Many entrepreneurs are driven by a passion to solve societal problems. For Bright Jaja, chief operating officer and founder of iCreate Africa, his driving force is to reduce Nigeria’s high youth unemployment rate.
Through his annual skills competition, Bright established a platform that identifies creative youths and empowers them with the relevant entrepreneurial skills, mentorship and finance to kick-start their businesses.
Bright began iCreate Africa in 2017 with a big vision of re-engineering the employment ecosystem on the African continent.
“In Nigeria, unemployment is currently over 23 percent and every year the institutions graduate about 260,000 students without the necessary skills in demand to gain employment,” the young entrepreneur says.
“I conducted a research and I discovered there was a huge skills gap in the country, while about 30 million jobs are actually available in technical skill trades,” he explains.
“We are determined to solve this problem at iCreate Africa and what we are doing first is to change societal perception affecting technical skill professions,” he notes.
His business is promoting skills and driving investments in technical and vocational trainings through public – private partnerships.
The young entrepreneur says that he never needed money to start but relevant skills, integrity, passion and faith in God.
“Money is a commodity that you exchange for value. Adding value to yourself through any means makes you worthy, and you can exchange that for money,” he says.
The business currently has five full-time employees, four part-time staff members and over one thousand volunteers across the country.
He says his business has grown since starting and has empowered lots of youths to start their businesses.
In evaluating the current unemployment situation in the country, Bright says that the situation is extremely critical and requires a state of emergency.
He adds that governments at all levels should embrace new ideas in creating jobs for youths, while involving them in the conversation.
“The government should embrace new ideas and involve young people in the conversation because they understand where it hurts and how to address the issue,” he says.
Bright, however, admits that the problem in the country is not unemployment but lack of skills required by the labour market.
According to him, ICreate Africa is empowering young people with necessary skills required to solve the problem while preparing the next generation for the 21st century skills.
He says that iCreate Africa plans to create five million jobs within in the next four years.
He notes that his business trains youths on artificial intelligence, block chain technology, drone, nanotechnology and digital farming, among others, to equip them with the skills for the future work place.
“We achieve this through our various projects in partnership with international partners focused on capacity-building and human capital development,” he says.
“Africa is projected to provide 60 percent of global workforce by 2030 and Nigeria will be ready to take advantage of that opportunity,” he adds.
On the company’s long-run plans, he says the business wants to scale across Africa and ensure participation of key stakeholders and youths across the continent in its annual iCreate Skills Competition.
He identifies lack of government support for the initiative as the major challenge confronting his business.
“Presently, Nigeria is not part of the World Skills member countries, the biggest organisation that promotes skills excellence in the world— with 85 member countries including China, Japan, Russia, USA and most European countries,” he says.
“Nigeria joining the World Skills will unlock more opportunities to partner with companies that will assist in upgrading our TVET institutions and create an opportunity for young artisans to join the global skills community,” he explains.
He urges the federal, state and local governments to embrace new strategies and drive more educational investments in the country. He also calls for the adoption of the Chinese education model that focuses on skills development to revive the educational system and support organisations working towards solving the problems.
Bright was recently listed as one of the Forbes Africa 120 game changers in 2019. He was also recognised by Reformers Africa recently.
In his advice to other entrepreneurs, he says, “Be the best at whatever you decide to do. It is okay to fail and fall, but do not give up.
“Always show up for your dreams because it is never about you but the problems you are solving and the lives you are changing. Stay positive always and put God first,” he adds.
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