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Destiny Obiakoeze on why she is raising N3.5m for her birthday, other ICT advocacies

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Destiny Obiakoeze

Yes, we learnt a new lexicon during an interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Elbativeni Impressions and Consult, Destiny Obiakoeze.  

She calls herself a ‘progressive Gender Advocate’. What does that mean? Well, Destiny has been pushing for women and girls increased awareness and participation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), because she feels it is inadequate for the sector to continue to have less female participation compared to the males.

We need more female participation in ICT. The Youth development and advocacies for both gender has been on-going since 2010 when we had the first event in Kaduna state but in 2017 I went full throttle with the women and girl-child advocacies and development programmes; and I am amazed at the impact we are making.

This singular thinking gave birth to her pet-project nicknamed ‘PROJECT LOOP HER’

What is this all about? Are there numbers to celebrate in terms of her achievements with this project? Where is she headed with the agenda? How would Destiny assess the startup ecosystem in Nigeria? Answers to these questions and more are contained in this interview. Full record:

Can we meet you?

(Smiles) Often times, when someone says that to me, I feel like they are telling me to write an essay about myself. My Name is Destiny Obiakoeze. Professionally, a Broadcast Journalist, a Public Relations Executive, Communications personnel and also an entrepreneur. I have worked in the media sphere for over ten (10) years and served in mentorships for more than two years now. I mentored youths on Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth’s Queens Young Leaders (QYL) Programme which is ending this year. I have also picked up mentorship professionally to do more good. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication, a diploma in PR and also a Master’s degree in International affairs and Strategic Studies from the Nigerian Defense Academy.

Currently, I head two organizations- I am the CEO of Elbativeni Impressions and Consult- a Media, PR, event management and Marketing Communications Company based in Nigeria’s capital. In addition to that I am the Founder of Elbativeni Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

What is the focus of your NGO?

The NGO has a clearly defined mission: ‘to advance Youth Development in Nigeria and the continent of Africa and to lend voice to progressive gender Advocacies’. Often, when you say that you are a gender advocate, it’s easy for people to box you into the feminism bracket which means different things now… but it’s not just about feminism. That’s why we stress “progressive gender advocacy”. For instance, we just rounded up a free 6 months ICT training that we offered to over 20 ladies in digital marketing, web design, web application development, graphics.

We also have our signature youth Summit called ‘The Generation Next Youth Empowerment Summit (TGNYES)’ which we just rounded up few weeks ago and preparing for the 2019 edition already. We also hosted the ‘Girls in ICT Day’ event earlier this year. Those are some of the things we do.

One of the things we have noticed is how you been pushing for Women/girls in IT how long have you been doing this?

Yes. I have been pushing for women and girls in IT because the sector has less female participation compared to the males. We need more female participation in ICT. The Youth development and advocacies for both gender has been on-going since 2010 when we had the first event in Kaduna state but in 2017 I went full throttle with the women and girl-child advocacies and development programmes; and I am amazed at the impact we are making. It’s just amazing. We have brought awareness to over 270 girls in secondary schools who attest they now see options in the ICT as career choices; we trained over 20 ladies on PROJECT LOOP HER and graduated 12, who successfully completed our programme.

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Most of them are interestingly taking up vocations in ICT. It’s so impressive, I am on cloud nine. We need more sponsors and partners to come on board and support us. They can contact or call us. We need to increase the impact and outcome we are gradually making to increase female participation in ICT. Partners can call the listed phone number.

Based on your observations, what are the challenges that prevent some women/girls from showing interest in IT?

First of all, most don’t know that these opportunities are there and are open for them. They do not know and are not aware. Secondly they do not know they can actually do those things because the right support like me and the foundation may not be close to show them and encourage them. That’s why I love what we are doing. Opening them up to the awareness and serving up these available opportunities that they can benefit from. Unfortunately I also feel that most women do not have the discipline and commitment that are required. In the few programmes, I have observed this.

The absence of grit in a lot of my female-folks when it comes to ICT is a challenge. So I constantly have to do more work loving and forcefully to get them to follow through with the challenge. I also noticed that while the male-folks come to the table on their own and come ready; ladies often do not. There are few ladies and they are the exceptional ones who decide first hand that they want to be in the sector. To me that’s a challenge really. But trust me, when they are shown the way, they perform very well. The outcome is always rewarding and I like that.

So, you believe women can lead the IT/ICT industry in Nigeria, Africa?

Absolutely! If I didn’t believe it’s possible, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing pushing for more female participation in the sector. Women can lead the IT/ICT industry in Nigeria and Africa.

In other worlds, this believe made you to initiate PROJECT LOOP HER?

Yes. We launched PROJECT LOOP HER to empower and develop female leaders in ICT.

What are the significances of this initiative?

We have seen that fewer women are in the ICT Sector than men. Fewer women are participating in Tech and STEM. We want to change this narrative by empowering them with ICT and digital Skills; we want to give more women the opportunity to earn and become financially independent. Through the project we encourage more female participation in tech and STEM with right resources and skillset.

Cross section of participants at Project Loop Her

PROJECT LOOP HER was launched at 2017 edition of’ The Generation Next Youth Empowerment Summit’ and commenced on Saturday, 3rd of February 2018 and they graduated in September. Currently, I am on raising 3.5Million Naira in commemorating my birthday this year towards similar training for youths. I encourage others to support.

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Let’s look at TGNYES- how did you come up with this concept?

TGNYES is an acronym of The Generation Next Youth Empowerment Summit. For almost five years when I was hosting my one hour television talk show centered on youths I would bring in speakers and go all out to feature success Icons. By 2010 I had the inspiration for this summit.

The idea was to lend bigger voice to youth issues and drive advocacies for change and more than anything else to build youth leaders in all spheres of endeavor. That’s how it came about. The Generation Next Youth Empowerment Summit is a flagship event of Elbativeni Foundation. We inspire youths to dare new frontiers and aspire beyond existing limitations.

How has it been with this project?

So far we have trained and made opportunities available to over seven hundred and Fifty  youths. The Summit is a project designed out of the need to build capacity for them.  At Elbaveni Foundation, we believe that every youth whether unemployed, established, a corporate executive considering the next career move, or a recent graduate intending to launch a start-up, our project “The Generation Next Youth Empowerment Summit” will be a strong leverage and advantage for inspiration. We realized early on that we cannot do everything, so we work with partners-NGOs, faith based groups, government parastatals, media organizations and for profit organizations to achieve this mission.

Let’s look at the startup economy in Nigeria: What are your observations?

Hmmmmmm. The terrain is tough. Again, startup is tough in Nigeria. First of all, knowing what to invest becomes the first real challenge.  With loads of intelligence and skillset, the business environment is very stifling. Youths have it even tougher because they have to discover the path on their own. From funding and raising capital to double taxations and unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks…it’s crazy. I don’t think enough is done in policy making to encourage the private sector.

Destiny Obiakoeze

*Destiny Obiakoeze.

Corrupt practices in systems where processes are mandatory is a big issue. People would not mind high jacking your documents (intellectual property theft) or decide not to be forthcoming with the right information that should be helpful to you just to coerce you into their selfish agenda of personal gains. We hear that there is ease of doing business in Nigeria but in reality that is not true.

What are the areas these startups need help most?

For me, I would say it’s definitely funding. Funding the business through the processes before any profit is made. One must have invested enough funds within this area before sales are made. Even the service industries of all sorts including the ones like mine which is a business of services, you must have funds to pursue clients and deliver on projects. So yes, funding and raising capital is very important.

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Next is mentorship. Most entrepreneurs can attest that adequate information and experience coupled with the wisdom of someone who has been there can make all the difference. Unfortunately also, most startups are not able to find the right support of someone or a group of people who has been there before them. People become so consumed by competition that do not attempt to share for fear that the other person could become bigger than them. That’s also an issue I see; unavailability of mentorship. Thirdly, I will say networking and the right network of people who are willing to connect them.

Do you think the government is doing enough to assist them?

I would smile at this point, and then I would say ‘NO. What is said on the media is one thing, but the reality is what matters. Governments can do more. The processes can be simplified.

TGN-YES

Cross section of some graduants of the Project Loop Her

We want to ask you one strange question, but demand your candid answer: What will push you to migrate to Europe through Libya?

While I think based on my backgrounds, discipline and values, it certainly will be a crazy venture to imagine. I am aware that lots of youths today may be forced to choose that option. The recent headlines from Libya is not only appalling, it is dehumanizing. I believe there are many ways to live in the world outside of illegal migrations.

I also believe that everyone is a citizen of the world and should be free to enjoy human rights of all kinds including the right to live where ever as long as they abide by the laws guiding those places. I have very interesting views on immigration. It will be too long for this space.

What are you focused on presently?

Like I shared earlier here, presently I am fund-raising 3.5Million Naira in commemoration of my birthday this year towards free ICT training for youths. It’s a cause I encourage others to call in and support by funding.

On the business front, I am back to strategizing on expanding our clientele for the PR and marketing communications company- Elbativeni Impressions and Consult. We are restructuring. Trying to get out some new products to expand our services and manage the new demands. We are open to business and people are contacting us for their communications, social media, PR and marketing communications needs. We have a new online platform too that is open for advertising which we just launched. In addition to that, my hands are full with our projects at the foundation. I am working on the current and new projects we are getting ready to make public.

Message to your fans

I am not sure I can accept that I have fans since I am not an actor or entertainer but for those who love me and support me and all we do at our organizations, I will love to say Thank you. Keep patronizing us for your communications needs. And for the foundation, keep supporting us because every community development initiative goes a long way to impact on lives and leaves the society better; one youth at a time. One woman at a time. One girl-child at a time. Every support counts.

You can reach Destiny email [email protected]

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