Africa is nobody’s prize to win or lose, says Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, who believes it is the responsibility of Africans to take charge of their own interests and develop their continent to its full potential. To do that, Africa needs strong trade relations around the globe. That’s why coming together as a region has never been more important than it is now.
And since Africa is the continent with the youngest, fastest growing population, it is equally important to harness the power of youth to build relations and develop potential.
Nobody knows this better than Kennedy Ekezie, Co-founder & CEO of Africave, a company that trains and builds distributed teams, connecting global organizations to Africa’s elite digital talent.
Pushing the envelope “The real question,” said Ekezie, “is how to identify and validate the potential of those youngsters who are committed to excellence and how to give them a foot in the door with the right tools.”
Kennedy originally hails from Nigeria. As an undergraduate student, he previously founded an organization that contributed to advocacy efforts to end female genital mutilation and gender-based violence in Nigeria.
With Africave, his mission is to create unfettered access to economic opportunity for Africa’s most brilliant minds.
Connecting people: The idea for Africave came about while Ekezie was working for a Chinese multinational trying to enter Africa. “I realized that they did not know how to find the right digital talent,” said Ekezie. “They were relying on me and my personal networks to find talent they could trust.” He joined with co-founders Valentine Oleka and Duke Ekezie-Joseph to build Africave.
Men with a mission: Valentine Oleka, Duke Ekezie-Joseph, Kennedy Ekezie
Ekezie is the first Nigerian recipient of the Yenching Scholarship, known as the Chinese Rhodes Scholarship, where he will complete a master’s degree in Economics and Management. He is also the recipient of numerous awards and a member of the Fortis Society, the world’s first private network of deserving leaders who are inducted based on merit and a commitment to building more prosperous societies.
In 2017, he was named one of the Top 30 Global Teen Leaders being nurtured by the flagship We Are Family Foundation (WAFF) program called Three Dot Dash, of which SAP is the key sponsor. Named after the hit song written for pop group Sister Sledge in the 1970s, WAFF promotes the vision of a global family through programs that nurture and mentor visionary young people who are changing the world positively.
Africave was awarded a sizable grant by the SAP CSR team which it will use to build and train a team of three fulltime staff to run the organization. Besides covering a new, lean tech stack, the grant will also be used to develop the skills of young employees who will be mentored by high achieving, well established professionals at top global organizations ranging from Goldman Sachs to Google to UNESCO. Africave’s advisors include Oprah Winfrey’s longest-serving Chief of staff, Libby Moore and it has operations in the USA and Europe working to recruit young digital talents.
“I grew up in a traditional Nigerian home that emphasized the importance of hard work, discipline and success,” said Ekezie. “Many young people are taught they need to be successful, but no one tells them why. For us, success is contingent on our ability to change our community, country and the world. Mentoring is about imparting the mental framework to solve big, hard problems.”
Building a better world
Creating a sustainable future is one of those problems. If you are starving, you don’t care about other social issues, like the environment, so for Ekezie and his co-founders, economic empowerment is key to long-term survival. He is keenly aware of the fact that by 2050 one third of the world’s population will reside in Africa, yet 43 percent of young Africans today are unemployed.
He is convinced that access to a sustainable livelihood through technology specifically suited to the African continent will allow young people to thrive, and that this is necessary to get young people interested in other pressing social issues like counteracting climate change.
“There is no external solution,” said Ekezie. “We need homegrown solutions that provide long term, sustainable solutions for Africa’s young population.”
This is not a small task. That’s why Ekezie needs the support of a tech giant like SAP that can knock down barriers and help young people gain digital skills and access to regional and global leaders. He was part of the young leaders’ cohort at the recent Sustainable Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Addis Ababa, supported by SAP.
As part of the partnership with SAP, Ekezie’s role is to advise SAP’s global CSR strategy on how best to create sustainable options for building digital skills. He and his team bring firsthand experience to the table, pooling knowledge, skills and experience to create a long-lasting foundation for the future.
Alexandra van der Ploeg, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for SAP, believes programs such as the WAFF Three Dot Dash initiative will help young leaders solve our world’s most pressing problems. “We are proud and humbled to support young leaders like Kennedy Ekezie,” said van der Ploeg. “We have much to learn from young leaders like him, and in turn, we can support them by developing their organizations into the best they can be.”