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Thinking Inside the Paris Global leadership and Entrepreneurship Experience

I was pleasantly surprised back in February to receive an invitation from Thione Niang, Founder of the Give1Project and President of Akon Lighting Africa, to attend the Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit in Paris, co-sponsored

I was pleasantly surprised back in February to receive an invitation from Thione Niang, Founder of the Give1Project and President of Akon Lighting Africa, to attend the Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit in Paris, co-sponsored by UNESCO and MEDEF. As the CEO of Applause Africa and LET, this opportunity was very welcome. More valuable for me was the opportunity to lend my voice to what I believe is the defining debate of our generation, Entrepreneurship.

If you ask any member of my generation what they are most concerned about, I can almost guarantee that the answer will be finding a job or setting up a business to support themselves. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) nearly a quarter of the world’s youth, who are mostly in developing countries, are unemployed. How can we create more jobs for young people of our generation? This is what Thione Niang, asked me to address in my presentation at UNESCO.

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I based my presentation on my experiences setting up and running my publication, Applause Africa. Ten years ago, when I started the company, Nigeria’s interaction with young people was very much focused on the university-based cults, fraternities and social organizations. Frequent campus closures, damage to property, loss of life and all other consequences associated with youth cultism resulted in the significant drop in education standards in Nigeria. Parents found it near impossible to send their children to such schools; experienced lecturers prefered to be transferred to other schools where their safety would be secured. This social vice was eating up the educational and moral standard. Innocent ones were lured into social vices such as drug abuse, armed robbery and murder. How could entrepreneurial opportunities result from the dynamism unleashed by the pubic campaign against youth cultism?

In setting up Applause Africa, I believed we could play a role in creating opportunities for students on campus and showcasing their successes. However, our guiding principle was the recognition that our generation could not rely solely on governments to end cultism and spurn job creation.

Hence, I argue that companies like mine are very important for addressing youth unemployment. I like to think of Applause as building a platform that allows young, ambitious, and educated leaders to showcase their work, ideas and achievements. We say, “If the government is not providing opportunities for you, adopt an entrepreneurial attitude and let’s play some institutional arbitrage by really globalizing your proficiencies. Let’s connect you with LET institutes and help you build your skills wherever you may be.”

Helping young people create their own jobs is not only about venture capital and incubators. Indeed, to address the employment needs of the most vulnerable youth, we need to teach young people mastery of the Internet, coding, presentation skills, basic English language skills, and the ability to be responsible, collaborative and creative team members. They need to learn to package and sell their skill set, whatever it may be.

My five day experience at the Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit, covered a broad range of discussions and provided extensive lectures in areas such as social responsibility, cultural competence, leadership and even personal development with a focus on entrepreneurship under the belief that identifying your skill set leads to greater leadership and success of your idea. I also met with the Mayor of Paris and spoke to Kristin Kane, Africa regional service US Embassy in Paris about youth engagement in France. I had the pleasure of sharing the same car with Karen Andre, White House liaison during one of the summit engagements. She shared with me her knowledge of American dreams, culture, history and determination to succeed. In return I did the same with Africa, but adding a specific touch on my family, friends and community. The summit also provided me an opportunity to meet incredible individuals like Success Masra, Corttrell Kinney, Jacqueline Cofield. Saihou Camara, Danielle Veira, Amaal Nuux,Vieulay Joop., Monique Carswell, Cheikhna Sarr, Abdoulaye Ba, Amy Nata, Mustafa Briggs, Tamarre Torchon, Corneille Towendo, Drea Moore, Fati Niang-Perso and Amadou Gning. I was blessed to be surrounded by these incredibly accomplished young leaders who share common goals. I think the Give1Project mission grabbed the attention of many participants in the summit. I feel that during my time in Paris I was able to reach out to many different people and expand the circle of Applause Africa supporters in new directions.

The Give1Project provides a platform unlike any other for entrepreneurs who are on the front line of change, whether it is nationally, regionally or globally. Give1Project helps support young leaders who are responsible for shaping the future in their respective countries. It was my great honor to be selected as a Global Leader for the Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit 2016, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity, through participation in the summit in Paris, to build relationships with so many individuals working in the field of youth education in Africa and beyond.

Thione, I salute your vision, your resolution and your audacity. Kudos to Dr. Anta Sane for an amazing conference, I am truly thankful to have been given the opportunity to attend the 2016 Global leadership and entrepreneurship summit in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debo Folorunsho

Debo Folorunsho serves as CEO of Applause Africa Communications and Executive Producer of the African Diaspora Awards. He has worked in Visual Design at Music Creative Group, Warner Music Communications and Design Group, and Permission Data.

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