By Chinyere Nwachukwu
The Chief Programme and Business Development Officer of UNICORN, Mrs Olatorera Abiola, on Saturday said the major key to unlocking the vast business potential of Africa was through entrepreneurship.
Abiola said this in on the sideline at a news conference to announce preparations in place for a two-day summit tagged “Africa TechMoney,Where Technology and Money Meet.”
According to her, the summit, slated for Monday, June 10 and Tuesday, June 11, is in collaboration with the University of Lagos.
“The Africa TechMoney programme is about getting funding, knowledge, network and opportunity for startups and Technology talents for them to have the right information and networks,”she disclosed.
According to her such efforts will assist them to scale and become big companies.
Abiola said for Africa to rank among other world economies, it must be able to take its destiny in its hands by looking inwards and seeking ways of gaining more knowledge, improved funding.
She said effort would go along way toward enhancing and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovations.
“Ultimately, we have come to realise today that it is the entrepreneurs that will solve Africa’s problems and that is the only thing that will enable us as a people of this continent to move into prosperity.
“We also believe that Africa’s problems can only be solved by Africans and we believe that with the advent of exponential technology, the fourth industrial revolution such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and digitisation, there are many solutions now.
“They are cost effective for consumers that will expose the entrepreneurs more and lead them to know. We are going to assemble young persons with creative minds and other entrepreneurs to meet with investors from all over the world, during this summit.
”We are expecting over 150 investors to ate d this programme, coming from within and in the diaspora. These are people coming from Silicon Valley. China and Asia, that are very interested in the Africa Technology space, who also want to meet with old, young and bright entrepreneurs that have great ideas,’’ she said.
Abiola acknowledged, however, that the current business terrain in the country was not encouraging, adding that it was difficult to raise startup capital.
“We are aware that infrastructure is also part of the huge challenges we need to address just like mentoring, for entrepreneurship to thrive. We also know that not having time as an entrepreneur will mean people seeing you as a hustler and may not take you seriously, because you do not have a regular income. As a result, we want to change that narrative and bring dignity back to entrepreneurship.
“We also want people to feel that they can actually become entrepreneurs with great ideas and ready to make a difference contributing meaningfully to the nation’s economy and the society in general.”
She noted that UNICORN was basically brought together by a board with Mr Kola Abiola, son of the late politician and business mogul, Chief Moshood Abiola, as member.
According to her, it is part of his (Kola’s) legacy and his belief that in today’s world, the new opportunity for wealth is through technology and innovation.
She explained that the choice of University of Lagos as partner in the programme was because of its position in Africa as the largest public university on the continent.
Abiola stated that in addition to being the largest, it also had the kind of target the UNICORN was looking toward to invest in, including its location, adding that it had the natural affinity.
“We are looking for persons between age eight to 80 with great ideas that are leverage on technology and innovation, have ambitious plans that require big funding and big support and are ready to change the world. We are looking at discovering the next owners of big business such google, facebook, ubers and others.”
The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development Service, University of Lagos, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, said that the summit was a welcome development, describing it as a step in the right direction.
According to Ogunsola, whose portfolio includes innovation, entrepreneurship and internationalisation, the programme is part of the institution’s vision. She noted that one of the things that Unilag, under the current administration of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe was doing was to push innovation in many directions.
The don added that the institution was striving hard to expand and build its students on their creativity as well as assist them with the necessary networks. According to her, same goes for the staff, whom the university is encouraging to do things differently, do research and come up with solutions to various societal challenges.
“When UNICORN approached us and we learnt about what they do and we discovered that they fit into what we are trying to achieve, we did not hesitate to go into the partnership.
“”We are also glad to know that most of the officials of the company are all alumni of this institution and so they feel the collaboration is another way of giving back to their alma mata, which to me, is the way to go,’’ Ogunsola said.
Dr Sunday Adebisi, Director, Entrepreneurship and Skills Development Centre the Unilag stated that the programme was what the institution needed “at this time.”
According to him, there is need for students to begin to explore, engage in more critical thinking and discover more ways to carry their innovations outside the confines of the university to the larger society.
He stated that this would create the much needed networks that would assist in attracting investors that would drive their dreams at the global stage. Adebisi said that it would also assist in impacting on the society generally as well as the country’s GDP.
According to him, the issue of unemployment, kidnapping and other social vices among the young in the society would be reduced to the barest minimum.