Clique Africa – Clique Africa is a hangout where young African entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to talk business and socialize monthly. It serves as information hub for startups, it provides the space for potential business transactions and findings new associate as well as creates opportunities for spotting and identifying talents for key corporations.
Lekan is quite not an easy man to catch up with but once again i am grateful for my long legs. In this chat with him we discussed how how it all began and his perceptions on certain trivial issues.
Let’s get to the beginning, how was Clique Africa founded?
Oh yes, it all started 6years back while I was graduating from Ogun state university; I felt that relating and connecting ought to continue outside the walls of the University and not stop in it. Then it was just ‘Clique’ and was more of a club where we met up to discuss issues and celebrate birthdays of the month. So we had the ‘Clique’ for a couple of months and then I got mixed up in other things although I continued to nurture the idea that one day I would do it full time. So in October 2012, I was in India with some friends on an Entrepreneurship and Agribusiness programme, in a heated discussion it popped into my mind that I just had to continue the Clique, as a way to give back to my society. After India I travelled to Dubai where I met some cool people, and the issues being discussed was how we could create or bring opportunities to young people back in Nigeria where there is high rate of unemployment and the idea lingered.
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All this while, I was working as a content manager for a Harvard based organization YALDA (Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa) on a project called ‘Adopt An Idea’ to bring together young people with great ideas and also people who would adopt and sponsor those ideas. After the project I thought to myself, I knew these top executives and entrepreneurs, I could create a circle of young creative and energetic Africans and link them to people who would buy their ideas under Clique. With that I finally made up my mind, I called out to my friends and their friends and Clique Africa began to happen at the last Wednesday of every month. The first month the attendance was not up to 30 but the feedbacks was amazing and this spurred me on, so I copyrighted it and started the ball rolling. I also reached out to my friends all around Africa to see how they could adopt Clique Africa into their space or environment.
The 2nd month I reached out to a friend of mine who was the governance manager at Exxon mobile with the idea and told him to come to Clique Africa, this was the time the issue of fuel subsidy was on the high and tempers had flared, I told him that it would be a good opportunity for him to educate and sensitize young professionals on the matter which would calm a lot of nerves. I also invited Henry Igbokwe who was into entertainment and has worked with numerous musical artistes, I begged him to come with opportunities that he could give to young and creative minds. That month someone got a job at Exxon Mobile and another had a couple of demos with Henry and it inspired us to move on.
How much has Clique Africa been adapted in other African countries?
As I speak to you, it has been adapted in 5 African countries, Ghana, Kenya, Cameroun, Ethipoia and South Africa, although they are not as consistent as the branch here in Nigeria, but they each have had more than two editions and will continue to. We hope to spread more across Africa for our dream and our vision is to be recognized as the number one platform or network that connects Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs who will drive Africa into full scale, promoting business and inter cultural business relations and ideas beyond border. We are still growing and will get there.
As the founder of Clique Africa, how easy or difficult has the journey been?
Seriously it has been very difficult, but in my 14 years experience working with the World Bank, British Council, United Nation Agencies, NGOs, humanitarian services, and many international organizations in different capacities, I know what sacrifice is all about, I am used to that. There have been a lot of challenges, but you have to respect the uniqueness of your dreams no matter how much no nobody sees what you see. There have been challenges of funding, putting people together, building a team, selling the ideas to people to buy and believe and actually getting top influencers or entrepreneurs to speak at the occasion. So yes it’s been difficult but we have been learning from the challenges along the way, and like I to tell my team members, we either move mountains or we die trying. So we are doing what we are doing and we will not slide. Although we seek funding for our projects but presently 75% of it still comes from my pocket.
Tell me a bit about your work with World Bank, British Council and other international organizations
Oh that, I worked with World Bank and British Council on a millennium development project; I was trained to be an MDG expert by the World Bank Institute on Millennium Development Goals, got certified as a pilot trainer. Then we had this contract to train people in the south west which lasted for a year and half in 2007-08 and I was part of that. I also worked with the Lagos State House of Assembly as a legislative assistant, gathering and compiling information, drafting and forwarding to the appropriate departments. I was in 3 committees then; transport resources, health and youth development. While there I was part of the team that drafted the Lagos traffic law of today.
Perhaps you weren’t doing Clique Africa, which of these bodies would you have been working with and why?
World Bank would be the answer, but the truth is that my drive is for change, bridging the gap, creating connections, and I find success in people achieving their dreams and self expectations. This gets me going and is why I chose Clique Africa.
What has been your most memorable Clique Africa experience?
There are a lot of memorable days for me, but in the month of June last year we made a donation to a foundation for children through the ‘one-child-one-book’ project by Tosin Jegede, that day was a very special experience for me.
How is your day like as an Entrepreneur?
Hectic! I have spent 14 years in this sector, running around and trying to make things happen. In my 1st year I missed 6 exams because I was always working with one international organization or another on a numerous programmes and that hasn’t change. I triple as founder of Clique Africa, CEO of Velox consulting for managing and development of enterprise, and Nigerian coordinator for Washington based Global Youth Initiative Network (GYIN) amongst others. So every day is always a hectic one for me; attending meetings, making or receiving calls, writing proposals and many more.
What is your opinion about school, education and the problem with this generation?
Well, I wouldn’t want to say school is a waste of time; you see I didn‘t go to school to bag a 1st class, I was there to learn and understand, so yes I got my certificate in political science and moved on. Education is about you knowing and getting acquainted with important subjects or field that can chart your life’s course, but this day it’s all about the grades which is what I do not like. The problem with the generation Y is what I call ‘IGE’; Ignorance, Greed and Ego. I say ignorance because people do not know things or are not open to it yet assume they do. Yes assumption is good in the case of mind dynamics, but in this case, the ignorance sets in from not knowing you need a mentor, not having or choosing the right one.
Many in this generation have refused to find their real calling, their real selves and what they really want to do with their life. More so I say Greed because, there are people with good connections, contacts but find it difficult to open up or share because they are afraid your ideas would surpass theirs forgetting that there could be a synergy and working together, and this why Clique Africa exists. I try to bring my contacts for people to meet and connect, I do not see a reason to have those people and keep them to myself. Ego; there are those who boast they have this knowledge and that, but my question is how much have they used it to elevate the next man?
Tell me a bit about Clique Africa Ghana trip in December last year.
Every year we intend to have a Clique Africa awards for young professionals to reward excellence by identifying young entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs, young people who have affected their organization, community positively. We planned that for December but couldn’t get the funds to run it, so plan B was to tour African countries, and so we chose Ghana. We left for Ghana on the 23rd, although we had a set back because it was a festive period and most of the people we wanted to see needed to be with their families. Regardless we met with the Nigerian Youth President with Ghana but missed Dr. Akufor Ado senior legal adviser to the opposition council due to his schedules although I met him later. We couldn’t meet Dele Momodu of the Ovation house in Ghana as planned but every other thing was just fun and fun. We met with Clique Africa Ghana and had a hangout, had fun at Labadi beach and Resort, Ghana park, visited International market (Osu Market), Black Stars Village and many other cool places.
Finally what is the next port of call for Clique Africa?
Our trip will be every year, hopefully we’ll visit Kenya, Gabon or Seychelles, and by doing this we are trying to expand our boundaries. This year we plan to bring together all the Clique Africa branch outs down to the country we will be visiting.
Finally what are your thoughts on social media?
First of all, if there is any young person not using social media, then he/she is missing global development because social media is like the focal point, it makes connectivity easy. It is key to everything we do now, from business expansions, product sales and self exposure. It is very important that people embrace it and build connections and networks. I am a twitter addict if I have to say. Last year I started a thing called ‘tweet meet’ where I invite people to have life changing discussions. Social media is that connect for developing countries who want to move out of the dark zone.