Being somewhat of an Afro-phile, I believe that the best way to bring Nigeria and Africa forward is through locally grown talent cultivated in opposing fashion to the brain drain
Recently I watched this video of a group of teenage school boys from Zimbabwe who use old tyres as springboards to perform stellar acrobatic moves. Their passion for the sport bringing out the innovation in them as neither their schools nor the community would provide the facility needed to accomplish such feats. A minute later, my reflect-o-meter notched up. Is Africa “progressive” enough in developing the extracurricular passions of its young? Do parents see the unparalleled opportunity their multi-skilled kids have over others?
The Africa I live in is fraught with acts of unperturbed greed. Who cares about sustainable development centered upon the common good when I can buy a Porsche from the newest car dealership in town? The visage of vanity is ubiquitous. Otherwise, how else do you explain PHCN’s transitory service? Or that Togo are only sending two athletes to the London Olympics? They couldn’t afford to send more even if they qualified. What justifies the fact that since 1960, over 600 billion USD in oil revenues has flowed into Nigerian coffers, but 300 billion USD has simply vanished into thin air? Still, that’s not what troubles me the most.
Our societies are very family-oriented. In speaking with young and old alike, there’s always been a generational disconnect when it comes to watering talent and letting it blossom alongside education. Myths like “the winter Olympics is only for athletes from countries with snow, or “all footballers are uneducated” are rife. There is so much potential and promise in today’s African kids. In harnessing that, parents want their kids to go to school and hit the books but some children and young adults tend to think along less traditional lines —“I want to be the next Lionel Messi.” And for good measure. It pays.
Yet, how do you reconcile these two divergent modes of thought? How do you maximize Africa’s young talent potential when confronted by the parent with a my-child-must-follow-the-conventional-route mentality, a government who wouldn’t provide the facilities and majority of a population (under the age of 30) that cares more about having the latest iPhone or BlackBerry than making a mere unadulterated pass on the WAEC?
Being somewhat of an Afrophile, I believe that the best way to bring Nigeria and Africa forward is through locally grown talent cultivated in opposing fashion to the brain drain. To that end, I have gravitated, within Lagos, to several providers and opportunities. Take the Co-Creation Hub. Located in Yaba with a spectacular view of the surrounding cityscape, it is a hotspot for Nigerians to collaborate in innovative ways. There, technology is the avenue for improving Nigeria in a non-academic fashion per se via a bunch of educated youth. A melting pot of passion, ideas and skill.
Another project is the ‘MTN Football Scholar’. Excellence matters on the field but also in the classroom. The platform combs segments of society, identifying young educated talent from underprivileged backgrounds, with the goal being to send Nigerian teens (boys for now) to American universities on sports scholarships. They can play football while getting a great education abroad!
Through my own experiences, I have come to see that what is most important about making a difference in the world is having that extra passion (skill to compete with) that is developed and rewarded. Whether it be football, fashion, technology, entrepreneurship or faith, knowledge is essential to properly nurturing whatever pursuit one feels compelled to chase.
Conflating youth aspirations with parental expectations is good for everyone. When all is said and done it means that kids won’t have to steal away to play pick-up with their friends, or use old tyres to nourish dreams of Olympic stardom. It means that parents can support their children in ways that extend beyond their own machinations. Government and other social stakeholders can contribute proactively to community development.
Ultimately, I feel it will add a little more transparency to the African equation—maybe with luck it will start to pervade other aspects of society as well and our “hopefuls” will land on the stages of the world.
Over to you.