On the weekend my mum had a birthday party. It was a great day, full of lots of Nigerian ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ (i.e people older than me who I address that way as a sign of respect), friends and family. It’s only as I get older that I’m starting to appreciate these ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’…Rather than being annoying older people who boss me around (!) I am now able to talk to them as an adult about topics that I’m passionate about such as Nigeria, Africa, business in Nigeria, and opportunities. I have also realized that they are a great source of information, as well as wonderful contacts, as many of them work within the highest levels of Nigerian society (thanks Mum for having such great friends!).
Anyway, whilst chatting away with one of my ‘uncles’ (a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs Europe) he told me about a non-profit venture he started a year ago. In January 2006, along with the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, he launched the Nigeria Leadership Initiative. It’s definitely something that I had to write about here, as it’s yet another great example of what Africans (Nigerians in this case) are doing for Africa.
The Nigeria Leadership Initiative brings together a group of successful, highly accomplished Nigerians from around the world in order to make changes within the country. They meet once a year at a 3-4 day conference where they discuss not only issues and problems within the country, but also solutions and possible actions. They also discuss philosophy, study political ideology and talk in a more holistic way about topics such as what makes a good society and how they can take success stories from other places and apply them to Nigeria.
The thing I love most is that not only is the Nigeria Leadership Initiative a think tank, but after the conference each and every member is then given a project to effect within the country. They are guided and monitored to ensure that they complete their project and because they are a powerful and well-respected group they are already working at the highest levels, including government, to effect change.
The NIL has also started a ‘youth’ chapter, which will bring together a number of 25 – 35 year old Nigerians who are considered to be those who will have a significant impact upon the future of Nigeria. The first conference for them is a 3 day leadership seminar in Lagos, which will then lead to a project.
Each and every person who is part of this project is a Nigerian, working for change in Nigeria. The NIL is leveraging the so-called ‘brain drain’, in which people leave Nigeria (or Africa in general) to go and use their skills abroad, to benefit the country to their advantage. They harness the skills those people have acquired outside Nigeria for the benefit of the country. Take a look at the leadership group of 2007 and you can just see the level of skill and capability that is being used for the country’s growth.
This is a great initiative, and another success story…. I look forward to posting more about the Nigeria Leadership Initiative as time goes on.