By Victor Ajihromaanus
Youth entrepreneurship, skills acquisition, employment, innovation, and employability remain some of the fundamental concerns and critical policy issues for national development. With an active youth population of over 80 million, one of the highest in the world, Nigeria is faced with a double edge challenge, on one hand, is harnessing the potential of the youth population for positive national economic growth, and on the other hand, is allowing this potentially complex population to go to waste thereby constituting a monumental hindrance to growth.
The quest to distribute leadership to youths is a matter of global concern and much more so in the face of rising youth agitations for inclusion witnessed in most of Africa in recent years and in the case of recent protests in Nigeria which has brought about the intensifying debate on how to include the young population in the quest for national development, political progress, and economic productivity.
Entrepreneurship remains a major driver of national development and growth especially in the vastly under-developed Sub-Saharan region of Africa. Youth entrepreneurship essentially provides a platform to create employment for the youths by the youths leveraging a framework of a well structured national development plan.
Understanding and leveraging the opportunities inherent in youth entrepreneurship and economic leadership will intrinsically result in a reduction in income inequality, stem poverty, reduce crime and criminalities, foster collaborative innovation, and set the tone for future models of economic growth.
One of the clearly stated agenda of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) captured under SDG 8 which talks about Decent Work and Economic Growth is to, by 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value. This proposition underscores the need to have a deliberate and inclusive youth-centered entrepreneurial leadership policy.
The SDG policy outline also emphasized the need to promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
Another critical component of the SDG 8 has to do with strengthening the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance, and financial services for all, especially the youths. It further states the need to develop and implement a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization by the year 2020.
In light of the foregoing, with many pressing and urgent need to build a youth inclusive economic model, it seems evident that very few individuals and organizations are taking the issue of youth inclusiveness and entrepreneurship very seriously. One of such individuals is Ifie Sekibo, the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, and a leading advocate of youth inclusiveness in economic leadership.
Leading the charge is one of Nigeria’s most celebrated commercial banks, Heritage Bank, led by Ifie Sekibo who has used his position to advocate for and promote the idea of youth entrepreneurial leadership. Driven essentially by his belief in a youth-driven economy, the amiable banker and managing director of Africa’s fastest rising commercial bank has invested heavily in ensuring that the young population in Africa are provided with the needed platforms, impetus, and opportunities to accelerate the economic resurgence required to bring to the fore the fortunes of the African continent.
Using the platform of the most celebrated entrepreneurship program, the ‘Next Titan’ Heritage bank and Sekibo has been able to provide leverage and lifeline to budding entrepreneurs who have gone on to excel in their chosen fields. Now in its 7th season, the ‘Next Titan’ has endeared the values of creativity, innovation, and possibility thinking in providing youths with the life-changing opportunities to scale and earn from their skills.
In recognition of the numerous work done by Ifie Sekibo to galvanize youth entrepreneurship, Chairman of Nigerian Young Professionals Forum, NYPF, Moses Siloko Siasia, in commending him noted that a few business leaders such as Tony Elumelu of Heirs Holdings and Mr. Ifie Sekibo Managing Director of Heritage Bank are leading private sector actors in Nigeria who is neck-deep in investing heavily on the dreams and aspirations of young Africans through their organization’s well-thought-out youth entrepreneurship capacity development programs that have helped empower youths and reduce migration.
Sekibo is renowned for his astute disposition, clear business vision, and as a catalyst for youth center economic growth. Nigeria needs private sector players as Sekibo to pivot the innovation hungry and eager young population into an inclusive growth model that will trigger an economic renaissance in the same way China evolved from a poor country into the production and manufacturing capital of the world within just a space of 35 years. Sekibo remains a beacon of hope and an ingenious catalyst for youth-driven and inclusive economic revitalization.
Reputed for his knowledge-based leadership approach, Sekibo, who is the author of the book Turnaround Leadership has always emphasized the true meaning of people-centered leadership as he advocates for a personal commitment to success by any leader saying that a rigorous commitment has to be personal in achieving leadership success. He advocates, through his book, that when one is committed and can get others to be committed with him, that explains the true meaning of leadership.
Ifie Sekibo has and is still touching many lives across various communities and grassroots in Nigeria and around Africa, more than any other captain of industry. His legacy of genuine commitment and always attending to the needs and desires of the less privileged in society sets him apart as a true champion of egalitarianism and an outstanding beacon of hope for the now and coming generations.