PINKY AND THE BRAIN: A skill that will help you conquer Africa and develop the right entrepreneurial mindset

Olufemi Akinyemi is a certified management consultant, SMEs expert and alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School , Boston, USA.

He is also the founder of Activeserve Nigeria Limited, a renowned full-fledged, multi-award-winning ICT company in Nigeria, once invited to the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Pinky and the Brain: A skill that will help you conquer Africa and develop the right entrepreneurial mindset. So, like the Brain, we all will discuss the skills we could probably use to conquer Africa – A skill we possess naturally as Africans, Entrepreneurialism.

By the way, by show of hands like those of us that enjoyed Pinky and the Brain back then, let us signify. We need to know the boys from the men… women are spared!

Before we continue, let me ask a question, at least those that have seen some of the cartoon series – What thoughts rushed into your mind on reading tonight’s topic of discussion?

Your responses will help me shape our discussions

  • Entrepreneurs that can find solutions to clean up the mess we have in Nigeria and Africa.
  • Saving the world… according to BRAIN with entrepreneurial skills

Using problems as an opportunity to make ourselves important. The stupidity of pinky is one we are familiar with Africa. Entrepreneurs are the brain

Let’s start with Nigeria, then Africa, and perhaps, the world

Let Us Start – A few facts to put us in the right direction of your thoughts then…..

  1. There are on-going debates on whether entrepreneurs are borne or made. But for me, I believe strongly that Africans are born entrepreneurs, our fore fathers were mostly farmers and craftsmen
  2. You all present must either be diversely knowledgeable or seekers of knowledge, I particularly love Sultan’s statement and will build further on that soon
  3. I however, have some disturbing news for you – About 85% of the knowledge we all have today as Nigerians and in deed Africans would not be as significant as it is today, in about 10 years’ time. Africa might indeed no longer be competitive unless we act in the right direction.
  4. Finally, if we do not make conscious effort at pursuing Africapitalism (Like my mentor Tony Elumelu as constantly preached and acted on); the strategic effort at improving Africa, we may yet see another colonization of the continent.

Our universities unfortunately are not aligned with industry realities. Our education is in the 17th century.

On the colonization of Africa – Our way out is strategic entrepreneurship. What do I mean by this?

It simply means that as Singapore and China did, we must find ways to plan above our usual short term and go deep into the realms of planning for the next generations. But first, to be able to plan ahead of our time, we must learn to identify and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses – we must embrace our own products and get them to world standards.

We must admit our weaknesses and identify our strengths. It is in identifying our strengths that we can develop it.

Some years back, while I was in school in the US, I dated an American. There was something I noticed about her and other Americans I met – They were stupidly honest. They easily admit their own weaknesses and somehow, they expect you to give them credits for their strengths and any action they perform at conquering their weaknesses. This is something we greatly lack as African. Unfortunately, it is rooted in our parenting

In Africa unfortunately, we do not applause ourselves when our peers strive and thrive above us, rather we plot to take that person down. So, admittedly, strategic entrepreneurship is the way out of the situation Africa has found herself. Unfortunately, however, like Nigeria, Africa as a whole suffers from severe brain drain.

Even the little knowledge and skills that we have today may not be competitive at the world scene in the very near future.

So, what is the way out of this quagmire?

Let me ask a question here….. are my honestly carrying you along? The answer lies in our mind set – we must first work on our mindset to the point where we either admit our collective weaknesses and work on them, or embrace our collective strengths and work on them.

Regardless of what we choose to do however, we must have the right skill set to effectively compete in the future. To understand the skills set needed, therefore, it is imperative that we understand the types of work that would be available post-2020.

I will therefore for the purpose of this discussion, follow available materials out there and group post-2020 work into the following classes:

  • Robotic: Algorithmic, computerized, efficient, and purchased
  • Creative: Unique, imaginative, non-routine, and autonomous
  • Rote: Interchangeable, routinized, outsourceable, and managed
  • Skilled: Standardized, talent-driven, professional, and directed

Please note that Nigerians are amongst the best creative minds in the world. I say that without any jargons backed statistics – if we can sell the ocean or Lagos lagoon to the white man, then we must be creative.

According to the World Economic Forum reports, to be effective and keep pace with others in the year 2020, you need the under-listed skills:

1. Complex problem-solving.

2. Critical thinking.

3. Creativity.

4. People management.

5. Coordinating with others.

6. Emotional intelligence.

7. Judgment and decision making.

8. Service orientation.

9. Negotiation.

10. Cognitive flexibility.

Please allow me to ask you all, which amongst these skills do you possess and you are sure that you do? Some may possess all, but I mean the one singular one that you are sure that you possess above all others

Of all the skills I’ve listed, I will say that most of them might be taken over by AI at least with time.

Where would that leave you as a Nigerian, if all you know today is what you were taught back in school?

Of all the skills listed, I would without mincing words, say that all you need to concentrate on to conquer Africa and with time, the world, is to develop your creativity skill because that is where you are likely to remain employable.

It is only in creativity that we excel most as Africans, as Nigerians, as humans, above others

Though we may be limited by resources these days, due to our lack of technological know-how. It is imperative that you keep on learning. It is difficult to duplicate original work. If you want to be original, you have to become an inventor and build the foundation for the structure of your invention from scratch.

To develop your creative skills, the only way out is to keep learning, become self-taught. Be like me – become a life-long learner. Note that in some instances, learning could be unlearning – it could be adapting what you already know, to a new reality.

I was in a meeting recently and the moderator said it was time to unlearn, “She asked how many of us could truly unlearn if our lives depended on it?”

We were therefore asked to sit when we heard the word stand…. to do the very opposites of what we knew when the command came. It was disheartening to note that it was only the whites amongst us that exceled at it the most. That got me thinking, is there something they know that Africans honestly did not?

I am saying this for a fact…. something is wrong!

May I therefore pause here by saying:

That to be competitive and conquer Africa, the skills we need to truly learn is to unlearn

Thank you

Session moderated by:

Oluwatomisin Olowoyo, Principal, CSA Academy

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