Ayomikun Olugbode is the Founder at Inspired Youth Network
Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Ayomikun Olugbode Founder/Executive Director at Inspired Youth Network, inspired with a vision is to create a platform where young people will be deliberately empowered with the skills, drive and character required to be a transformational leader. Excerpt.
Alaba: Tell us about Inspired Youth Network and the role you play.
Ayomikun: Inspired Youth Network is a not-for-profit organization based in Lagos, Nigeria. Our mission is to deliberately prepare young people for future leadership role, by increasing the participation of young people in the fight against corruption, providing a platform to demand accountability from government representatives and advocate for youth inclusion in governance and democratic processes. I am the Founder/Executive Director.
Alaba: What is the vision behind this initiative?
Ayomikun: The vision is to create a platform where young people will be deliberately empowered with the skills, drive and character required to be a transformational leader.
Alaba: How are you funding this Initiative?
Ayomikun: The initiative is being funded through support from partners, personal sources and fund raising activities. In 2018, we received financial support from Youth Alive Foundation to implement the Make a Difference Against Corruption Today in My School (#MadACTInMySchool) project under the Youth Participation Against Corruption (Y-PAC) project.
Alaba: How does the organisation measure its impact?
Ayomikun: We measure our impact by listening attentively to our stakeholders to get their feedbacks, focus on our outcomes by assessing the progress of our objectives, as well as learning from others.
Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Ayomikun: The challenges are numerous and cannot be exhausted. Some of the challenges we face include inadequate fund to implement projects and limited capacity building programs for my team. Another major challenge is the barrier created by stakeholders especially the gatekeepers and members of communities. Many developmental projects initiated by NGOs have been hindered because of the barrier created by stakeholders. The processes involved in getting some of the stakeholders on board could be very tedious. Some even expect you to give them money before implementing projects in their community. This is sad! Furthermore, changing lives and people’s attitude can be very tasking especially in this society of ours where people are faced with unemployment, illiteracy and different religious belief that affects their mindset.
However, the challenges will not stop us from making impact and achieving our goals. In order to overcome the challenges, we have collaborated with a number of not-for-profit organizations and we are open to more partnership. In 2018, we received support from Youth Alive Foundation to implement the #MadACTInMySchool. We’ve had collaborations with ActionAid Nigeria, Youth Leadership Initiative for Social Justice, The Africa We Want, GoldLife Initiative, Youth Agenda Initiatives and many more to reduce cost and make more impact. In terms of capacity building, we are working with partners to build the capacity of our team. In December, 2018, two members of my team were supported by Youth Alive Foundation to attend the Africa Youth Congress Against Corruption (AYCAC). We also encourage members of the team to participate in capacity building programs. We make our projects open to the stakeholders and we get them involved at all stages of the implementation. Based on our level of integrity and reputation, we have been able to build a mutual relationship with our stakeholders to the extent that whenever we have a project it speaks for us. One of the key strategies we use in changing public attitude is to engage people using practical examples of the consequence of an action or the benefit to them as the case may be. We have also been able to engage influencers to get our messages across to the people.
Alaba: What are the major issues facing African youths today and solutions you can proffer?
Ayomikun: The youths are the power house of Africa. About 42% of people in Africa are under the age of 25. The major issue facing young people in Africa is corruption, which has resulted to high rate of unemployment, poverty, poor state of education that has led to illiteracy and unfriendly government policies among others. I have heard people say African youths are lazy, but I disagree with them. African youth are not lazy, it is the bad leadership that brought us to where we are. Most of the recent innovations in Africa were created by young people. No citizen will think straight in an unfriendly atmosphere where leaders are not accountable and transparent. We cannot continue this way. The youth should get involved in governance by making government representatives accountable. Young people should also change their attitude towards corruption because you cannot fight corruption with corruption. The youths should support their fellow youth who has the competence, character and vision to lead. The strategy being used by the older generation is to divide the youths so they can’t speak in one accord. Young people should collaborate and speak in one voice to save their future.
Alaba: What advice would you give potential social entrepreneurs who intend to start an initiative or invest in Africa.
Ayomikun: Africa needs more young social entrepreneurs to develop the continent. As a potential social entrepreneur, you have to believe in yourself and challenge yourself. Do not let your current situation hinder your success. Potential social entrepreneurs should identify people of like minds and collaborate with them. You must be willing to learn and unlearn, and most importantly don’t compromise your integrity. Integrity is everything.
Alaba: What’s the future for your initiative and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Ayomikun: We have been working with communities and students of tertiary institutions in Lagos to increase their participation in the fight against corruption and promote accountability and transparency. Plans are in the pipeline to extend the projects to other tertiary institutions and communities in Nigeria. Discussions are currently on with both local and international partners to build the capacity of my team and implement innovative youth development projects. Furthermore, our core values and impact of our initiative will make us an attractive option for partnership and will improve our chances of receiving grants from funding organizations.
Ayomikun Olugbode holds a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry from Adekunle Ajasin University and a Masters Degree in Biochemistry from University of Ilorin. He holds a certificate in Project Management for Development Professionals (PMD Pro) from APMG International, United Kingdom.
He is the Co-Convener of Make a Difference Against Corruption Today in My School (#MadACTInMySchool) and the Convener of #iStudyiVote Campaign. Ayomikun is a Fellow and President of Canvassity Pan African Youth Democracy Fellowship 2018, a Fellow of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Centre (RLC) and an alumnus of Kukah Centre Young Leaders Program. He was a delegate at the Canvassity Learning Visit 2018 to the African Union (AU) Headquarters, Addis Ababa to understudy the African Governance Architecture (AGA).
Ayomikun is passionate about the participation of young people in the fight against corruption and inclusion of youth in democratic governance. He has about four years experience working with both local and international organizations.
The ELMA Group of Foundations Commits ZAR 2 Billion to COVID-19 Response in Africa
Unjani Clinics in South Africa received their shipment of much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for their nurses and staff, made possible with support from The ELMA South Africa Foundation (Pic credit: Unjani Clinics)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa- The ELMA Group of Foundations has announced a commitment of ZAR 2 billion to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on under-resourced and vulnerable communities in Africa. A minimum of ZAR 500 million of this commitment is for South Africa, and includes an immediate contribution by The ELMA South Africa Foundation of ZAR 250 million to The South African Solidarity Response Fund. The remaining ZAR 250 million will be used to fund a wide range of projects to mitigate the country-wide effects of COVID-19.
Bernadette Moffat, Exec. Dir.,The ELMA Philanthropies Services (Africa)(Pty) Ltd. and Chair of The ELMA South Africa Foundation, states, “ELMA has been investing in initiatives to improve the health, education, and well-being of children and the families and communities that support them since 2005. This new commitment to respond to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates our absolute commitment to Africa and to Africa’s children.”
Commenting on the donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, Nomkhita Nqweni, CEO of the Solidarity Fund said, “We wish to extend our gratitude to The ELMA South Africa Foundation for the spirit of partnership they have displayed in working with us towards bolstering South Africa’s resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration and partnerships such as this are testament to the possibilities that exist when we combine efforts.”
Also Read: COVID-19 Testing: Aliko Dangote Foundation engages 54gene Laboratory
In addition to the ZAR250 million donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, ELMA is collaborating with other funders and partners on a variety of COVID-19 response initiatives across the continent. One such initiative is supporting community health workers and community care workers as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Ensuring that these essential workers have sufficient personal protective equipment, food, access to testing, and psycho-social support is a priority if we are to overcome COVID-19.
As such, The ELMA South Africa Foundation is collaborating with The South African Solidarity Response Fund, The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, Johnson and Johnson, The Horace W Goldsmith Foundation, to support an initiative led by the DG Murray Trust to provide personal protective equipment and other critical support to more than 120,000 community care workers delivering crucial health and social services across South Africa.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis for the African continent and requires a momentous response if we are to recover from the devastation it has and will cause,” adds Moffat. “We must come together in solidarity, especially those with means, so that Africa can overcome and rebuild. ELMA is proud to combine forces with other philanthropists, governments, and civil society organizations who are taking bold actions against COVID-19.”
Sahara Group Highlights Critical Role Of Intra-Africa Led Covid-19 Interventions
300-bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre in Abuja (Credit: Sahara Group).
Lagos, Nigeria– Intra-Africa led collaboration and interventions by the private sector can help the continent bolster ongoing efforts geared towards containing the spread of COVID-19 as well as promote sustainable development across the continent, Temitope Shonubi, Executive Director, Sahara Group has said.
Speaking while taking journalists on a tour of the completed over 300-bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre in Abuja, Shonubi said leading African businesses can leverage their membership of trade associations, the Private Sector Advisory Group platform of the United Nations and the African Influencers for Development (AI4Dev) platform of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to drive a more cohesive and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.
“Sahara Group, through our operations across Africa, has consistently demonstrated its support for intra-Africa led approach to promoting economic prosperity and sustainable development on the continent. Sahara Foundation, our corporate citizenship vehicle conceptualized the Abuja Isolation Centre project, partnered with the This Day media group and worked with other partners to deliver a world-class facility that will help save lives. Sahara is also supporting COVID-19 interventions across Africa and is exploring areas of further collaboration with other partners for the benefit of over 1.3 billion people that call Africa home,” he said.
Shonubi said Sahara Foundation’s concept for the project was driven by the desire to make a difference in how nations respond to the pandemic in terms of physical, mental, and socio-economic well-being of all Africans. “In addition to playing a major role in delivering the centre, Sahara and its entities have been involved in providing personal protective equipment and relief materials to help medical personnel and the vulnerable cope with the impact of the pandemic. We believe the ‘Africa for Africa’ message is one that can bring hope and succor to Africa at this time.”
According to Shonubi, who is also a member of UNDP Africa’s AI4Dev initiative, Sahara Group is also providing dry and cooked food to over one million beneficiaries, face masks, hand sanitizers and relief materials to communities where its power affiliates (Ikeja Electric, Egbin Power and First Independent Power Limited), upstream and other Sahara affiliates operate across Africa.
In Zambia, Asharami Energy Limited Company donated tens of thousands of hand-made fabric/Chitenge masks to shore up access to PPE and slow the spread of the virus. The company also publishes materials in English, Bemba, and Nyanja to facilitate the dissemination of information about the pandemic. In Kenya, Asharami Synergy Limited donated thousands of 5 litre jerrycans of hand sanitizers, whilst oxygen has been donated to hospitals in Ghana as well as Cote d’Ivoire to boost life support operations.
Sahara’s Downstream entity, Asharami Synergy, working in collaboration with other members of the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPMAN), is providing support towards the completion and equipping of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Abuja.
Located at the THISDAY Dome in Abuja, the centre was delivered by a coalition of partners including Sahara Foundation, THISDAY, CCECC, Arise News, The Presidency, Egbin Power, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Federal Capital Territory Authority, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Federal Ministry of Health, the African Finance Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria through CaCovid. Wood Factory, the Regents school, the three fashion brands of Ebewele Brown, Traffic Clo and Syari Clothiers, Kenol, Mama Cass, 54 Gene and Central Park.
The Centre which will be overseen by the FCTA under the supervision of NCDC has a capacity of a minimum of 300 beds with provision for additional 8 Intensive Care Unit beds, ventilators, dialysis machines, protective equipment, and mobile facilities for testing.
Visit: Sahara Group
Erica Tavares: Passionate About A Greener, Better Future
Erica Tavares is an Environmentalist, Co-Founder and Executive Director at EcoAngola. A 100% bootstrapped startup increasing awareness of the civil society, local government and policy makers regarding local and world environmental problems, conservation and sustainability whilst trying to creatively find realistic solutions to tackle these problems. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she shares her sojourn in to climate change advocacy, social entrepreneurship and EcoAngola journey. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about what sparked the launch of EcoAngola?
Erica: EcoAngola was founded by me and two other Angolans, Paulo Pizarro and Leonardo Pizarro. We did not know each other until the day I received a call from Paulo, days before graduating from my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology. He shared their idea about launching a philanthropic project that would promote environmental conservation and sustainability in Angola, which immediately raised my interest.
He explained that they had been looking for partners for quite some time but were unsuccessful. Although some people expressed interest to join the initiative, none of them actually had the energy, time and passion to develop the idea of EcoAngola from scratch, because it was time consuming and without any immediate return. They were looking preferentially for a young and enthusiast person, with a background in biology or an environment related field, because none of them had much experience or further understanding about the subject, besides being conscious about the world ecological crisis we are currently living and the critical environmental problems in Angola.
Being born and raised in Angola, I have always been connected to nature. After concluding high school, I then decided to study biology, and that was the start of my journey through environmentalism. Studying biology and environmental science, made me extremely aware of how important initiatives such as EcoAngola are to make a positive change in developing countries.
So, EcoAngola was really the kind of organization that I have always imagined myself working with but never thought that I would be part of it so early, as Executive Director, and that it would grow so fast and become so relevant, as it is right now.
Alaba: What is the main focus of your startup and the gap it’s filling?
Erica: Angola is a resource rich country, with vast land and diverse ecosystems. However, the country faces various environmental challenges, such as deforestation, desertification, draught, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and pollution. The climate change, population growth, poverty and lack of environmental education programmes, aggravate the problem and accelerate the degradation of the ecosystems, with serious economic, social and environmental consequences.
The main focus of EcoAngola is to increase awareness of the civil society, local government and policy makers regarding local and world environmental problems, informing and educating about environmental conservation and sustainability whilst trying to creatively find realistic solutions to tackle these problems. We write articles on relevant environmental topics and publish them on our website (ecoangola.com) and social media.
We also organize events and campaigns such as beach cleanings and reforestation. We promote discussions involving experts from the public and private sector, within the Angolan community, so that we could start finding solutions that are best adapted to our reality and that could serve as a basis to develop new national environmental policies. We also noticed that there was no collaboration between existent environmental organisations, so we started supporting and collaborating with other environmental organisations and related initiatives, building bridges between all of them, and working for the common good.
Unity is very important if we want societal change to happen, particularly because the country is so big and the initiatives are so few that it is easy to assume that nothing is being done and a lot of these initiatives actually die due to insufficiency of collaboration in our society.
Alaba: How are you funding your startup?
Erica: So far, we have been mostly funded by ourselves. Human capital is actually the biggest treasure we have, and the volunteers who continue to join our organisation are the ones catalysing the fast growth of EcoAngola. There is an incredible amount of ideas that we could implement and that would have a great impact, but we have now prioritised environmental education and awareness initiatives, because they build the foundation of consciousness and drive the change of mindset and attitude.
We started recruiting volunteers, most of them young university students, who do not have much working experience, giving them some exposure and the opportunity to contribute and be part of the EcoAngola team. I usually say: “we are growing together”. Our campaigns and events are normally supported and funded byvarious organizations that collaborate with us. For example, for our first beach cleaning campaign, each partner organisation made a different contribution, from water, to gloves, bags, the trash collection and disposal.
We will soon be able to receive donations and funding for our events, campaigns and projects, but we also stand to our values, so will not accept funding from companies that consistently damage the environment and promote green washing. Financial support will help us to expand our project and have a much broader and bigger impact.
Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Erica: One of our biggest challenges is definitely funding, as this limits us on the implementation of our projects. In the short term, we are prioritizing the ideas and projects that need the least financing and that can have the greatest impact.This has worked well so far and has made EcoAngola progress and grow faster than we anticipated.
Another challenge is the difficulty to recruit and maintain volunteers motivated because there is no financial motivation and no immediate results.
To motivate our volunteers, we give credit to their work, offer certificates of appreciation and give recognition for their dedication to EcoAngola. I feel that the progress of EcoAngola itself has been a self-motivation for the entire team of volunteers working with us. We also try to constantly show some of the positive changes that are already happening as a result of the collective effort of our volunteers.
Lastly, we noticed that most people assume that EcoAngola is an enormous, well-funded organisation because of our mobilization and online presence – but we are not. We have a small executive team, a team of volunteers that help to coordinate our campaigns, events and activities, and a group of volunteers that write articles on relevant topics.
Alaba: How does your startup measure it’s impact?
Erica: We measure our impact from the feedback we receive about our articles, events and activities, through the number of people visiting our website and engaged through social media, the growing number of people that want to join our Green Movement (environmental awareness initiative), the growing number of people and organizations that want to work or partner with EcoAngola, and through the societal and governmental behaviour change we notice.
We have also noticed an increase in the amount of similar initiatives and the changes that happen with the people who join us. There is more hope and therefore, more energy that transcends society and makes us believe that we are causing a positive and material impact.
Alaba: What is the future of EcoAngola?
Erica: I am a dreamer and I consider myself to be farsighted. I imagine EcoAngola expanding to all of Angola with several environmental and social projects being developed. I believe that we can have a great impact in the future of Angola and Africa, especially when it comes to tackling pollution, poverty, biodiversity conservation and climate change.
We are starting with the foundation of development, which is education, but we aim to really influence public policy and build a more sustainable and ecological way of thinking for the entire nation. For our Green Movement, we aim to reach at least 100,000 people in the next 2 years. It will be a long process, but the hardest part is behind us already, which is to start.
Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?
Erica: By raising environmental awareness in Angola, I strongly believe that we can give an example to other nations that sustainable development can be a reality. It is hard to do it, especially because the Angolan economy is based on oil and gas production and exports, but I believe it is feasible and realistic. We are considering expanding the EcoAngola project to other African nations, starting with the Portuguese speaking first.
We need to leave the theory and start practicing, adapt the challenges that we face with our reality, and implement creative and sustainable solutions. We have enough information and understanding about what the ecological crisis can do the life on earth and a base of sustainable actions that we can use to change that. So, we need to act, and we need to act now.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African social entrepreneur?
Erica: I feel very proud of myself for taking the first step and being bold and fearless. I really appreciate the support and trust that our volunteers have on me. I admire everyone who joins us in this wonderful project, because that means that just like me, they have hope and they do believe that we can make the world a better place. It has to start with us, otherwise, who will do it?
This is one of the questions I ask myself, when things get harder. I imagine how the future will be, if we continue to make Angola a more sustainable and fair country to live. I am actually the youngest one in the Team, I am only 22 years old and they believed in me since day one, and have given me the chance to show what I am capable of doing. This boosted my confidence and I believe in myself and I believe in us more than anything.
One of the best feelings ever is to watch change happen and this makes me believe even more in EcoAngola. It is always a good feeling when I am able to mobilize and recruit new people into volunteering, and when I can show them that we can all do better, even if there is no direct reward given to us. Little by little, step by step we can do greater things, together.
It has been a challenge to do all of this, while I am still studying far away from Angola, and also working to sustain myself.
Alaba: What is your advice for government, social entrepreneur and investors in Africa?
Erica: My advice is that we need to build solid bridges of communication and participation between government, social entrepreneurs, investors, research institutions and civil society. There is so much that needs to be done and so many things with a huge potential that could help us bring positive changes, such as ecotourism, for example. We need to leave the word ‘potential’ behind and we need to use that potential for the good, for growth, for sustainable prosperity.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Erica: At this moment I am studying a Master’s in Ecology and Evolution, I work part-time at a restaurant, and I am a mobilizer for ReGenesis, a platform and community for global support in local actions through art activism- so it has been really challenging to manage my time with my professional and student life with my relaxing time. But I am the type of person that believes in balance. I maintain my physical and mental health stable. I used to read more sci-fi books, but now I am more focused into motivating myself because of the challenges I face daily.
I am currently reading the book ‘Originals’ by Adam Grant which was a Christmas gift – it has been an easy read because I have actually been connecting a lot with the theory shared in this book, especially the part about believing in ourselves. Because I am doing a Master’s in research, I spent most of my reading time reading research papers which I find interesting and mostly fascinating for new discoveries in the world of science, particularly ecology.
B I O G R A P H Y
Erica TavaresEnvironmental Biology graduate, currently studying a Master’s of Research in Ecology and Evolution. Passionate about people, nature and science, particularly because they provide us tools to understand the world. Using the knowledge I am gaining for fair biodiversity and human rights.
My mission is to raise awareness about environmental exploitation and degradation, promoting sustainability and environmental conservation. To accomplish that, I have co-founded and now direct EcoAngola. I am also a mobilizer for ReGenesis, a platform and community for global support in local actions through art activism.