By Josephine Agbonkhese
While the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the biggest concern for many has been economic survival as unemployment worsens.
A philanthropist, entrepreneur and African culture promoter, Aregbe Idris is CEO, No 1 Heritage Solutions; a solution-driven organisation with subsidiaries including Connecting Lagos, Lagos Fries and Culturati.
Connecting Lagos serves as a business and people networking platform while, through the Culturati platform, Idris has, over the years, promoted the African culture by empowering young cultural enthusiasts and creating business opportunities.
In this interview with Sunday Vanguard, Idris, who is also notable for promoting political participation and contribution among youths with his non-administrative, ‘Our Lagos Your Lagos’, speaks on his mission to mitigate the effect of the pandemic through empowerment on the platform of Culturati Academy, an arm of Culturati.
What drives you?
For me, it’s just about making sure the society is free. A free society is one in which youths are meaningfully engaged and have no room for idleness. We cannot continue to complain when we have no solution to the problems of these people.
My target is to reach as many youths as possible because this is what they need. I want to see them turn their passion into profit.
We see a lot of them dance for fun, draw for fun, etc. These are actually things that could help put food on their tables.
Youth empowerment is needed now more than ever before due to increased unemployment caused by the pandemic; how are you bridging the gap?
The unexpected effects of COVID-19 have made it imperative for many Nigerians to fashion out ways of generating a source of livelihood for themselves.
Fortunately, the Culturati Academy focuses on offering training on farming, catering, photography, videography, fashion designing, arts and crafts, digital marketing, etc., and also assists beneficiaries to start-off after graduation.
A prime goal of the initiative is to make graduates of the academy become manufacturers,self-sustained and be able to add value to the economy.
Since the pandemic therefore, through the Culturati Academy, the Connecting Lagos brand has been embarking on empowering people adversely affected by the COVID-19pandemic, to mitigate the negative jolts occasioned by the pandemic.
It has been 14 years of promoting African culture. Would you say the brand is achieving its purpose?
Yes, we are achieving that purpose;and it can only get better as we continually seek new ideas and ways to up the ante. We are grateful for our partnership with stakeholders and the Lagos State government. Culturati strives to drive creativity among youths while expanding and sustaining the creative industry.
The diverse underpinnings of the African culture readily provide a veritable source for creative expressions, wealth creation and empowerment, if properly explored and harnessed.
This is what we have been doing with our Culturati platform. Through this platform, many young people have been given the opportunity to discover their talents and make rewarding partnerships over the past 14 years.
The academy is obviously a young section of the Culturati brand; when was it established and how is it fostering your mission?
It was established last year, immediately after the last edition of the Cultural Festival.
We, however, intensified our efforts when the pandemic began. Our work has been mainly on the virtual space due to it. For us, this is a good time to empower more people and to use the concept to also tell others they just can’t afford to stay idle at home; they can use their data to learn something meaningful.
We’ll continue to give our best so that more young people can be gainfully engaged.
The academy goes extra miles to also equip them with customer relations, branding, and online business skills. We, above all, ensure that candidates selected to benefit are serious people who can ensure a ripple effect by empowering other young people as they go on in life.
What basic steps do you take in ensuring these young people are truly empowered?
Aside from teaching them to turn their passion to profit, we also work to connect them with clients and good support systems. We also go a step further by supporting the outstanding ones with funds that will help set up their own businesses.
We noticed some of them needed us to buy into their businesses; like a form of partnership which will enable them continue using the platform to either sell or give that skill they’ve acquired.
We also came up with virtual conferences and tried to link them up with people who will also help narrow them down what they want to do. So far, it’s been working.
…your advice to business owners concerning the post-pandemic era?
Despite the losses caused by the pandemic, I will say it provides a good opportunity for businesses to do some re-evaluation. The use of digital platforms have been on the increase during this period as businesses are trying to gain market share and are competing for audience attention.
So, it is helpful to have a good online presence; and the key to that is focusing on the platform that targets your audience. Employees too should take advantage of this opportunity to develop themselves and build in-demand skills using online learning platforms.