About a week ago, RootHub, a foremost talent incubation center in Uyo organized a weeklong event tagged StartConfest. The event has recently become an annual ritual at the hub where young people have the opportunity to meet startups from different fields, learn new things, get certified, catch up on trends around the world, access startup opportunities and contribute to the creativity and entrepreneurship of the eco-system. The event is also designed to strengthen Akwa Ibom’s reputation as the Startup Capital of Nigeria, due in part to the rising wave of Technology and entrepreneurial activities. The festival provided inspiration to entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, students, Corporate Bodies, and the general public.
During this year’s festival, Ekemini James, the Personal Assistant (Media) to the SSA to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Technical Matters and Due Process – Elder Ufot Ebong, reported on his Facebook wall and local tabloids the amazing feat of a 15year old Student of Community Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikot-Oku Ikono, who during the exhibition session at the event, made a stunning presentation of a Wireless, Remote Controlled Toy Car, designed and produced by him. Impressed by his creativity, Elder Ebong who is also the Coordinator of Akwa Ibom Enterprise and Employment Scheme (AKEES), announced a donation of a hundred thousand naira (N100,000.00) for the young boy, allotted him an Office Space at AKEES Secretariat and further placed him under close supervision by AKEES ‘Project Manager, Mr Tony Onuk.
In reviewing the success of the Hub, the Akwa Ibom Employment and Entrepreneurial Scheme – AKEES, can never be forgotten. Recall that when Governor Udom Emmanuel took the oath of office in 2015, he promised to turn around the fortune of the state from a completely civil service state and a ‘political economy’ to an industrial hub. To achieve this feat, the Akwa Ibom Employment and Entrepreneurial Scheme was immediately set up to help raise young entrepreneurs in the state and see how talents can be harnessed for greater productivity. RootHub was one of the beneficiaries of the gesture. Partnering with the Scheme, the hub moved from the Ibom e-library to AKEES Plaza – a location rented for the sole purpose of converging young people to be properly trained in the art of doing business.
According to Mr. Tony Onuk, co-founder of the hub, RootHub in partnership with AKEES has trained more than 5,000 young people in different areas of their businesses. The Hub looks into leveraging technology in various areas of business. The ‘inkteractive’ section of the hub exposes young people to the skills required to become excellent Digital Marketers which is the trending area of ICT presently in line with the vision of AKEES Coordinator, Elder Ufot Ebong who believes that the bedrock of any flourishing economy is technology. At the ‘inkteractive’ section, young people are exposed to the skills required of a graphic artist, animation creation, video editing etc. and is perfectly handled by Mr. Francis Onuk who is the co-founder of the hub and has been in the business for a couple of years now.
In returning Akwa Ibom to the path of entrepreneurship therefore, AKEES through the hub searches and harnesses the talents inherent in every Akwa Ibom Child in building a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem. It must be noted however, that Akwa Ibom State like her Sister State – Cross River, was known to be a completely Civil Service State with few entrepreneurs struggling in the area of ‘buying and selling’. The present administration manned by Governor Udom Emmanuel however attempt to put the state back to the path of entrepreneurship and re-evoking the said spirit which was notable among our forebears. AKEES has however been laden with the function, and the coordinator of the scheme – Elder Ufot Ebong, a seasoned geologist, petroleum explorationist and manager, whose 27 year career in oil and gas industry has so far achieved great success under the Governor’s brainchild project (AKEES), in interpreting the vision of Governor Udom Emmanuel even as the general public expects more from this people oriented scheme.
Our initial fear was that AKEES like some other government schemes was designed to enrich the politicians who seem to care more about the next election than the next generation. But with the spirit of enterprise reawakened which is manifested variously through the formation of more than 85 Small and Medium Enterprises, Tomatoes and common vegetables revolutions, setting up of cottage industries and creating more than 6,000 jobs across the value chain and the successes of other businesses partnering with the scheme, AKEES has come up to be not just a scheme for the present administration to achieve her industrial goals but a project to be sustained by any coming government, if truly the state must be relieved from the shackles of poverty and unemployment which seem to eat deep into the heart of most Nigerian States. If entrepreneurship is the key to sustainable wealth creation, then Akwa Ibom State through this scheme has leaped into a future that is yet to be seen by their counterparts in other states.
Having witnessed the success of the scheme thus far, Akwa Ibom State government should look into the strategies of sustaining the scheme by providing more funding to the scheme to allow the raising of more entrepreneurs who will in turn take more youths off the street and into work and deempopulate political rallies during working hours in the State. In every project, there is usually an incubation period. Witnessing AKEES businesses being sustained in the past 3 years and still growing proves that the scheme is reliable and only need to expand its horizon. Apart from RootHub and various other businesses carried under the wings of the scheme, with proper funding from the government more businesses will be touched and gradually entrepreneurship will become common in Akwa Ibom State replacing the age long Civil Service orientation. A feat that can only be attributed to the ingenuity of the present administration.
While the government provides the needed assistance for the scheme to continue thriving, individuals who have made exploits in the area of entrepreneurship should from time to time organize events under the scheme to inform and encourage young entrepreneurs who are being raised by the scheme. One of the major challenges faced by most aspiring entrepreneurs include work space, and this could be solved if successful citizens of the state could partner with the scheme to relinquish unaccommodated buildings to the scheme to be used as office spaces by young entrepreneurs. RootHub’s successes today points to a thousand other ideas that are presently caged due to certain challenges which if the scheme is properly funded could be discovered and put on the right path of entrepreneurship, the only true path to wealth creation and a dream shared by the present administration in the State.