Investing in Nigeria’s youth with a sustainable approach

Pix: Crowd at rally at Gani Fawehimi Park Ojota Lagos, During the 2nd day, Nationwide Peaceful Protest, On Subsidy remover by Fed Govt of Nigeria , Organised by Nigeria Labour Congress, in Lagos. Photo: Joe Akintola, Photo Editor

By Benson Ekpo, Director, AdamStart

As a proactive and enterprising teenager growing up in the warm, clean and very coastal town of Calabar, Cross River state, I used to regard the tales of youth unemployment in Nigeria as mere fable, scaremongering, an attempt to create pandemonium and alarm. My very myopic bubble burst open at the age of eighteen when I launched my design agency and subsequently spent nearly three month trying to hire a young, vibrant set of staff to help out in the agency. The first few weeks on the search revealed how right the statistics were, within days I had become overwhelmed by the teaming number of applications that I received, however, when the time came to engaging these hopefuls in conversation for the different, my soul wept at the dreadful level of incompetence from people far older than I was that seemed to walk through my small office door for hours on end.

For some of the applicants, they had the most impressively high degrees (which I did not bother with) but their inability to construct a cohesive, comprehensible sentence left me perplexed. For others, their expertly written C.V which listed skills and talents that young me desperately needed for my baby company to survive, seemed to elude them when questions about deliveries were raised. I therefore concluded that the Nigerian youths were not unemployed, how could they be? With stellar grades and perfect CVs? No, the Nigerian youths are unemployable. Inaccess to employability, communication and other soft skills that employers pay attention to has rendered the average job seeking youth uncompletable at par with their peers in the western world.

This is why I am overly honoured and proud at the work AdamStart has been doing to facilitate young people’s access to tools and key skills they require to move progressively forward. AdamStart ( is a global initiative launched by British entrepreneur and Queens Young Leader Adam Bradford, over the last decade, the organization has worked tirelessly to be a voice for the future in local, regional, and global thought processes and catalysts of entrepreneurship in the global public interest. A sought-after peer network, driving each other to do more and be more. From being challenged at high school & college to engaging with innovative peers and influencers, AdamStarters are transforming how we define leadership and inspire impact, they have gone on to champion causes and lead businesses that have progressively moved their communities forward.

A few days ago, AdamStart announced its inaugural board of directors, with me at the helm of special projects, to say I was overwhelmed by joy at the news is an understatement. As an organization, we are poised now to invest in talents across Africa, with very heavy emphasis on Nigeria, not just because I am from here, but because I believe the job and enterprise market is booming at high frequencies across every major city in the country.

To sum up, I’d like to offer an open invitation to everyone who has dreamed a good dream, who has conceptualized a problem solving idea or solution. This is a call to all innovators, creators, policy makers and investors, we are ready with open arms to welcome you for a conversation on joining forces. The implementation of growth and development strategies is never a one-man attempt and we want you on our side, together we will build lasting bridges that will create an enabling environment for fostering development across sectors, with youths championing the vision.

Today’s news about the unveiling of the AdamStart board reveals that Dr Ishmael Dodoo, has been humbly appointed as the non-executive Vice-President of the Board, second to its President Adam Bradford. Dr Dodoo is a diplomat and strategic adviser on human development affairs including implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel region.

Joining the board is Walid Ijassi, a former winner of the AdamStart Challenge, a member of the Enactus movement, and founder of POMM, a social enterprise which gives job opportunities to women and eradicates food waste in Morocco. He is also joined by Louis Howell from London, a social entrepreneur and youth advocate who has worked with AdamStart since its inception.

Colleagues Benson Ekpo (Abuja) and Ryan Bradford (UK) will join the board as Special Projects Director and Project & Portfolio Director respectively.