By Josephine Agbonkhese
Nothing interests her more than an endeavour that culminates in the development of human capital. Dazzling and stylish, Osayi Alile, who is the CEO of Aspire Coronation Trust, ACT, Foundation, has a strong passion for ‘building’ people and societies.
From her days at Junior Achievement Nigeria where, for five years, she impacted young minds with leadership skills as Vice President of Programmes, to Fate Foundation where, for nine years, as Head of Training Department and later Executive Director, she equipped enterprising youths with skills, tools, networks and finance, Alile’s heart, no doubt, beats for development. Today, Access Bank stands out in Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, and that’s because Alile worked as its CSR Consultant.
A former Chairperson, Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, Alile, who holds a degree in sociology from the University of Lagos and a master’s in public administration from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA, is an alumnus of Harvard University; Lagos Business School; International Institute for Management Development, IMD; and Yale.
The Amazon, who currently sits on the board of several organisations, is the founding curator, Global Shapers Forum Nigeria, and was a 2007 ‘Young Global Leader’ according to the World Economic Forum. She spoke to Sunday Vanguard Amazon. Excerpts:
I notice a trend in your career trajectory and that’s the fact that you’ve worked more in the non-profit human capacity/business development sector; is this deliberate?
From a young age, I had always intended to do good wherever I found myself. However, furthering my education opened my mind to a new level of resourcefulness. Hence, I discovered that the non-profit sector could serve as a significant platform for rewriting the story of a continent and its people while positively impacting lives. Ever since, I have been interested in fostering development in every area I have been opportune to be a part of, especially with regards to growth and empowerment.
I am very passionate about developing human capacity on the continent, and creating ecosystems for businesses and innovation to thrive. I am also very passionate about youth and women’s empowerment.
From your estimation, how many have benefitted from your work, beginning with Junior Achievement Nigeria?
Facilitating the advent of Junior Achievement Nigeria into Nigeria was an accomplishing moment for me and made me aware of my own strength. Fate Foundation made me understand that I had a role in building and nurturing SMEs in Nigeria for the growth of our economy; and I am glad I carried that role with all vigour and strength. My time at WIMBIZ as the Chairperson enabled me to truly understand what it means to lead—and I am proud of the feat accomplished. Access Bank gave me the platform to do more for the sustainability of our people and the environment. And all these experiences have been exhilarating and inspiring at the same time.
ACT Foundation and our accomplishments in the first year of operation remain phenomenal to me. Being able to positively impact on the lives of over 220,000 Nigerians is definitely a great achievement for me and my team at ACT Foundation.
What is that one thing you wish more Nigerians knew about business?
I wish more Nigerians understood the importance of having a strong team while building a business. Whether you are setting up a new company or a new team for a project, with the right set of people on board, you will make meaningful progress. A diverse set of individuals bring with them their own unique skills, perspectives, and experiences, all of which are essentials of business success. While recruiting the right set of people is great, equally as important is an effort towards achieving cohesion amongst employees through team building.
Describe your experience working with Nigerians, both old and young…
I have had an amazing experience. Each day, I am pleasantly surprised by how passionate people are, as well as how committed they are to change narratives on the continent. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so many good people doing good things.
Tell us about ACT Foundation…
Aspire Coronation Trust, ACT, Foundation is a grant-making non-profit organisation established in 2016 to support local, national and regional non-profit organisations working to address challenges and associated vulnerabilities across the African Continent.
Our vision is to leverage relationships to create effective social impact solutions across Africa while our mission is to build sustainable societies by engaging initiatives that unleash potential and empower beneficiaries.
What’s the focus and what has the foundation been up to?
We promote initiatives in our four focus areas through funding and capacity development. These areas are health, entrepreneurship, environment and leadership. We partner and support non-profit organisations who implement projects in line with our focus through provision of funds/grants to enable them implement their various projects across Nigeria and the African continent. In funding these projects within the space, we are focused on impact-driven projects that will impact people, communities and the world at large.
With the drive to achieve impact, we understand the importance of capacity development and its necessity for the organisations and people we work with, so we organise trainings, seminars and workshops for our partnering organisations/grantees.
…your biggest goal right now?
As of now, our success trajectory is to leverage relationships to create effective social impact solutions across Africa. Just like our current relationship with our funder, Access Bank.
I project that in the next few years, ACT Foundation will be the leading grant-making non-profit in Africa. We would be the credible partner of choice for international donors coming into Africa; which is already happening.
In five years, ACT Foundation would be at the forefront of providing innovative, sustainable solutions to the various socio-economic challenges in our continent while also being able to have impacted more lives not just in Nigeria but in Africa.
Has your interest got something to do with your background and childhood?
Growing up in a large family of 10 exposed me to the realities of life. First, it offered me an opportunity to understand people and their differences. Secondly, it introduced me to a new phase of life—one that involved a lot of charity giving and humanitarian aid.
I know your father, the late Apostle (Dr) Hayford I. Alile, was a renowned investment analyst and clergyman; did he influence your career path?
Growing up, our Sundays were spent giving back to people as we embarked on a series of food sharing outings and material donation to underprivileged individuals as a Sunday routine. My parents also raised us to be self-sufficient by ensuring that we learned different skills, and that we were dedicated to them. As a result of this experience, I was driven to pursue a purpose to help empower people who have no means of achieving what they want out of life, as well as enhance entrepreneurship in the society.
Describe yourself in three words…
Committed, energetic and passionate
Your philosophy about life?
Hard work has always been foremost. Find a man diligent in his work, he shall stand before kings and that has been my guiding verse and my story.
Credibility, accountability, consistency and resilience have been my watchwords. These principles have shaped my career and work within and outside the social sector. However, none of these can function effectively for anyone without faith in God, and a firm belief in oneself.