Born to poor parents with no hope of an education, Joshua Alade still had dreams though he never knew how to actualise them. Today, the story is different, he is now a graduate of Cell Biology from the University of Lagos and Community Evangelist of NextGen Africa Initiative – one he started, and has made it his life’s mission to inspire young people by educating, engaging and empowering them with the resources required in realising their dreams and achieving their potentials. Happenings Magazine correspondent, Odunayo Adeneye had a chat with him where he speaks passionately about his initiative and other issues affecting young Africans. Excerpts:
My name is Joshua Alade, the Community Evangelist of NextGen-Africa Initiative and a graduate of Cell Biology and Genetics from the University of Lagos. I am a youth social worker and development consultant and a freelance project manager who is passionate about using social media to create social change.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR INITIATIVE, NEXTGEN AFRICA?
NextGen Africa Initiative is an educational organisation that is passionate about young people and their ideas. NextGen creates platforms for young people (ages 7 to 21) to become leaders and advocates for the development of their communities, partnering with youth focused organisations and schools to help nurture young people to acquire the needed skills for leadership and active citizenship roles in the family, community, state and national levels. NextGen organises workshops and advocacy programmes in schools, religious organisations and in communities to encourage young people to take leadership roles and bolster their capacities as agents for change leveraging on mentoring and project based learning.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START THIS INITIATIVE?
I started NextGen Africa Initiative because of my desire to play a premier role in the development of young people by educating, engaging and empowering them with the resources required in realising their dreams and achieving their potentials. I was born in Oshodi in Lagos and my parents were too poor to send me to school until an uncle adopted me at the age of 10 and I began my education. I had dreams but I never knew how to plan or actualise them, I didn’t even have the privilege of mentoring as my uncle’s home was a strict one and outsider influence was frowned at. However, final year in the university, I stumbled on an opportunity to volunteer with the Voluntary Service Overseas in a ninety (90) days International Citizenship Service focusing on the Millennium Development Goal of Improving Primary School Literacy and Community Development in Kwara state, and it was a thrilling experience for me. My British counterpart and I renovated four classrooms and started a library in a local primary school. We worked with more than two hundred young people during the program and it was during the program that I found my passion and I started NextGen to inspire and support the next generation of African leaders to discover and believe in their dreams early.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE COUNTRY; HOW CAN IT BE CURBED?
The solution to unemployment is apprenticeship. It is an ancient model that has been tried and tested. There’s so much call for young people to become entrepreneurs but to be an entrepreneur, you need to have the required soft business skills like negotiations, people management, enterprise capacity and mentoring. The Igbo’s have continually shown us that apprenticeship will always lead to job creation and wealth building no matter the field of endeavor as long as you are passionate about what you are learning.
YOUR NGO IS ORGANISING A PROGRAMME IN CONJUNCTION WITH AFRICAN UNION, BRIEFLY TELL US ABOUT IT?
Yes, we are hosting the African Youth Day 2016 in Lagos, Nigeria and I am excited about this. The African Youth day was inaugurated in Addis-Abba last year, this is the first time that the youth day will be commemorated in every country and we are glad to be the first and only organisation in Nigeria that is hosting an event for the occasion. The aim of the event is to discuss about Africa. We want Agenda 2063 of the African Union with the theme is Promoting Youth Mainstreaming as a Catalyst towards harnessing the #DemographicDividend. More than half of the African populations are young people, they have a say in the development of Africa and they must be seen as leaders of today whose contributions are important in building the Africa of the now and the future. The Agenda 2063 of Africa is to be the prosperous, united and influence global player and partner based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
Young people are a powerful force in nation building especially in the areas of transformation and social progress. They should be involved in all decisions that affect the society as they are the leaders of today. It is unfortunate that most governments especially in Africa define us with statistics and stereotype us; we are igniting social change in our community. We need more young people sitting at the head table as we know what matters. The future belongs to us and it is important we are placed in the centre of every decision and policy making today. Education and job skills are a top priority for young people to fulfill their highest potential. This is why we are raising awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals, the Africa We Want, proffering solutions to challenges facing us today and ensuring we hold government accountable.
YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE YOUNG PERSONS WHO DISCOVERED HIS LIFE’S PURPOSE EARLY, CAN YOU ADVISE YOUNG ADULTS ON STEPS TO SELF-DISCOVERY?
The most important thing is to ask yourself ‘what problem do you want to solve?’, ‘why did God create me?’ This will help you gain clarity and how to align your passion to your work. Reading and travelling are essential coupled with belonging to a community of people who will support and validate your dreams. It is lonely outside especially when you identify your life work and it doesn’t align with what your family was expecting. Find a mentor, follow the person passionately, learn from his/her mistakes, define your own truths and be yourself. Never be afraid to go against the grind and be quick to admit you don’t know it all, ask for help.
CAN YOU SHARE BRIEFLY WITH US THE IMPORTANCE OF VOLUNTEERING & INTERNSHIP IN ACTUALISING LIFE & CAREER GOALS?
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of volunteering and internship in the development of young people as I am a product of it. I was lucky to have found my passion when I went to volunteer and it changed my life for good. I have been privileged to work with so many people today because I volunteer. Volunteering helped me build my presentation skills, communication skills, proposal writing skills, events management skills and even right now I am building my technology skills because I am looking at improving my income stream.
The beautiful part of it is that I learned all these skills for free and it is helping me today. Volunteering and internship will help you gain clarity with your life, it will help you know where your passion is, analyze your strength and your weakness and help build quality networks that will be beneficial to your life work.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PROJECTIONS?
My desire is to work with 100,000 young people across different communities in Africa to develop their leadership skills and create a platform for them to exhibit their talents and ideas. Next year, we will be hosting the fourth edition of the Dare to Dream- An annual Leadership Summit to inspire teens in secondary schools to believe in the beauty of their dreams. We have hosted the event in four cities in Nigeria (Lagos, Ogun, Kogi and Kwara) since 2014 speaking to more than 2000 teens in the process and I am hopeful we can tour ten cities in 2017 and affect 5,000 lives in the process. I am motivated by service and I will keep doing my best to educate and empower the next generation of Nigerian leaders.