Lawyer and environmentalist, Teni Majekodunmi, who was recently a guest of President Barak Obama under the US President’s Young African Leaders Programme, recalls her experience in the US and how the forum is impacting her career
I was nominated to attend the President’s Young African Leaders Programme in the USA which took place from June 11th till the 30th 2012. The U.S. government engagement with Africa featuring a two-week professional development programme brought approximately 65 young African leaders to the United States for leadership training and mutual exchange in the fields of social and business entrepreneurship.
It began with a two-day orientation programme in Washington DC, and a two-week mentorship programme with a private U.S. company or non-governmental organisation related to our specific fields (mine was in Philadelphia) and concluded with a two-day action planning workshop, programme evaluation and closing ceremony in Chicago, Illinois.
The aim of the programme was to connect young African innovators and U.S. businesses and non-profit professionals in order to foster investment, social responsibility, and innovation in Africa.
I founded a green energy consultancy called EcoXchange Limited in Nigeria and my main focus is to build capacity in Nigeria on renewable energy sources so as to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and improve our environment. We also focus on carrying out clean energy projects in communities to help improve power situations and ascertain constant power from other means that are sustainable. I was able to learn a tremendous amount of things from the Programme and the Country and the People as a whole.
I was placed in Philadelphia for my two-week mentorship at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) Navy Yard. The Navy Yard is the green hub for Philadelphia and was in line with my area of interest. The Yard developed recently an energy efficient Building Hub with a mission of improving efficiency in buildings and promoting economic growth and job creation. The main goal is to reduce energy use in commercial buildings sector by 20 percent by 2020.
I also had the benefit of attending several key workshops for social and business entrepreneurs which I found extremely useful. It was really comforting to meet and exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs a thing that rarely ever happens in Lagos, as a lot of young people have not taken the plunge to be full time entrepreneurs due to fear of failure and high risk/personal sacrifices that comes with being an entrepreneur.
By attending these seminars, I was also able to learn of one or two techniques that have been put in place in the state of Philadelphia and USA to assist entrepreneurs and nurture them into firstly taking the plunge to be innovative and secondly supporting them in their ventures by systematically and organically brewing an environment that’s still cost-effective enough for them to still thrive and not be frustrated.
From this I was able to come up with an idea that not only helps me as a business, but others who I know face this same challenge and develop a network to help us grow as leaders and as social and business entrepreneurs in an emerging and poverty stricken economy like Nigeria.
I plan to take things to the next level by capitalising on all the networking I was able to do and put to good use all the knowledge I gained especially from the business development angle and technology aspects. So much emphasis was placed on social media networks and I must say I really underestimated its power. I have been able to identify four new business opportunities I am embarking on since my return and I believe that, with my skills, intelligence and self motivational/team spirit, I will succeed