June has been such a nationwide-activity-packed month that we are just giddy with excitement – and possibly a little dizzy! Three projects had my colleagues and me going around the country this month in unprecedented fashion: hackathons, youth entrepreneurship competitions, and digital skills training!
JAN, in partnership with TechQuest, held four hackathons in Ife, Nsukka, Kaduna, and Uyo to find young tech talent to help us build out some major digital initiatives we are embarking on ahead of our 20th anniversary next year. Over 170 teams applied, out of which 61 teams were shortlisted, from which emerged four winning teams that received cash prizes and swag from our sponsors. The overall winner will be selected from the final four in early July at a ceremony in Lagos and I can’t wait to begin working with these young geniuses who will help transform JAN over the next year! Thank you so much to our partners for making it happen.
Earlier this month, Bunmi Banjo, who heads the Digital Skills for Africa program at Google reached out to ask if we would like to incorporate digital skills training in our entrepreneurial programs at secondary schools across Nigeria and we said a resounding “YEAH!!!” and now we have JAN staff and Google trainers going from school to school, city to city, to conduct digital skills training just in time to help our Company Program students develop and implement their digital marketing strategy ahead of the Regional Company of the Year (RCOY) competitions also happening this month and next.
Speaking of RCOY competitions, I’m writing this letter from the Abuja airport, where I’m waiting to board the plane back to Lagos after witnessing another exciting group of student entrepreneurs battle to represent their region as the best student company at the upcoming National Company of the Year competition. I was blown away by the innovative products and services on display, ranging from a group of students who had used Zobo to develop an indicator paper that worked even better than litmus paper in their science classes to another group who had developed a website connecting farmers to consumers across the country and made over twelve million naira (yes, N12, 000,000) in revenues in less than nine months!!! We have had three RCOYs so far, in Lagos, Abuja and Jos, all cities in which Citi sponsors the Company Program. Next up, Ebonyi, Abia and Anambra, cities in which FirstBank sponsors the Company Program. Did I already mention that #WeHaveTheBestBoardMembers??? In July, we will also have RCOYs in Port Harcourt (also sponsored by Citi) and in Osogbo and Ibadan, sponsored by our newest Partner-in-Development, the ACT Foundation, the high-impact foundation set up by Access Bank. To say we are grateful for these high-impact partnerships would be the biggest understatement of the century!
I am also immensely grateful to all the volunteers who have been working hard to teach JAN programs in schools this month – from the various alumni paying it forward as volunteers and judges at our RCOY competitions to the corporate volunteers from IFC and UPS, who have partnered with us to conduct the JA Be Entrepreneurial program in public secondary schools across Lagos. I was particularly impressed by the passion displayed by the IFC Country Manager, Eme Essien, who first served as a JA volunteer when she worked in the United States. The girls at Gbara Secondary School, Jakande, Lekki, could not bear to let go of her by the end of the program and she couldn’t let go of them!
Finally, I would like to thank the writers of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Alumni Office who featured my work with Junior Achievement Nigeria in this month’s issue of their alumni magazine. I spent a week in June on the HBS campus at an executive education program for MBA alumni and it was really special to be presented with a copy of the magazine with the 2-page spread (see photo above). One of our most popular programs, the Venture in Management Program, is from HBS so I look forward to working with the school to develop more programs for our young entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
Thank you all for partnering with us to improve the lives of Nigeria’s youth.