I’m passionate about writing but I dream of building a successful socially responsible enterprise not winning the Caine Prize. It doesn’t matter what it does. It just has to be a successful model of a social enterprise.
I’m 14. I love flipping through the travel mags. Day dream of far away places. I love the luxury hotels. I apply to the London School of Tourism & Hotel Management. I will build the world’s greatest chain of luxury hotels. Father won’t have it. ‘You will stay here. In Nigeria.’
Hotel management isn’t on the JAMB form. I choose Law. The only course available to me with my mix of O Level subjects anyway. All science but no maths. I’m in a hurry. Won’t retake my O level exams. I chose Unijos, my father chooses IMSU.
I’m in a hurry to matriculate, graduate, serve and start MY life. Take charge of me. I’ll build the biggest law firm in Africa employ dozens of lawyers and introduce innovative legal services to help thousands of clients and citizens.
After 5 years in Lagos as a worker I move to Abuja shortly after Abacha takes over and open a law firm. Lagos is chaotic. Crime is worse. New robbery reports and rumours everyday. I’m robbed three times at home. Mugged several times on the street. I feel paranoid. Time to leave.
Abuja seems peaceful and calm. Little crime. Discreet poverty. Street lights work. Water in the plumbing. Regular power supply. When Abacha’s infamous GMC vans drive by or park I feel safe not threatened. Some of his BG’s are friends. We drink together after work. Their vans parked outside.
I’m upset because my proposals are constantly being hijacked. Only a favoured few get jobs from this administration. Other lawyers get fat selling and re-selling over priced properties.
Its 1997. Abuja Agams-Nikova & Associates Ltd started out as a law firm but now designs social innovation projects for public and private sector clients. I’m the architect. I draw the elevation and the floor plan. I let others do structural or electrical but I understand the concepts. .
My enterprise proposals are innovative and cutting edge. I design social innovation models for Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigerian National Parks Service African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs and several private sector organisations.
The workload is growing fast. Need capital to expand. Raising capital is hard. Do I borrow it? Steal it? Or Marry it? (or fuck it?) I try to borrow. ‘Do you have collateral?’. The banks aren’t lending. There is another banking crisis. CBN mops up. Liquidity tightens. Clients can’t pay on schedule.
I start all over again. Park the enterprise building and the dreams a little bit. Learn some structural and electrical engineering so to speak. I painstakingly build a small non profit project in rural south east Nigeria. Pay attention to the detail. Penance.
I read prevalence and incidence rates for domestic violence DV in Owerri are almost 90% while volunteering at the FIDA Family Law Centre in Abuja. Personally and professionally its a hard decision but the right one.
Obasanjo is sworn in as President after 14 years of military rule. I’m encouraged Nigeria is a democracy again. Maybe I can become that most despicable of things – a politician. Start at the grass roots since I’m in Imo State. They shoot a local politician. He was a vocal reformer. Like me.
Its 2006. I’m a ‘serial social entrepreneur’ according to Ashoka my new employer. I meet lots of other SE’s. There is a name for what afflicts me! Others have it too! I’m relieved and empowered. I help some great SE’s emerge, evolve, and flourish.
We’re all looking for capital to grow. There is very little available to invest in great new ideas. I use my position to talk to banks and private equity firms. Banks are risk averse, private equity is expensive. public funds don’t meet our needs.
A number of focused social venture funds are emerging in the west but they only invest in projects already worth $1 million or more. The SE’s I work with in the region are no where near that value but have outgrown microfinance. .
At the 2008 global HIV/AIDS Conference world leaders announce they’ll commit $16 billion to continue the war against the disease. I meet a doctor in Owerri who tells me how patients receiving free ARV drugs sell them so they can eat and feed their families.
Why won’t world leaders set up an economic fund with $16 billion instead? Help SME’s start up and flourish in the Third World? Why won’t national leaders? The media still reports stories of Abacha’s family suing the Swiss banks for giving us back our money.
I dream of an accessible social venture fund that makes small and medium size investments in African SE’s. I dream of innovative enterprising African SE’s building local economies, adding value and creating wealth.
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