa, Africa Rizing’s Watch2016 Rizers listing, African Youth Awards, YouthHub Africa, The Future Project and others within the continent and in diaspora. We need to be, and do much more.
We have a good journey ahead. We can go farther when we hold hands and hearts. In work. In Values. In results. For Africa.


** The keynote address was published here or can be read below:


Iyalaya Anybody: Pencils, Nigerian Innovation, & Africa’s Path in the 21st Century

By Pius Adesanmi

(Keynote lecture delivered at the 5th Innovention Series of Verdant Zeal Group, Lagos, Nigeria March 22, 2016)
You must excuse the obscenity, “iyalaya anybody”, in my title. When you invite a well-known scholar of African popular cultures to address such a distinguished assembly of actors and professionals in Nigeria’s corporate and entrepreneurial world, you must be prepared to be illuminated by the philosophical nuggets always hidden in the lingos and cultures of the African street. You must be prepared for some discomfiture.
In its pristine cultural background in the Yoruba world, “iyalaya” is an obscenity hurled at your opponent in a brawl to display contempt for his or her maternal lineage. It is usually accompanied by the insulting palm and five-finger flash we call “waka” in the face of your opponent. The consequence, as you all know, is often a bloody nose and an unscheduled trip to the hospital. However, as cultures evolve across generations, new meanings emerge and old words or expressions and are sent on new errands by the human imagination.
Thus, in its contemporary usage in Nigerian popular culture, “iyalaya anybody” speaks directly to the spirit and theme of Verdant Zeal’s 5th Innovention Series: “The Next Big Thing: Identifying Africa’s Untapped Potential.” Within this broad thematic framing around the African continent, I was further mandated by the organizers of this event to try and think through the particular issue of a path for Nigerian innovation in the 21st century.
I was asked to ponder some questions: what promises does Nigerian innovation hold and in which directions could it lead our society? What are the challenges to Nigerian innovation? Indeed, during one of my many telephone conversations with Verdant Zeal’s Mr. Dipo Adesida on the subject matter of this lecture, he had even told me pointblank: “Prof, we want you to answer the question: what’s the next big thing for Nigeria?” I gave him a confounding answer: “iyalaya anybody”!
It was not immediately clear to Mr. Adesida – and I am sure it is not clear to you too as yet – how “iyalaya anybody”, a slang from the popular culture factory of a certain Nigerian youth demographic that loves to display its swagger on social media, can be said to be the next big thing in Nigerian, nay African innovation. Permit me to sustain your suspense a bit. The longer you are unable to figure out the connection between “iyalaya anybody” and the theme of this conference, the more time I have to make my case and explore matters in detail!
Suffice it to say, for now, that starting with your beautiful neologism, “innovention”, the theme of this event features at least three of the conceptual keywords which 21st-century modernity and civilization ritually use to capture the futuristic flights of the human imagination, as well as the feats that are shaping our collective human future in the provinces of invention, innovation, entrepreneurship, and potential.
Invention. Innovation. Entrepreneurship. Potential. Add globalizing economy, competitive knowledge economy, technology-driven development, and knowledge-based economy to these four keywords and you would have established a broad handle on how peoples, nations, states, and other actors and participants in the global marketplace of human advancement are remapping and reshaping notions such as growth, development, and prosperity.
These keywords speak to something I propose we call a global scramble for the future of humanity. Peoples, nations, states, corporations, multilateral organizations – and just about everything and everybody in between – are in a scramble to envision the future of humanity in line with the conceptual benchmarks of the aforementioned keywords.
The UN, with her sustainable development goals, wants to fundamentally change the world in seventeen sustainable steps by 2030. In essence, the SDGs are a fifteen-year agenda. Europe is slightly more ambitious. She does not stop at 2030 in her own roadmap to the future. The European Commission’s vision document is entitled: “The Knowledge Future: Intelligent Policy Choices for Europe 2050”. Incidentally, China also has Vision 2050. For the United Arab Emirates, it is Vision 2021, mapped out in a document built around what she calls a “competitive knowledge economy”.
Africa is not left out of this scramble for the future. Indeed, in my comparative study of what I am calling the global texts of the scramble for the future, the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 – a fifty-year envisioning of the future of the continent and her peoples launched in 2013 – is by far one of the most ambitious agenda-setting texts. Furthermore, while studying these agenda texts, the literary critic in me did not fail to observe that the omniscient narrator speaking about Africa’s future in Agenda 2063 speaks compellingly from a position of agency.
The confident perspective of the omniscient voice speaking in Agenda 2063 is an indication that the African continent is very much aware of a global scramble for a future powered by invention, innovation, genius, and entrepreneurial efflorescence; a future that will be determined and shaped by those who understand and position themselves as central players in a global growth and development scenario driven almost exclusively by competitive knowledge economies and economies of competitive knowledge. In this picture, Africa seems to be saying that she has a stake and an edge.
In essence, if you compare the omniscient narrative voices in, say, Europe 2050 and Africa’s Agenda 2063, the latter seems to be saying to the former: if you think that the nature and the order of things in the next fifty years are going to be the way you have programmed them in the last five hundred years, with you on the throne and me always groveling in poverty and backwardness at your feet, you’ve got another think coming! To the extent that the race to the second half of the 21st century and beyond is going to be powered by genius, innovation, invention, and knowledge, and not by slave ships, Gatling guns, natural resources, and colonial punitive expeditions, I, Africa, have all it takes to be an agent and a central stakeholder in the said race.
In other words, the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063 seems to be beating its chest and saying “iyalaya anybody” to all the other agenda-setting texts and literature from Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East. How does one account for the optimism, hope, and confidence which powers Agenda 2063 despite the persistent realities on the ground in Africa? To answer this question, we need to take a closer look at what unites these vision documents from various parts of the world. Let me lift a sample language from the chapter on “competitive knowledge economy” in the UAE’s Vision 2021 document:
“The global economy will witness significant economic changes in the coming years and the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda aims for the UAE to be at its heart. As a result, it focuses on the UAE becoming the economic, touristic and commercial capital for more than two billion people by transitioning to a knowledge-based economy, promoting innovation and research and development, strengthening the regulatory framework for key sectors, and encouraging high value-adding sectors. These will improve the country’s business environment and increase its attractiveness to foreign investment.
The National Agenda also aims for the UAE to be among the best in the world in entrepreneurship as this plays a key role in unlocking the potential of nationals and enables them to be a driving force of the UAE’s economic development through small and medium enterprises in the private sector. Furthermore, the Agenda strives to instill an entrepreneurial culture in schools and universities to foster generations endowed with leadership, creativity, responsibility and ambition. This will allow the UAE to be among the best in the world in ease of doing business, innovation, entrepreneurship and R&D indicators”.
This is how the UAE frames her path to 2021. Now, let’s hear from the European Commission. Here, we need not go beyond the Foreword to Europe’s Vision 2050 text, written by the European Commissioner, before we encounter language very similar to the language of the UAE document:
“Foresight is an important tool to help us face the future with confidence, understand opportunities and risks, and help us develop our medium to long term strategies for research, science and innovation policy. It takes many guises: trends, signals, scenarios, visions, road-maps and plans are all parts of the tool-box for looking to the future. In addition to these tools, using foresight requires an in-depth reflection on the policy implications and related scenarios. This report ‘The Knowledge Future: intelligent policy choices for Europe 2050’ is an excellent example of such a reflection.
Europe’s research, innovation and higher education systems are the foundation of our economic and social prospects, shaping our ability to tackle numerous challenges at both local and international level. Globalization, demographic changes and technological advances pose important challenges and opportunities for research and innovation in Europe. By reflecting on the trends and articulating scenarios, this report helps us think differently about European policies in the medium to long term.”
Same keywords. Same phraseology. Similar texts from North America and Asia do not disappoint in featuring the same keywords. Agenda 2063 agrees with all these texts from the rest of the world: the future belongs to innovation, invention, knowledge, research and development. But commonality of language, diction, and vision is not enough to account for why Africa’s Agenda 2063 places her in an “iyalaya anybody” position with the rest of the world in terms of the scramble for the future. This leaves us with the last thing that all these vision statements from Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas have in common.
All the texts agree that with the global shift from resources to human capital development, the youth demographic is the next big thing – the single most strategic key in creating prosperous societies of the future. Take the overwhelming emphasis on the youth demographic out of any of these documents and the lofty dreams, hope, vision, promise, and aspiration contained therein will collapse completely.
Basically, these documents are saying that invention, innovation, genius, entrepreneurship, and potential all devolve mainly from the dynamism of the youth demographic. In the last decade or so, the future of humanity has placed a bet on youth. The societies of the future are saying that the youth demographic is the next big thing. For good reason. If you look at the conjugation of genius, innovation, invention, energy, and work ethic which led to the emergence of the Asian Tigers and placed them at the forefront of global economic and infrastructural postmodernity, you will find the unmistakable footprint of the youth demographic all over that scenario.
This explains why from South Korea to China, from Singapore to Malaysia, from Japan to India, the explosion of the youth demographic, which social scientists once labelled a problem, is now often discoursed as a “demographic dividend” by Asia watchers. If you study Europe 2050 very carefully, you’ll notice a certain discomfort when it comes to population. The document recognizes the centrality of the youth demographic to a future of humanity midwifed by innovation, invention, and genius but Europe is worried and you should know why.
Unlike Asia and Africa, her population is aging and she does not have the youth demographic that can sustain her competitiveness in the sort of innovation-dependent future that I am describing here but hush…hush… these are things we whisper behind Europe’s back. As Fela would put it, don’t tell anybody that I told you that Europe is aging and is at a strategic demographic disadvantage in a future that is going to be determined by the restless and borderless scope of youth innovation, creativity, genius, and invention.
What the Asian Tigers call “demographic dividend” is what watchers of Africa have been calling “youth advantage” or “youth opportunity” since the beginning of the 21st century. It wasn’t always rosy. Just as the youth demographic in Asia was initially seen as a problem, the usual suspects who have told Africa’s story for five hundred years said that Africans were having way too many children. They said that there was a youth bomb waiting to explode and unleash continental scenarios of hunger, poverty, want, unemployment, social unrest, crisis, conflict, and all the usual things they say about Africa. When their master of ceremony, The Economist, saw all these things, she promptly declared Africa a hopeless continent at the end of the 20th century.
Ten years later, The Economist had a road to Damascus experience and declared Africa a hopeful continent. Our friends in Bretton Woods began to scream Africa Rising. The entire frame of discoursing Africa changed. Suddenly, everybody began to see hope, opportunity, and potential. China rushed in.
The connecting strand in all these developments is Africa’s youth and her innovation. For when experts speak, for instance, of the rise of a new African middle class and how they are changing the topography and the skylines of Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa, what they really mean is the rise of a mall-cultured, IT-savvy, and tech-savvy generation that has altered the destiny of the African continent by finding a way to bypass the insurmountable dysfunction of the state in Africa and connect to global and transnational circuitries of opportunity – the way that the youth of Africa found around the collapse of the African state is called innovation.
I will return to this question of African youth and innovation shortly but perhaps it is now time to end your extended suspense over what “iyalaya anybody” has got to do with this matter. The mere mention of “iyalaya anybody” brings to mind the Nigerian musician, Olamide, and his famous spat with music industry icon, Don Jazzy. No Nigerian needs to be reminded the details of this spat which shook the African entertainment industry to its roots and set Twitter and Facebook on fire for weeks. With the whole world watching, Olamide had shot out at the audience, “iyalaya anybody”, while dissing Don Jazzy.
When we are done here, I want you all to go to YouTube and watch the clip of that episode again. Watch Olamide’s poise and posture; pay attention to the tenor and cadence of his voice; do not miss the streak of confidence with which he screamed “iyalaya anybody” at the audience. Iyalaya anybody and what it entails in popular culture is the summation and the biography of the 21st century postmodern African youth. Iyalaya anybody is swagger. It is a thematic of the self as borderless and unleashed. Iyalaya anybody involves a projection of the self into horizons of derring-do, of exploration, of adventure. It is the unmooring of the human spirit and imagination. Iyalaya anybody says I am young and I can self-project into spaces and places never before imagined. It is human potential untethered.
“Iyalaya anybody” is the philosophical base and portrait of the kind of youth demographic that has been at the heart of Africa’s resurgence and promise since the beginning of the new millennium. A confident youth demographic that dares sans frontieres! It is the abundance of this youth potential all over the continent that makes Agenda 2063 so confident, so sure of herself, so certain that Africa will not be marginal in the scramble for a future underwritten by invention and innovation. If Agenda 2063 is betting so much on the ability of the continent’s youth demographic to rise up to the challenges of the global knowledge economy, it is because examples abound across the continent of momentous shifts in culture and economics midwifed by youth innovation and invention. Nigeria has been the pacesetter and trendsetter in this respect.
Consider the fact that as recently as the 1990s, Africa’s consumption of culture was largely dependent on Hollywood and the American music industry. Then came the reinvention of musical genres across the continent and American musicians were driven out of the dance floors and party halls of the entire continent. The Francophones started this continental cultural rebirth. I am sure you all remember how an entire continent and her diaspora swayed to the magical rhythms of “Premier Gaou” in a transcontinental and transnational burst of musical jouissance. I am sure you still remember how Awilo Longomba entranced an entire continent from Johannesburg to Nairobi via Lagos and Accra in the 1990s.
I mentioned earlier that “iyalaya anybody” is no respecter of borders and boundaries. From behind the language Iron Curtain in Africa, Awilo Longomba and Magic System burst across Anglophone Africa in the 1990s. The recalibration of the African musical landscape that they inaugurated was what prepared the ground for Innocent TuFace Idibia of the African Queen fame and Soni Nneji of the Oruka fame to conquer Africa and the world. Think of how far Africa’s musical innovation has come since then. There is even a generation of Nigerians on Facebook and Twitter for whom TuFace, African China, Mad Melon, and Soni Nneji are old school because this latter generation came of age on Azonto, Dorobucci, Eminado and Shakiti Bobo.
But also think of what has come with the rebirth of music: economics, entrepreneurship, industry, employment. Everything I have said about Africa’s music industry could be said for Nollywood. Indeed, much more could be said for Nollywood in terms of how the derring-do and innovative spirit of Nigerian youth created an industry that eventually said “iyalaya anybody” to Bollywood and is now giving Hollywood a good run for its money.
One asset that Nigeria’s and Africa’s youth demographic has in terms of channeling innovation and the knowledge economy in confronting Africa’s contemporary challenges and mapping her way to the future is the dysfunction of the African state and the near total absence of imagination and critical intelligence in running the state. Sounds contradictory, innit?
Come with me.
If you look at the United Arab Emirates, which around here is reducible to Dubai, you will see that she solved two major problems within a generation. First was the question of how she was going to transition to a post-oil economy through an aggressive diversification of her economy. Second was her irrepressible urge to become the touristic capital of the world.
If you want the wealthiest people in the world to replace you with Paris and other chic Western destinations as the world’s headquarters of tourism, there must be a visionary leadership able to channel the imagination and potential of the youth to finding innovative ways to have ice rinks and ski resorts in the desert. The leaders of the United Arab Emirates have been providing this strategic vision that has enhanced the creative and innovative juices of their youth.
The American example is also instructive. Today, people look at Mark Zuckerberg and his generation as the epitome of 21st century youth innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship. But the foundation for this spirit was laid by generations of American visionary leaders. Long before Mark Zuckerberg was born, an American leader had taught his people that there is no limit to human will and desire. He gave them a deadline to extend themselves beyond us all and conquer the moon. This no-limit philosophy to human daring, imagination, and innovation is the philosophical matrix into which the generation of Mark Zuckerberg was born. Do not make the mistake of thinking that these kids just happened along ex-nihilo.
And today, the leaders of Dubai are inspiring their youth demographic by making them believe that whatever futuristic leaps they can imagine can be done. Every time you think that Dubai has taken us to the very limits of futuristic architecture and construction, some youth somewhere innovates an engineering marvel that allows Dubai to add more floors to those skyscrapers. In America, the leadership is telling a restless youth demographic that the moon is not enough – they must conquer Mars. All over Asia, youth are imagining and shaping our future in huge innovation leaps because their leaders are telling them that they must beat American kids. That is why Chinese kids go to Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia and make American kids look like dunces in those places.
The opposite is the case in much of Africa. Take Nigeria for example. While visionary leadership and the state are making it possible for the youth in America and Asia to dream of conquering Mars and opening up the next frontiers of science and innovation, the Nigerian Federal government recently assured her own youth that with patience, dedication, prayers and dry fasting, we may be able to manufacture pencils in two or three years. Yes, you heard me right. Manufacturing pencils by 2018 or 2019 is how a Federal Minister in Nigeria recently framed the aspirations of the Nigerian government. With any luck, the Nigerian government may inspire our youth to try and see how we might be able to manufacture toothpicks in 2050.
The tragic mental constipation of the state in Africa is magnified by Nigeria in ways that are intensely painful and personal. If you think that aiming to manufacture pencils at about the time that some people elsewhere are thinking that they may land a man on Mars and start Mars tourism is the worst case of aspirational poverty we have encountered from the Nigerian state in recent times, it means you are not current.
All over Nigeria, Fulani herdsmen have been having bloody clashes with their host communities, culminating in the recent Agatu massacres which resulted in about five hundred deaths in some estimates. The Nigerian state’s predictable response to a problem which calls for the facilitation and mobilization of the innovative genius of the people is to retort that she would import grass from Brazil to feed the cattle and solve the problem! This got me thinking about the boy who recently resolved a problem for the Masai of Kenya. Lions kill their cattle. The boy invented a flashing light device which scares away the lions. The boy’s invention is trending in Kenya. Bring that problem to Nigeria and the Nigerian state’s reaction would not be how to inspire genius and innovation. Some Minister would have suggested that we import lions that are allergic to the cattle of the Masai.
But I insist that the lack of enabling or inspiring official environments for the unleashing of the creative intelligence of the continent’s youth demographic is an ironic advantage. When you understand that all over the world, the youth demographic is being called upon to harness the resources of the global knowledge economy to solve the critical problems of their societies in the present and to innovate pathways to the future; when you understand that leadership and the state have a significant role to play that is largely absent in Africa, then you understand that the cards are stacked against you and you must double your effort.
Your innovative spirit must be much more intense than what obtains in the United Arab Emirates, Europe, or North America. Making monumental progress through innovation and an irrepressible spirit of the sort that I have theorized as iyalaya anybody is how Africa’s cultural consumption in music and film has been redefined by the continent’s youth with Nigeria as hub.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Tumblr, and YouTube are products of genius, innovation, invention, and entrepreneurial wizardry but they were all midwifed in an enabling environment. Ushahidi, Budgit, Nairaland, Konga, and Nollywood were all midwifed in chronically disabling and disabled environments. The case of Nollywood is particularly telling. By the time the Nigerian state eventually decided to throw money at her in 2015, she had already overtaken Bollywood without help.
It should be clear from the foregoing that identifying the next big thing and surmounting debilitating circumstances has never been a problem for Africa’s youth demographic. Ushahidi and Budgit are innovations of foresight by young people in Kenya and Nigeria who understand that the future of the continent cannot happen in the absence of a citizenry divorced from civics. Budgit is also a warning to the Africa state. The imagination of the youth is unleashed and cannot be stopped. The innovation or invention that will make you accountable to the people is always just around the corner. The innovation that will bring you closer to good governance is always just around the corner.
In 2016, for instance, President Buhari failed in his oversight duties and his budget was padded by unscrupulous civil servants, creating one of the worst fiscal scandals in the postcolonial history of Nigeria. President Buhari failed in his duties because he was not aware of an innovation called Budgit. He has now been made painfully aware of it. Trust me, his 2017 budget will be fine. He will buy plenty of tomtom and kolanuts and go through the budget with a fine tooth comb.
What the 21st century global atmospherics of innovation, invention, and potential should say to Nigeria’s youth demographic, therefore, is that they are called upon to solve the big problems of the day in the absence of visionary governance.
Let us return to the question of the Fulani herdsmen and government’s proposed solution of importing grass from Brazil to feed Fulani cattle. With daily advancements in biotechnology, all it will take is for some gifted youth one day to stumble on a patent for improved nutritious grass that can be grown all over the arid expanse of the north. After all, there are people already projecting into a future of rain forests in the aridity of the United Arab Emirates.
Just imagine the lives that will be saved, the enhanced economic activities and the entrepreneurial frontiers that will be opened up in Nigeria if we were to channel the innovative spirit of the youth into thinking up ways to come up with nutritious grass! Just imagine the opportunities that could open up for Verdant on the promotion, branding, and packaging front if biotechnological innovation were to be used in solving the grass issues of cattle rearing in Nigeria!
This brings me to my next point: mobilities. Mobilities is the future of humanity. Part of the reason why Africa and Nigeria still face enormous challenges is that we are yet to fully understand that mobilities are indissociable from the knowledge economies and innovation ecosystems that are shaping the nature and future of human society.
Innovation has no home. Cutting edge knowledge and invention are no respecters of boundaries and borders. It is in response to the fluidity of innovation and invention that economies are globalizing and interconnecting in a frenetic pace. People will and must move and with them ideas. The next innovation or invention that will change the face of medicine, construction, or architecture forever may be crossing the Sahara Desert right now as we speak, on its way to Europe via the perilous boats of the Mediterranean Sea.
Brazil, the country from which Nigeria wants to import grass, understands the centrality of mobilities to the scramble for the future. Unknown to many people, Brazil is currently one of the biggest players on the African continent alongside China and South Africa. Brazil is buying up huge tracts of land in Southern Africa to feed its ethanol and agricultural industries. We are speaking of millions of acres already bought in Mozambique, a country twice the size of California.
The imagination of Brazilian inventors and innovators is crossing boundaries to make the soil of Angola and Mozambique produce high-yield sugar cane for Brazil’s ethanol industry. That is the power of contemporary global mobilities. I understand that Verdant Zeal has blazed a trail here by organizing a staff retreat in one African capital a year. Now, here is a Nigerian brand that understands that the future belongs to mobilities. Keep it up!
Yet, in Nigeria and in Africa, we continue to place cultural, religious, and political impediments on the path of mobilities, forgetting that our youth have to be part of the global ecology of mobilities for their imagination to roam untrammeled. We continue to let primordial identities stand in the way of the freedom to innovate which, according to Professor Calestous Juma of Harvard, is the way to go for Africa. If I am Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Fulani, Tiv, Ijaw, or Ogoni, how am I supposed to give free rein to my imagination and potential when I have to watch my shoulders as a non-indigene every time I venture out of my state? What we lose in the 21st century by placing primordial obstacles on the path of the freedom to roam and innovate is not easy to quantify in empirical terms and that is why we are hardly aware of it.
Only Ghana seems to have understood what is at stake in terms of mobilities because she inaugurated visa-free entry to Ghana for all citizens of Africa. That is one small step for Ghana, and one giant step for Africa. It is important for Nigerian youth to rise up to the challenge of national and transnational mobilities.
One way in which Nigerian youth can overcome strictures and impediments to mobilities is by constantly striving to become full and active citizens of global economies of knowledge. Cast your mind back to the agenda-setting documents we examined at the beginning of this lecture. Whether it is the UAE document or the European text, you would have noticed the emphasis on world-class and first-rate Universities and research institutions as the power houses of 21st century cutting-edge research. They are not joking. The University idea is taken extremely seriously in those societies and billions is poured into research and knowledge production.
In fact, China and the United Arab Emirates are having it both ways. They are building their own 21st-century world-class Universities, attracting the best brains in the disciplines and the professions to those Universities while still sending their kids en masse to elite Institutions of the West in case there is anything they are missing. That is why Universities and research institutions in the West and in Asia always dominate all the rankings and are by far superior in research output and indicators.
Africa barely registers here and you know why. The closest we have to what might be generously called 21st-century Universities in Africa are in South Africa. I am thinking of Wits, UJ, UCT, Rhodes, and Stellenbosch to name a few. The emphasis here is on the word generosity otherwise South Africa wouldn’t even come close to having anything I consider to be a 21st-century University. The picture indeed is very bad in Africa and there is no need sugar coating it. Nigeria, as usual, leads Africa in the bastardization of the University idea.
In fact, one of the most frustrating things for me is when Nigerian kids graduate and they send me emails seeking admission opportunities abroad. You hear that so and so graduated from the great University of Ibadan, the great University of Lagos, the great UNN, the great Ahmadu Bello University, the great Obafemi Awolowo University, etc. I would read such emails and shake my head and mutter, God soda your mouth!
Who told you that there is a great University in Nigeria by 21st-century standards? Do you even have any idea what a University is, let alone a great one? State governments are the worst culprits here. Imagine Ondo state having almost four Universities when her entire annual budget is not up to the research endowment of Harvard! I am sure you have heard that the Governor of Osun state received only N6 million in Federal allocation this month. Given the fact that the Governor’s helicopter is more important than the State University, I think it is safe to say that the said University is OYO this year.
Given this picture, how do Nigerian, nay African youth become citizens of the global knowledge economy? How do they become fully functional in global economies of knowledge? The good news here is that the era of innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship is also an era that has ushered in a global democracy of knowledge. Cutting-edge knowledge is available everywhere. Knowledge communities and circuitries are ubiquitous and transnational. The Universities of the developed world are finding out that our present age does not respect the traditional borders and boundaries between the town and the gown. Conferences, journals, classes are increasingly becoming open access. You can be in my hometown, Isanlu, in Kogi state, and access research in Harvard that could help you innovate in the domain of cutting-edge practices in agriculture.
The successes recorded by Africa’s youth in innovation, especially in IT-tech, the emergence and expansion of tech hubs all over the continent, and the creativity of our youth have created a new continental vibrancy and dynamism that is visible in Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and Accra. But, alas, Africa still suffers from what Chinua Achebe calls an imbalance of stories and this is an area that our youth must pay serious attention to. MIT has an annual ranking of thirty-five innovators under thirty-five. That, in itself, is an affirmation of the thesis of this lecture that all over the world, the generation that is thirty-five-years-old and below is in the driver’s seat of innovation and invention.
However, if you look at MIT’s selection for two consecutive years, 2014 and 2015, not a single African innovator, inventor, or entrepreneur makes the cut. Yet, if you read the biographies of the Europeans, Americans, Indians, and Chinese who make the cut, what some of them are said to have invented does not even come close to the revolutionary credentials of Ushahidi and Budgit. What many of the young entrepreneurs are said to have done does not even come close to the genius that Africa’s youth demographic is deploying to radically change the way in which we do e-commerce and make e-payments on the African continent.
What I have learnt from MIT’s canonical efforts is that the scramble for the future is not limited to a rush by societies to deploy invention and innovation and entrepreneurship in the creation of happiness and prosperity. There is also a story that is being quietly told about who matters in the race, who is creating and inventing, and Africa is quietly being written out of the picture. Luckily, Africa’s youth, Nigerian youth, have all it takes to tell MIT and her ranking: iyalaya anybody!
I thank you for your time.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

More than a Million Pounds

Over one million thoughts engaged one another in my head, after seeing the premiere of 'One Million Pounds' along with some other Young African Leaders.
For us to sustain the 'Africa Rising' reality, Africans must place further value on values, honour and integrity instead of money and cheer materialism. We are worth more than these things. More. We need to build institutions, not only strong individuals.
Our commitment to excellence shouldn't be second place; that's one of the basic things that can make us lead our place well. Whatever we do, as Africans is our message to the rest of the world. Let's make our message worthwhile. 

Bring it on, no matter how much we may tend to fall, let's keep rising.‪#‎AfricaRising‬.


Friday, 1 January 2016

Of Flipping Calendars, Leadership and Gratitude

What other way may one flip over the calendar than being in a state of happiness, humility and genuine gratitude, encouraged by the realization that one’s actions are still serving as blessings to several other young people and societies in Africa and across the world. It is indeed humbling and ‘graceful’.
Damola Morenikeji advices on value and responsibility
The last three days – till now – have been filled with severely intensive growth and learning experiences as we engaged the fourth cohort of our annual youth leadership programme, Studership. Each day has been unique both for participants – numbering about a hundred from nine countries – and our faculty. Considering the quality of discuss and daily feedback from the young leaders participating in the ‪#‎Studership‬ 4.0 Leadership Programme, I remain optimistic that it is possible to enhance our world with young people being empowered and committed to consistently creating value by solving most of the biggest challenges we face, without comprising on integrity and other values.
Going forward, few hours ago, I got informed of my emergence as the Winner of the 2015 African Youth Awards for Excellence in Leadership. Another graceful experience. This honour is made possible because of people like you who believed in possibilities. People like you whom truly are passionate about making systems work and encouraging responsible and value-based leadership. People like you who showed love and responsibility, through your thoughts and actions. Thank you.
Today, as we plan towards the next eighteen-score and few days, I come forward, with a humble heart to celebrate you. Our team at AllforDevelopment celebrates you. Do not let us relent; let’s live through this year consistently valuing personal integrity and responsibility, principle of love and perseverance, practicing genuine humility, consistently learning and valuing people / relationships.
We can all make Nigeria, Africa and the world a better place. Accept my felicitations on your great endeavours this ‘new’ year, as you work towards it! I look forward to your ‘testimonies’ soon!
God bless you, indeed!

Damola Morenikeji

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A Toast to Growth

Dear friends,

I had been on leave for a while.

However, throughout my 'partial-leave of absence', I delight each time at news I receive about friends (including several readers of this blog and members of my online community), colleagues and members of our @All4Development tribe. I delight at moments when your seemingly 'impossible' ideas grow and transform lives; i delight at moments when you do things better, because you learnt from experience; I delight that through passion and dedication, we are contributing to solving some of problems faced by young people globally.

I delight that we, like eagles, rejuvenate after pain-staking actions. The world need you now, than ever. I delight at (y)our progresses, impacts and daily actions aimed at learning and creating value. Beyond delights, I celebrate you.

To you, I make this toast. 

Referencing the narrative by Steve Jobs, here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

A caveat: every of those words used above are defined positively.

Damola Morenikeji celebrates you
Let's keep growing and creating value. I look forward to reading from you.

t: @DamolaMore
BBM: 7E06F40E

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Beyond the Idea; making entrepreneurship work

Some thirteen weeks ago, I led a team of young innovative entrepreneurs – all undergraduates – to the a national contest for ideas; it was the National Idea's contest organised by the Nigerian Universities Commission for all Nigerian universities, as part of the Annual National Entrepreneurship Week, in commemoration of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Our 6-human team shared an innovative idea, which if thoroughly implemented will reduce hidden hunger, while building human capacity / productivity, strengthening mental prowess/energy, increasing academic and managerial excellence, reducing maternal and infant mortality, indirectly reducing crime/violence and at the long run, increasing the average life expectancy. The effect of the idea cuts across health, education and human development sectors. The project was a result of a deep 'ideation' process – facilitated by our protem social innovation lab –, well thought-out research and deeply informed consultations, across board.
Image courtesy: FUNAAB

The competition was huge; but alas! We emerged finalists, and was rated one of the best teams – along with a sister team, in the country. Better put – everyone won :). Ideas always win, regardless of human ratings. Several weeks after that experience, I was reviewing – again – one of the lessons I re-learnt during and after the entrepreneurship week.
All ideas are important, but the people are more important. I imagine what might have become of us, if at the 'ideate' stage, we had focused more on carving out and refining our idea BY OURSELVES, without bringing a right set of people in – the beneficiaries. When we were brainstorming and getting clarity on what we want to achieve through the project, we had to involve representatives of clusters of affected communities; this made and still makes human-centered innovation efficient, the decisions inclusive and gives ownership across board.
Transforming ideas into reality requires clarity; it requires thinking from our goals, not only of it. It requires building a network, community or team of committed minds, who though divergent in thought are convergent in the collective mission. A team bonded in trust and other values, prepared to give their honest quota in realizing the shared vision. Beyond the ideas, we need to understand the system that influences our sphere of work. Understanding the system helps heretics like you and I to modify / create a better pattern within the system.
As we step out of our ideation corners, with lofty ideas on our hearts, head and palms, let us create time to build relationships that can drive the change we seek. Relationships help me learn, take risks and grow. Take precious moments to build trust-based relationship with your team and innovative community. That idea you cherish will generate solutions to at least a problem. Some people will immensely benefit from that idea. Have you thought about them? Have you brought them in?
Your idea counts, so do they!
Let's connect and continue our conversation on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Of Harvard, Life and Mathematics

Previous years had availed me opportunities that were invested in meeting, learning (with) and growing with several people - young and old, great and greater. Apart from people, a conscious commitment to personal growth and knowledge have witnessed my learning from erudite scholars and institutions from across the world. One of such is my participation in the inaugural offering of JusticeX from Harvard University in April 2013. The course, led by Prof. Michael Sandel, enhanced my view of critical decision making as we explored through critical thinking what is right, and sought moral and political decisions.

Prior and after the encounter with Michael Sandel, I continue to make critical and simple decisions everyday - just like you. These decisions had, and will often dictate the quality of results we record. As we progress with life, you and I will continually have to make decisions - ranging from what we say, whom we hang out with, which problem we create/solve, to what type of life we decide to live. Funny enough, indecision is also a decision.

Sometime last year, I got the book 'Better than Harvard' by Steve Araba. I had met Steve on a number of occasions, gradually learnt from him and entrusted our time with each other.

My first meeting with Steve was at a Future Leaders Summit organized in one of the leading federal universities in the South Western part of Nigeria, where he was guest speaker. I was introduced to him by a friend I prefer to call Salt. It was a brief and pleasant meet up. Later in the year, we met again; this time, it was at the World Economic Forum on Africa. Steve, who was busy at the 'background' working towards the success of the Economic forum, came to pick me up after one of the sessions, we had another round of great honest conversations on several things (including nation building, youth development etcetera) and thereafter continued our conversation on phone and site. He is one young (though very much older than I) Nigerian I respect, for his commitment to chastity, truth and freedom.

With several truths outlined in the book 'Better than Harvard', I couldn't but notice the creative use of mathematical terms and their redefinition. I wouldn't review the book - at least, not yet. You can get a copy here. However, it is pleasant to note that just like Steve, we may also decide to change our definition of terminologies life lob towards us.

As young people and patriotic citizens, there remains the dire need to live right and contribute consciously to the development of our society and country. We need to make more commitment to the development of discipline and character.

We need to improve the scale for measuring the quality of our lives, personal growth and societal development. As Steve noted, mensuration goes beyond being a branch of geometry that deals with the measurement of length, area, or volume of shapes. It is a position or perspective through which you interpret and understand what or how you see, hear, feel and think about everything that happens to and for you in life.

A calculus of our relationships is important, as we forge alliances, make friends and build networks. Calculus in this context is the critical analysis of relationships in your life that either differentiate or integrate you, essentially indicating the life you could or will have, depending on the people variables you make available to influence you.

This is another year for young people (and every citizen) to model integrity, live intentionally and grow exponentially. Vote at the polls, make our voices heard, speak words and take actions, respecting the dignity of human. Take personal education beyond schooling and invest in holding ourselves and our leaders accountable for words, thoughts and actions.

Everyday in this newly flipped calendar will require timely decisions; let's make them wisely, seeking depth rather than mere heights. Our life and that of others count on those decisions. Thank you for your 'commitment' in previous years; let us do more, henceforward.

Damola Morenikeji

Monday, 21 July 2014

Of Productivity and Growth; lessons from the Productivity Award

My phone rang. I had just received a call from the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta who also is the President, Association of African Universities. He sounded delighted to have spoken with me, and eager to see me. The phone welcomed several other calls, most from within the university intimating a pleasant urgency and some intuitive actions.

That morning, I was concluding plans to help facilitate a two-day training with some young professionals before returning to my ‘location’ for the community-based farming program. ‘Multitaskingly’, we were hosting an #OpenEd twitter discussion in commemoration of the 2014 Day of the African Child, with a focus on education of the African Child, the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno state, demanding that strategies be renewed to #BringBackOurGirls and make schools, across Nigeria, safe for learning. Meeting the Vice Chancellor, he broke the news; I had been painstakingly selected for the Vice Chancellor’s Productivity Award by the World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence in Agriculture – the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, as part of activities for the 21st and 22nd Convocation ceremonies. Values and benchmarks for the nomination, recommendation and selection were service to the university, courage, excellence, dedication, truthfulness, new initiatives, innovation, punctuality, selfless services and academic contribution. It was indeed honour and grace!

On the D-day, I joined other eminently distinguished personalities at the University’s Heroes Day of Recognition and Excellence. I was elated as some academics and prodigies were called to step forward for honour as their citations gave convincing glimpses of their outstandingly remarkable contributions to humanity. I was fortunate to be one. That evening, I returned home more humbled with honour and thanksgiving – as the youngest awardee and only undergraduate among the honoured prodigies –, with a plaque which I must admit spackles amidst other plaques on my shelve and an adjoining cash of a tenth of a million naira which was duly invested into getting more resources that will aid the growth of other young people and mine – especially as the non-profit organization I founded, All for Development Foundation hosted the Youth Roundtable on Education and Democratic Governance seven days after the Heroes day. The day and activities surrounding it taught and reminded of some lessons. In it, I learnt, unlearnt and re-learnt. Some of the lessons include:

Consistency Pays!
Among several other lessons, the award attested and still attests to a long term belief that consistency pays. It reminds that even when what you do is seemingly invincible to everyone, keep doing it. Keep keeping on. When faced with challenges and you don’t know what to do, just keep breathing, keep believing, don’t let go, don’t give in. The towel is always there, we may decide to throw it in or use it to clean our sweats and proceed more intelligently and passionately, after deep reflective thoughts. It may be surprising to note that most of the projects I and our organization have embarked on for the last five years (since year 2009) are self-financed. However, two major things that kept us going were the strong conviction that what we did/do made/makes a difference and the people we are focused on are capable of making positive differences. The same principle may apply to whatever you are into, either as an academic or social entrepreneur, a musician or comedian, an artist or skills professional. Be consistent in what you do. You may learn from another long-term mission of mine, which is the conscious commitment to the consistent creation of value. Wherever you are, be there indeed!

Uphold Integrity
Integrity is more than just an attribute we mention when describing the type of leaders we want – within the students’ union, university senate, local, state and federal government and the entire society – Integrity is a key value which other values of accountability, empathy inter alia is dependent. Integrity is the reflection of morality of character in any and every situation. I once learnt from a wise man that integrity commits itself to character over personal gains, to people over things, to principles over conscience and to long-term view over immediate gratification.

Give recognition and show appreciation
Appreciation and genuine recognition matters. That, as I heard and later read is one of the reasons for the rebirth of the award; ‘the University believes that there is always a reward for outstanding performance and such reward will serve to encourage others to emulate those who have previously been recognized’. Taking it beyond official recognition, we can admit, after a deep reflective thought that others have contributed to our current success. The time to show appreciation is ripe. Appreciation begets more. As you walk through the crowd, walk slowly,recognize people’s efforts. Smile, shake hands, listen and truly appreciate the contributions of others on your growth. No man is self made. Everyone is a product of interactions with divinity and others. Robert McNamara, a former President of the World Bank, once said ‘Brains are like hearts – they go where they are appreciated’. Imagine a community where everyone is appreciated, celebrated – not just tolerated – for who they really are. The existence of this community – even within our immediate environment – is achievable.

Build quality networks and bridges
The Heroes day provided another platform
to meet, interact and build bridges with others. Have you ever heard that our network is a determinant of our net worth? If we are assessed in terms of social capital – and not financial riches – how wealthy will you be? Everyday presents opportunities to build quality networks with people. Build an effective relationship with God, yourself and others. Don’t call God your father and live like an orphan. Though we may not be influential enough to choose our family – parents and siblings – however, we have the ability to choose our friends. Another wise man once challenged people to evaluate those they spend/invest their time with and decipher those that add more value to them and those that diminish their self esteem. This is not only applicable in business relationships, but also in platonic and other relationships. Decide who your friends are. Don’t be parasitic; invest positively in them too.

Discern the call and step up to the challenge
I would have made a very big mistake if I had taken the recognition and award as an unending call for celebration. Of course, it was, but also more than just a cherished recognition, it is also a call. It is a call to service; a call to stand tall in the face of adversity. For all young people reading this,
it is a call to dream more, think more, grow more and do much more. Don't emulate the past, be the future. It is a call to build more capacity and positively influence the world within and around us. It is a call to pursue excellence through diligence; to work towards greatness, not just success. It is a call to ask ourselves pertinent questions and give honest answers. The choice is ours to heed this call.

Regardless of anything, be thankful for everything.
This is self explanatory; worry about nothing, be thankful for everything. I have never – and with grace, will never – fall prey of believing that a certain thing is not enough to be thankful for. As I mentioned earlier, appreciation is key. Permit me to set this balls rolling; I appreciate everyone that have been instrumental to my growth, everyone that I have been a blessing to, everyone that heeded to an advise I gave and got positive results. I am also appreciative of you for reading this thus far! Do the same. Love indeed!

Conclusively, productivity may not be a function of acceptance. Continue doing what is right. As young people, we have several responsibilities and rights, the future of our nation – soon – lies on our shoulders. We have to be committed to act as if our every of our action becomes a universal principle, living in respect to our values. The productivity award is a reminder to all young people that we can achieve what has been set out to achieve. Work in accordance to God’s plans for you, act diligently, seek knowledge of who you are and who you can become. In addendum to all we had discussed earlier, I urge you to treat each day with utmost commitment and sincerity. Commit yourself to honesty, reliability, and always remember this: for excellence and growth, do what you have to do, in order to do what you want to do.

I believe in you!