Sahara Group, an indigenous energy company, says 30 young Nigerians who emerged winners in the maiden Aso Villa Demo Day entrepreneurship development event will receive support to develop their business ventures.
A presidency initiative, the programme sponsored by Sahara Group was to encourage the development of innovative business ventures across Nigeria through the extrapreneurship concept.
The Sahara Group “Extrapreneurship” framework is an integrated development and management programme to harness strategic partnerships and networks to support innovative entrepreneurial ventures.
The framework connects young people with business interests in emerging markets to solve common social problems.
From over 4,000 applicants across the country, about 100 were shortlisted and invited to pitch their ideas before panels of assessors in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
About 30 start-up innovators were selected to participate in a three-day intensive boot camp to pitch various business ideas, market viability and sustainability models.
Three best innovative, creative and entrepreneurship ideas aligning with youth empowerment and poverty alleviation through the principles of cross sectoral collaborations were showcased before a presidential audience presided by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at Aso Villa.
The top three innovative ideas included Tracology, a patented smart payment systems for utility companies; RecyclePoints, a waste recycling and social benefit venture for sustainable development, and Shuttlers, a multi-staff bus service to assist commuters resolve daily challenges moving around big cities.
The Chief Executive of Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, said the event, the first in its series, was designed to inspire, challenge and empower young Nigerians to be part of the solutions to socio-economic problems in their immediate environment.
Mr. Cole said although the three outstanding innovators were guaranteed funding of N3 million grants each to develop their business ideas, all 30 winners would be introduced to Sahara Group’s network of cross sectoral business development professionals.
“Through Sahara Foundation’s Academic Hub, Business development professionals will be selected from a pool of world class professionals and other reputable organizations who will work closely with other proven business development professionals to provide mentorship to the top 30 innovators,” Mr Cole said.
He said Sahara Group decided to sponsor the event as a result of its passion to invest in Nigeria’s future, through the youth of today.
“If we are going to become sustainable, and move from this generation to the next, we must understand what the next generation is all about.
“The future is digital and technology. A lot of Nigeria’s problems today can be solved through technical solutions sourced locally from young and creative talents,” he noted.
“If the young generations were empowered to think about those solutions now, they could achieve those objectives using technology,” he pointed out.
The Vice-President, who commended the Aso Villa Demo Day initiative, said the federal government was determined to ensure the country was built on the energy, innovation and creativity of its young people.
Mr. Osinbajo acknowledged the role of technology in national development, saying it has created a level playing field and connectivity for everyone to participate in wealth creation across the world.
“I am looking forward to work with young Nigerians as part of government to ensure that all our plans, talents and abilities are put to the best possible use. We will support you all the way,” the Vice President assured.
The event was graced by the presence of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, as special guest.
Mr. Zuckerberg, who said he was inspired by the ideas of the young Nigerians, expressed belief they would not only impact Nigeria, but the whole world.
“This has really blown me away by the talent of the entrepreneurs and young developers in this country, particularly the focus to build something that’s going to make a difference and bring change,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.
He said the ideas reminded him of when Facebook began, saying he did not set out to establish a company, but to build a something he wanted to see impact the world.
“That’s what I see people here doing; pushing through challenges, building things you want to see impact the world; things that would make a country great,” the Facebook founder said.
“This is not going to be better for Nigeria and Africa alone, but the whole world. I am blown away by what you are doing. I believe in you. I’m looking forward to see what you do,” he told the audience.