By Adetunji Adeniran
I was in final year at @GreatIfeNG (Obafemi Awolowo University) when I applied to attend World Business Dialogue, the world’s largest student-run convention held annually at University of Cologne, Germany. My essay was accepted and I was offered an admission.
The conference would be responsible for my accommodation and transit within Cologne. But each participant was to be responsible for transportation from home country to Cologne. I was excited and sad at the same time. Excited that I got in as one of the few Africans; Sad because I didn’t have the means to secure visa let alone flight ticket to Germany. I started playing with several ideas in my head; should I write proposals? Who has attended before that can connect me to sponsors? Different thoughts but I was determined.
I approached friends who had graduated at the time. One told me he attended the previous edition but had to raise money from family and friends plus his scholarship. He offered to share with me some proposal templates that could help. Thank you Joseph Ajao & Kehinde Fawumi.
I wrote proposals to some corporate organisations seeking sponsorships. Some got turned down. Majority never responded. I won’t mention names to protect identity, after all, they owe me nothing.
I wrote to the our VC via the registrar who said they hardly sent lecturers abroad, let alone student. All through this period, I had not secured visa nor even start the process. I was still optimistic though. I borrowed about N30k from friends and started visa process. I did apply for visa with insurance from IGI (Industrial and General Insurance), even though I wasn’t sure of getting a ticket.
After visa interview, I started thinking of ways to buy flight ticket. I searched internet for various cheap tickets and many cheap routes to Germany. Alas, there was none. Not even through the popular Mediterranean sea… LOL (Laugh out Loud). My visa was approved by the German Embassy.
One day, while surfing the internet at Faj Cafe in OAU, an idea struck. When airlines travel out of Nigeria, they definitely should have empty seats. Not every time the seats are always full. Why can’t one of the airlines give me one of these empty seats to support my travel?
That was it! I searched for airlines that fly from Nigeria to Frankfurt (Germany). Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, KLM were top options. Next step, I went on @LinkedIn to search for the Head of Marketing of each airline. I packaged my proposals again and wrote to them.
I sent hard copies to all the airlines’ HQ in Lagos and followed up with contact emails on their website. BA replied declining to offer such. Air France did same. I didn’t hear from others but I wasn’t going to give up.
I remembered again when I was interning with Total E&P, each employee had an official email. So I thought I needed to find email addresses of the Marketing Manager of each airline. But this time, I would focus and streamline my options. Lufthansa Airline is a German airline. So I focused on Lufthansa. The Head of Marketing then was Adenike Macaulay (as seen on Linkedin). She is now the General Manager, Sales. I needed Ms Adenike’s email address so she could receive my proposal directly and treat it.
I went on Google and typed “Email extension of lufthansa employees”. The result came as “[email protected]”. Gbam! That was the game changer. I did all the 3 possible combinations of her email addresses… [email protected]; [email protected] and [email protected]. I sent proposal to all the three emails. Two of them bounced back and one never returned. I told myself, that is the correct email address. Two weeks later, no response still.
Then I took the last and final step of faith. I decided to leave Ife very early in the morning with the final N10k with me. I arrived at Church Gate building, VI Lagos at around 11am. I met a receptionist downstairs who asked me to take the elevator to Lufthansa office. Then I took the last and final step of faith.
I decided to leave Ife very early in the morning with the final N10k with me. I arrived at Church Gate building, VI Lagos at around 11am. I met a receptionist downstairs who asked me to take the elevator to Lufthansa office. I had the following conversation with the security at the gate.
Me: Good morning, madam. Please, I’m here to see Ms Adenike Macaulay.
Security: (Nice lady with a beautiful smile) Good morning, did she give an appointment?
Me: Errm, I sent her an email.
*It’s true I sent an email, what she failed to ask was whether she responded or not.
The lady picked up the phone and called Ms Nike directly and told her a young ‘boy’ from OAU was there to see. Immediately, Ms Nike asked her to let me in and gave me a cup of coffee.
At that point, I knew something was going to happen. Either my ticket was ready or she was just being nice to give me the bad news. Anyway, all die na die.
While I was there sitting down, a young lady who was Ms Nike’s assistant came in with a letter for me to sign.
The Lady: You this boy, you don’t give up, do you? I like your spirit and it has been rewarded.
*My heart was pounding but I remained calm with smile on my face.
She handed me a letter to sign the duplicate.
Behold, the airline not only offered me a free return seat to Frankfurt, they also gave me a free train ticket from Frankfurt to Cologne.
This was how I became the only African sponsored by an airline to the World Business Dialogue.
Adetunji Adeniran is an entrepreneur and engineering graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University