Using entrepreneurship to tackle youth unemployment

A review of Kachi Ogbonna’s book, How They Started: Innovative Nigerian Brands by Apeh Omede.

Entrepreneurship has become a major buzz word in Nigeria, and that is not for nothing. Most of us are aware that youth unemployment has gone beyond just an economic problem to also become a social problem. The issues of pipeline vandalism, terrorism, thuggery, electoral violence, kidnapping and sectional agitations are hugely due to the fact that these young ones (majority of them graduates) are not properly engaged.

Those clamoring for entrepreneurship have also come up with different approaches for tackling this, the most notable of them being skill acquisition. Kachi Ogbonna has however done something completely different.  As much as he believes in entrepreneurship and skill acquisition, in his new book, “How They Started,” he argues that the solution to unemployment in Nigeria must begin with a fundamental mind shift.

He believes that Nigerian youths are talented enough to tap into the numerous opportunities that exist in the country, but they must first of all believe that they can.  They must first accept that those opportunities are there because, according to him, no one can feature in a future that he cannot picture. The author is an entrepreneurship and youth empowerment consultant.  From his many years of mentoring young entrepreneurs and growing startups he discovered that the ‘entitlement mentality’ and the ‘blame game’ has become about the biggest hindrance to the realization of the full potential of Nigerian youths. He insists that everyone is ultimately responsible for his or her own success or failure.

The author argues that the solution to graduate unemployment in Nigeria is not rocket science. He maintains that if the universities can focus more on how to produce job creators rather than job seekers then unemployment will soon become an issue of the past. He insists that each problem in this country provides a great business opportunity for those who are willing to add value to the society.

In showing how Nigeria has always been a land of opportunities, the author traced how businesses that started decades ago are still waxing strong.  He also gave examples of how other businesses that were launched just about four years ago have grown to become multinationals today.  He profiled 25 innovative brands cutting across different sectors including technology, the Internet, entertainment, learning and development, manufacturing, restaurants, health and transportation.  Through these, he showed that opportunities abound in almost every sector of the Nigerian economy. His efforts in securing one on one interview with the founders of these brands also goes a long way to validate the information in the book. Each of the founders shared his own unique experience of what it takes to start, the challenges faced and how they handled them, how they funded their businesses and most importantly every one of them has words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This book couldn’t have come at a better time than a period when the Nigerian economy has plummeted to an incredible low. It couldn’t have been more appropriate than at this time when the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently reported that 4.3 million jobs were lost in just 10 months. Maybe that is just a mere coincidence, yet government and citizens alike will benefit immensely from the latent force of possibilities the book ignites as we seek to drag ourselves out of the present mess.

Perhaps for the first time, someone has embarked on the important task of documenting how Nigerian brands started in a country where there is little or no regard for history (by the way, I heard History has been removed from the Secondary School curriculum) and credible data is difficult to come by. Maybe not for the first time, but in a very unique way, someone has told the story of the best of Nigeria.

In my opinion, this book provides a very good road map for producing a new generation of entrepreneurs.