In this exclusive interview with LUBEM GENA, the Editor-in-Chief of Chamber Telegraph, BRIGHT JAJA, the Founder of iCreate Africa explained the credible mission and vision of his organization. He said, iCreate is creating skills that could be meet the needs of the next two decades pointing out that such skills could be exported. Excerpts:
Let me meet you please.
My name is Bright Jaja. I am the founder of iCreate Africa.
What informed the decision to found iCreate Africa?
iCreate Africa was founded based on the huge problem of unemployment, low productivity and poverty in Nigeria. We discovered that a lot of people are unemployed and this not because there are no jobs but because they don’t have the skill set for the available jobs. For this reason, iCreate Africa was started to make these jobs that are available more appealing for the youths to want to be more involved in them.
The reason why they are not engaged is because of the stigma and stereotypes attached to these jobs and we want to change that. These skilled jobs are seen as menial in the society and the idea is to rebrand and create a platform for people who are into these skills to excel and become a beacon of light for the next generation to want to be like them. iCreate Africa is all about promoting vocational and technical skills and create success stories.
Since inception of iCreate, how would you describe the journey so far?
The journey has been difficult. Difficult because of the kind of space and environment makes it hard for people to understand the value of these technical and vocational skills. The task ahead is very difficult because for you to project this thing that people don’t give much regard to and make them understand and appreciate it and make it more appealing, one has to the extra mile in branding, presentation and basically everything you do.
Everything basically has to be excellent and top notch. Because of this, we’ve found it difficult to change that perspective and make people understand the value of what we are trying to do. It has not been easy but based on expertise when it comes to branding, we have been able to excel and achieve great results in a very short time.
How has the general public received this initiative?
Surprisingly, it’s amazing how we have started something that has never been done or seen before and the way public is taking it is overwhelming.
The first we launched the site for the Skills fest, the site literally crashed because of the heavy traffic on it at the same time. The feedback has been amazing. We recently celebrated the World Youth Skills Day and it was awesome. It was something that had never been seen before and everyone was excited about it.
A lot of people were sending messages on our social media indicating their interest in wanting to showcase. It just shows that all we young people actually want is a platform to be a part of something and they have the energy and talent to do this. That is why things like Big Brother and all these other reality shows come up, you just find a lot of young people running towards that direction because all they want is to have a platform and that is what we are trying to create.
So far, because of the platform we are creating that involves young people, young businesses and skills, a lot of people have shown interest in wanting to compete and exhibit. It has really been amazing and overwhelming.
With this general acceptance, what exactly are you going to achieve?
I think one of the major things we want to achieve is to change perspective because that is where most of the work is. The way will present this young people when they are showcasing their skills is going to be different. It is going to be something that has never been seen before.
We want to invite the government, the industries, the employers and even the young next generation of skilled professionals to come and not just see but to also understand the value of technical and vocational skills.
We are inviting the media and what we want to achieve on that day is to able to use this event to set a new landmark and standard of her skills should be perceived how professional skilled people ought to be. What we also want to achieve is to get more investors to invest in infrastructure when it comes to technical skills because as much as possible, young people who want to push their skills to another level need to have institutions set in place to help them. For instance, if you want to be a footballer or a bricklayer, you have to go though the polytechnic which is not so structured but when we have the private sector investing in technical and vocational educational infrastructure, it makes it more easier of a child to decide to become a bricklayer after secondary school and would actually be able to go through that process which would serve as a university and they are able to come out as professionals.
Our vision in the next 20-25years is to be able to export skilled people because we are going to have so much of them and we are going to have enough people building our infrastructures instead of having foreigners do all these things. That is why we are starting now so as to pave the way for the next generation of skilled workers and to take our country to the next level. We don’t just need the government and private sectors, we need entrepreneurs and skilled workers to be able to build this nation.
Do you belong to any organization that has oiled your zeal in creating skills for the country with a view of exporting them as mentioned earlier?
I am part of the Junior Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry but we have not really activated yet so I can’t say much about that. I am also part of the Revive Nigeria Group (RNG), a group that mainly comprises of entrepreneurs, experts and professionals who are working together to revive Nigeria and make it a better place.
Individuals in this group have inspired and motivated me a lot to do the little I have been able to achieve so far.
In the next decade or so, where do you hope to see I create?
We just started and we are like a year old. Since we started we used the first 6 months to do research to understand what we are going to do and how to go about it. The other three months we participated in the World Skills Competition in Abu Dhabi and that was huge for us because we were able to contribute our knowledge and also learn from what is going on and we were acknowledged.
Back in Nigeria, we just finished the World Youth Skills Day event which was amazing and we are looking forward to the Skills Fest which is going to happen in October. We are a new company and we are still unveiling our skills and our projects and we look forward to the success ahead.
Aside from that, can you measure the positive impact you have created so far?
So far, I think when it comes to changing perspective and working towards the project which like I said is our very first, we have met quite a number of young amazing people.
We have travelled round Nigeria to look for artisans and we have met some really amazing people and we did a short documentary on this people which was projected and some of them have been exposed and a lot of people now know them. There was one of them who got a grant from a company that saw a video on our platform and they contacted him. Some of them have gotten jobs just through the promotional videos. I would account that as a success because these young people are just people in their little space and we projected them and this is just the beginning of what we are doing and just promoting it.
So, imagine when the main event happens and these people emerge winners. It would be huge for them. I think when it comes to how successful we have been so far, it’s a new company, we achieved huge success in the last event we put out and also projecting this young people, giving them a platform and an opportunity to meet with employers is also something we are looking forward to after the Skill Fest in October.
There are so many things we are going to be unveiling. When we talk about these things, people just think it’s a one-time event. It is not just that. The event is just a way for us to find these amazing people and projecting them. There are so many things we are going to be doing as time goes on especially when it comes to the various skill sectors for instance we are going to rebrand brick layers in such a way that they would have their own offices and there would be a process to get to them.
We are making it more professional and more sophisticated. We are also going to be unveiling a Makers Space where young people can come in, collaborate and create. This space is an office space and we are working towards it at the moment and we are launching it immediately after the event. This space will have young people with skills ranging digital skills to fashion and construction come together to create and make a difference in the society. There are more projects we are going to be unveiling as time goes on and as much as possible we are going to be sending our champions to the World Skills Competition happening next year in Khazan, Russia. When it comes to projects, we have a lot coming up and we can’t wait to start making a difference in the lives of these people.
Let me emphasise that in the next 10 years, we are looking at franchising because the name of the company is called iCreate Africa and we don’t just want to solve problems in Nigeria, we want to face the problems facing the youths in Africa. Africa has the highest population of young people which is supposed to be an advantage to us.
The future of work has changed and its changing and about 80% most of the jobs we do now and are available will go extinct. The world has become a technology and digital space in the middle of the 4th industrial revolution where block chains and artificial intelligence is taking over and most of the jobs are taken over by machines so what do we do and how do we prepare these young Africans to embrace this future that is coming? That is our job.
We are going to be doing more research and getting more young people involved, we are going to expand to different African countries, we are going to create collaborations and create a huge network where young people are engaged and are using their skills to make a difference in their society.
As you embark on this journey, what is your expectations from the public? How would you want then to be part of this moving train?
We just want the public to be open minded and to embrace new things. The projects we are going to be unveiling are things that people have probably never seen before but we want them to be open minded as much as possible and also have a spirit of collaboration. So, if you feel like there is a role that you can play, we are not a company that is afraid of sharing ideas or afraid of working with other people.
Our company is an open and collaborative company where everyone has a role to play and we are not here to make money, we are here to make a difference. Just like our motto says, iCreate Africa is here to create. As long as you’re creative and as long as your company is involved in anything and is opened to work with us, we ask that the public to be more open minded and see how we can all work together to make Nigeria and Africa a better place.