This story started in summer 2013 in Tuscany. Edwin Akabuilo – a Nigerian IT specialist and philosopher based in Aargau/Switzerland – had a vision while walking on the Tuscan beach.
“Empower the Nigerian Economy through Entrepreneurship (N3E)” – a conference in Imo state should bring together SMEs, young hopefuls, investors, politicians, entrepreneurs and whoever else is interested in advancing economy in the Eastern Region of Nigeria (Igbo speaking part, making up approximately 1/3 of the 120 mio Nigerians).
Edwin ran this idea by a lot of people in Switzerland, Europe and Nigeria. His idea excited everyone, as it would provide a platform for networking and sharing knowledge and experience. He invited speakers from Europe and Nigeria that could inspire the conference participants – amongst them… me… Why me? ITIL, my main topic, is for IT, which at the current state of development is not really important for the Eastern region of Nigeria – but ITIL has a lot to offer that can be applied to any business at all, so I translated the 5 service lifecycle phases into a small business idea – a butchery.
Time lapse – January 2014
My very first trip to Africa – everyone telling me I’m crazy, except for Glenfis; Martin Andenmatten even sponsored my trip and 6 WBTs – 3 ITIL Foundation and 3 COBIT Foundation eLearnings.
Lots of impressions were pouring down on me every minute of my trip. First of all – there are people EVERYWHERE!!! And NOISE! And LIVELINESS! And SMILES! And COLORS! And DUST! And traffic! And all kinds of smells… Did I love it or hate it? I fully indulged it for sure. I loved the experience, I loved to watch, but as I was always under close protection either in a car or in an expensive hotel, it still feels like a movie – on fast forward
We (Vincent Schönenberger, the 2nd Swiss speaker and I) arrived in Lagos late on Friday, January 3rd 2014 and left for Owerri (Imo State) on Sunday, January 5th. We had decided in advance to drive the 7 hours to get an impression of the country, the people, the distances. It was impressive – to say the least. Nigeria has vast vegetation. Fruits are growing everywhere. The first 2 hours driving were rough, the roads need repair desperately. For the last 5 hours we were able to use a brand new freeway.
At the hotel in Owerri we met a few more speakers. There was the former Nigerian ambassador to Switzerland, the president of the Nigerians in European diaspora based in Brussels, the chief barrister of the Eastern Region of Nigeria and an entrepreneur who was a former advisor of the Abia state governor. So in total we were 7 speakers including Edwin Akabuilo as the initiator, Vincent Schönenberger as an angel investor and financial advisor and myself as a training and ITIL specialist. We talked about the concept, the vision and the goals of the conference – what an exclusive and energized group of people!
Monday, January 6th 2014 – N3E (Nigerian Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship) Conference in the Concorde Hotel, Owerri http://n3e.local.ng/innovation/
The scheduled speakers in order of appearance:
Sabrina Flückiger-Strotmann dipl.päd (ITIL Specialist): Applying systems development life cycle (SDLC) methodology to Business Innovation
His Excellency Amb. Joseph U. Ayalogu, former Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland: Revenue Generation for Regional Economy
Engr. Edwin Akabuilo Msc BIS FHNW: Innovation: Why Business must Innovate or Die
Agu Ojukwu, former advisor to the governor of Abia State: Oil Palm Trees as a resourceful good
Hon. (Dr) Collins Nweke Municipal Legislator, Ostend City Council Belgium: (Tools for Boosting Regional Economy through Effective Deployment of Information Technology -the Case of Belgium)
Vincent Schönenberger dipl. BA: Financing Project in Africa: Angel Investor experience
Megan Adaobi Clement: President of Association of African Social Workers UK: Developing a Social Welfare System that Feeds the Nigeria Economy Through Innovative Information Technology.
Barrister Ifeanyi Olunkwa Business Attorney, National legal Advisor of OHANEZE NDIGBO, also former special assistant to Government of Abia State: Legal Framework for Effective Economic Development.
Guests of honour:
Comrade Lucky Onyeador. President of Igbo Union in Brussels,Belgium
Lady Ada Ochor, woman leader of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Abia State
Kate Anolue, Mayor of Enfield, London
Comrade Israel Ogbonnaya Youth President of Ohaneze Ndigbo Abia State and his delegation: Chetachi Ikpe, Barr. Ubani Queendaline, Macdonald Ubani, Barr Anthony Apepe Ulonnaya. This delegation was invited by Barrister Ifeanyi Olunkwa: “They have started running with the vision as they are not only educating thousands of youth on how to develop a business plan that will take the youths off the street, it is also their desire that we organise a programme of this magnitude in Abia State”
The conference started with the “Nigerian Factor” – 2.5 hours late, as no one was there at the scheduled starting time, beamer, screen and microphones were nowhere to be seen… But everyone took it with calmness; we would have gone crazy… Patience – if you don’t learn it in Nigeria, you never will…
The audience was very keen on listening and learning. They were participating, thinking along, taking notes, nodding, cheering – very inspiring indeed! And although the conference lasted much longer than scheduled, surprisingly enough, the participants used the opportunity to ask questions instead of rushing home asap.
After the conference things started to take off… We were introduced to very interesting and powerful people. We were invited for dinner by the President General, the OHANEZE NDIGBO Worldwide, the leader of all Igbos in the world (about 40 million), Gary Nnachi Enwo-Igariwey – or for us just “P. G.”.
We were led through the St. Gregory University of Uhuru http://gregoryuniversity.com/, which is very impressive.
We were able to see an oil palm plantation and mill; we saw a huge construction site for a new market to house 160’000 craftspeople with their workshops and shops – and last but not least we were highly honoured by being introduced to His Excellency ABIA state governor, Theodore Orji and all his ministers.
Nigeria is a country of variety. I met very nice people that are more interested in society, development, people, their country, than in their own pockets. Although there are many others who only care about power and money, there is hope for a new Nigeria developing through entrepreneurship – independent of which party rules and who is the president. We encouraged the youth to start helping themselves instead of blaming the government and waiting without doing anything. It will take energy and time and patience, but we saw positive signs of improvement and met inspiring and energized people.