What prompted you to form this foundation and how well have you fared?
Africa Youth Growth Foundation started in 2003 and has been in existence for 18 years now. It was incorporated in 2006 and we are celebrating the official registration date as against when it actually started, before we got our certificate from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The foundation set up specifically to address critical issues of bad governance, poverty, poor health and education. Looking back to where we are coming from or what we have been through, the organisation has come a long way, given its vision, its mission and its strategic objectives.
For the young people, women, and the general population that form our target, we have not disappointed them. We have accomplished everything we set out to do, though the journey has been very challenging.
Your organisation also works on making life better for the rural populace. What specific areas are you into?
We have been able to make a significant impact on huge number of persons in the rural areas and of course, in some cases even in urban areas ranging from nutrition, public health campaign, HIV/AIDS, malaria and livelihood support, skill acquisition, governance inclusion of young people, women in democratic processes. We have impacted not less than 10 million population within and outside Nigeria because some of programmes go beyond Nigeria to some other African countries.
How do you get resources to execute your programmes?
We partner with local and international organisations that have supported our vision. The World Bank, European Union, United Nations (UN) agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF, ION and of course several international foreign governments like the German government, the Spanish government, the American government, the British government, and of course the Nigerian government.
You are passionate about sustainable development in your areas of operations,
As an organisation we ensure that we look through the broad spectrum of project sustainability, before ever embarking on any. So, for any project we design, we have to look at its sustainability. We discuss this sustainability through spectrum and one of the facts is that whenever we implement projects, we include the community stakeholders because we want it to be sustainable; we want it to be locally owned, driven and protected? This gives the people a sense of belonging and responsibility. This is a key component of every project design we have. If you look back at all the projects, we always end up handing them over to the communities through the religious leaders, traditional rulers, down to the youth and the women representatives.
What are your organisation’s recent activities in Nigeria?
I can report to you that within four or five months of commencing service delivery in Kogi State, for example, we have reached over 50 to 1,000 beneficiaries in 10 local government areas.
And this is just the beginning because it’s a four or five-year project, and then possibly another two- year extension. We are working with the state government-funded projects as a project implementation unit. There’s World Bank on one side, the federal government to the premise of health on one side, and there is the state government. Essentially, for you to succeed within the development sector, you need the partnership and support of everybody – traditional and religious leaders, the women and youths from within the communities.
As an economist and development expert in innovation and change and having schooled in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, what drove you into this seemingly thankless adventure?
I think this is one of the most emotional parts in this conversation. The reason for this is that often times people feel you do things because you want to make money or because you want to be on your own. This NGO started from my secondary school days. And in secondary school, as naïve as I was, I was concerned about, how we are living as a country or how we have been very backward compared to the Western countries. That in the Western countries, you have stable electricity, quality education, quality healthcare and good road networks.
And then you look back in Africa, not just Nigeria, you literally see the opposite. Poverty, poor healthcare service and distorted educational system.
As a boy, I was not comfortable with this, I felt there should be an explanation. Why things are different on the other side, and things are bad on this side. And then I remember very well after I finished my work, and then I locked myself up in one of my dad’s rooms and wept profusely alone.
From that moment, I made up my mind that I was going to set up an NGO. After graduating, I was so determined to serve in my own organisation. So by and large, we started fully in 2003.
In my lateral commitment and assessment, we should not experience the opposite of what the rest of the world is enjoying. With this mindset, I knew that there should be a solution and that is how it all started.
Considering the current precarious security situation and other challenges, how do your deliver your services to the grassroots?
There is no way you can do this job by yourself even if you have all the resources. There are certain areas that need government’s support, not necessarily finance, such as getting the platform to assess the beneficiaries and provide security. As NGO, we need the support of the government in providing nutritional support. You need the state government to be on board, the traditional rulers, the religious leaders to access the people. And for you to get this done easily, you certainly need their goodwill.