By Amir Tanko Al-Makura
I believe that Nigeria is the future of Africa. Not only are we Africa’s most populous country, and largest economy, we are also home to its most entrepreneurial and energetic people. In fact, I think that Nigerians would qualify to be among the most entrepreneurial people in the world. Here in Nigeria, we call it the ‘hustle’, and that spirit is to be found in all of us, young and old.
It does not matter where we are, whether at home or abroad. I have recently lived in the UK for about five years, studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management (2017) and a Master’s degree in International Business (2021) at the University of Huddersfield, and even abroad it was very easy to spot a Nigerian by the energy that they gave off.
I have also done a lot of volunteer work in Nigeria, as part of a team dedicated to tackling illiteracy and poverty in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and I can testify firsthand of the passion of my fellow young team members, as well as the hunger for advancement that our target populations demonstrated.
Young Nigerians are not satisfied with being stuck in the same situation and doing nothing about it. People want to develop their skills and knowledge, and advance their education.
We call it the ‘Naija No Dey Carry Last’ spirit. You can see it manifesting in the quality of our music, which is now popular everywhere around the world, from bars and restaurants to airports and local radio stations. You can see it in our world-class films, which are today regular hits on Netflix and other streaming platforms.
You can also see it in our technology ecosystem, all of the amazing companies being founded by young Nigerians, in fintech, agtech, edtech, healthtech, civictech and many other areas.
There is no better time, in my view, to be a young Nigerian. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many challenges that we face as young Nigerians, which must not be downplayed or underestimated. Too many young Nigerians are still held back by lack of access to decent education, to jobs, to financing for their businesses, and so on.
But at the same time, even in the face of so many challenges, so much innovation is taking place, in every corner of the country. All of these challenges are being seen as opportunities to innovate and build new ways and systems of doing things.
Young Nigerians are realizing that the old ways of doing things have failed and will keep failing, and there is need to disrupt the status quo. We can no longer be a country that is obsessed with paper certificates, if the certificates cannot provide enough jobs.
So many young people are making a living with work that is very different from what they studied in University or Polytechnic. So many people are surviving today with skills that were learned outside the four walls of a conventional educational institution.
This means that we must rethink a lot of our perspectives on education and jobs. We must put our energy to use building a Nigeria that works for young Nigerians in the 21st century.
Don’t get me wrong, these challenges are not limited to Nigeria. Everywhere around the world, there is pressure on governments and societies to cater to the growing needs of young people.
There is also the realization that perhaps our parents had it somewhat easier – in terms of access to things like scholarships, mortgages, vehicle loans etc. But we cannot just sit back and lament about how things used to be better or easier. We have to take our destinies into our hands, and use our energy, talent and the technology that is available to us, to create new paths and opportunities.
As a young Nigerian just starting out on my career journey, I am proud to belong to a generation that is hardworking and that isn’t sitting and waiting around for anyone’s permission to make things happen.
I am also excited by the possibilities that I can see specifically in Northern Nigeria, where I come from. Often times, in the news, the dominant stories from the North have to do with Boko Haram, poverty, and similar issues.
While these are daily realities for many people, we should also always be quick to recognize that there are many positive stories as well, and we should always strive for balance and full representation. There are many young people from the region who are doing amazing things, working to solve many of the problems that dominate the headlines.
These heroes deserve recognition and support too. I look forward to playing my own part contributing solutions to the challenges we face in Nigeria, and to helping amplify stories of positive energy and change, from every corner of the country.