Kennedy Ekezie-Joseph is the founder of Africave, a company that mentors and open doors for African talent. He spoke to Kingsley Ugochukwu Ani about this initiative which is partnered with Africa Legal.
Everywhere I go, at every conference, I am asked the question, “How can we create more young people like you?”.
When I think about it, the question really being asked is, “How can we develop youth who are interested in and can develop Africa?”. It was while working for a Chinese multinational trying to enter Africa that I realized that they did not know how to find the right talent. They relied on me, and my personal networks to find people they could trust.That’s how the idea for Africave came about.
We are trying to develop wholesome African talent by “incubating” people through mentoring and specific training curricula. This they can use to create change in their lives, communities and, in so doing, make an impact in the world. We also connect them with global organisations which, in turn, are looking for reliable talent.
When was Africave founded?
Africave was launched this year in March but thinking and working on the idea started six months earlier.
How is a person chosen for the programme?
We have decided to use a fellowship programme where, every year, we will open up an application process designed to identify bright and ambitious young Africans.
Does the name Africave have any special significance?
The word “cave” has been pejoratively used to connote Africa. We are reclaiming that noun, and building a community united by technical competence, purpose, and aspiration for the socio-economic prosperity of Africa and the world.
Who are the mentors?
Africave’s team of mentors consists of high achieving professionals, who have attended prestigious schools like Duke, Princeton, University College London and Cambridge; have competed at the Olympics; have been employed by top global organizations like Goldman Sachs, Boston Consulting Group, Rolls Royce, McKinsey, Accenture, UNESCO and Google; and have built organizations that have cumulatively impacted the lives of more than 50,000 people: from making mental health counselling more accessible, to implementing programmes defeating Boko Haram in West Africa, and implementing technology solutions for agriculture.
I have been employed in management consulting, working at Accenture, and have interned in consulting in the US. Currently I am completing my Master’s Degree in Economics & Management and China Studies as the first ever Nigerian Yenching Scholar at Peking University.
Here in Beijing, I also advise the Global Operations strategy of the World’s most-valuable startup: ByteDance, where I am designing their Africa go-to-market strategy for their leading product.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of Calabar, and have a certificate in Leading Change specially designed for the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners by the University of Cambridge. (Kennedy was a winner of the Queen’s Young Leader Awards in 2018)
I am from Ehime-Mbano in Imo State, was born in Lagos and grew up in Calabar which lies at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon.
When you mentor someone, what lessons do you hope to impart?
I grew up in a very Nigerian home that emphasized the importance of hard work, discipline and success. I understood why this was important which made the difference. Many young people are taught they need to be successful but no one tells them why. For me, learning about the need to be successful came with learning about the reason why: to contribute to building my community, country and shaping the world.
So, when mentoring the greatest gift I try to impart is the mental framework to solve big, hard problems.
How do you encourage other young people to achieve their dreams?
I tell them to embrace responsibility. And this is more of an encouragement for myself as it is for other young people. I have realized that you cannot change the world if you can’t change your own life.
You are very involved in social activism around women’s rights. What motivated you to do this?
In my first year at the University of Calabar I joined the debate society and spent countless hours coming up with intellectual discourses on how Nigerian and African problems could be solved. But then, I saw that outside the debating room, the problems were still there; the intellectual debates never translated into practical solutions in the real world. That laid the seed for my passion to translate what I knew as a student and debater to real life advocacy.
Is this how you became involved in the Calabar Youth Council for Women’s Rights?
With the Calabar Youth Council for Women’s Rights, our goal was to contribute to efforts to end gender-based violence, and specifically, the practice of female genital mutilation. Generally, female genital mutilation is a symptom of a broader gender-based violence. You put an end to one and you put an end to the other. We sought to build an umbrella body that unites the youth, to come together, irrespective of their ideology, skills and origin to contribute their unique voices and strengths to end the practice of female genital mutilation.
What is your impression of equality in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, when the topic of equality is brought up, the default response is: “Let’s bump more women up into parliament”. That may be good. However, the structural frameworks of society that hold women down stay the same.
What would you do to change this?
The biggest problem is education. I don’t necessarily mean formal education. We have many degree holders, but the problem is the way we’re oriented from a young age. The home, religious institutions, schools and traditional institutions form the primary facets of information for a child. We need to ensure that these institutions that provide the information that builds the child’s mind are doing a good job.
A child shouldn’t be taught in school that women and men are equal, then goes to church to listen to a religious justification for the oppression of women. We need to create synergy to ensure that the educational narrative for a child is progress oriented.
Copyright : Re-publication of this article is authorised only in the following circumstances; the writer and Africa Legal are both recognised as the author and the website address www.africa-legal.com and original article link are back linked. A bio for the writer can be provided on request.