Odofin: There’s Need to Unearth Hidden Talents to Enhance Productivity

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The Project Director, Innovation Festival, a pan-African platform, Olumide Odofin, in this interview with Raheem Akingbolu, speaks on how the platform will address various challenges in as well as creating job opportunities by harnessing talents that will address societal problems.

What is the idea behind the proposed Innovative Festival you are currently promoting with people of like minds?
Before we arrived at this stage, we have sat down in-house to review a lot of innovation festivals or innovation activities. In this part of the world, once you talk about innovation, the first thing people think about is tech. They think it’s a tech event and that all we want to talk about is science and technology. But we sat down and came out with the conclusion that innovation is much more than tech. Tech is just like a driver or a tool to achieve your innovative ideas. So, what we have done is to create a space where we bring together a lot of people across various sectors. What we have done is to create a space where we bring together a lot of people across various sectors. We know that Africa is blessed with a lot of ideas and we are problem solvers. We are fast thinkers, and we have exceptional people amongst us. If you go to every corner of the world, you’ll probably see people of African descent doing exceptionally well. And we’ve sat down to review this. We thought that we needed a platform where this people can be celebrated and where we can get to reach out to more people. We’ve seen that Africa are talented and sat down to review this, we thought that we needed a platform where this people can be celebrated where we can get to reach out to more people doing very creative things and looking for ways to solve problems in Africa.

Since this is the maiden edition, what direction will it take?
This year’s edition is like our opportunity to showcase ourselves and let people know that we have come to stay and that we mean business. If we say we want to address societal issues, we don’t just want to talk about it. We’re going to start by addressing the cause and the possible solution and execution. Then we are going to make sure that each of those challenges are being addressed to meet the continengt’s agricultural needs, health, entertainment, lifestyle, science and technology. All these are important to modern development.

Specifically, can you tell us the vacuum you have identified that this is capable of addressing?
If you look at the current rates of unemployment in this society, it’s pretty high. We have graduates who have been out of jobs for like many years, with little or nothing they can lay hands on. The so called minimum wage isn’t even something that is supportive enough for them. But beyond paid employment, there are hidden talents in these folks that can be tapped to grow the economy. They have ideas that can be transformed to wealth. So Ifest on its own is sort of a connecting key in this society, we are looking at bringing about 14 new ideas. Imagine how much 14 ideas will go in creating jobs for youths in the society and also solving societal problems. Already, we’ve been able to identify the gap – unemployment, we also want to address the issue of poverty. So basically, we should be able to get at least up to 2000 people off the streets with our first edition. But 2000 is is like a startup, we know that we’re going to achieve a lot more in subsequent editions.

Can you spell out the method of participating in the festival?
We have our online portal and what we’ve been doing is to try to get people to go online and submit their ideas. We have seven sectors, where they can submit ideas to. One of the reasons why we didn’t include the banking/ financial sector, is that lots are going on in that area, so we don’t need to overkill it. Beside that, interested applicants will find on our portal areas we feel are key in the development of our society. So they go online, pick their preferred sector, submit their ideas, and then we do selection with our judges, which will be revealed in due course.

After crossing the hurdle, what next?
This the climax if I may say. First, we have over $20,000 we are given out as grants. We are also looking at having about 20 venture capitalists available there. We don’t just want to invite people to talk about their ideas or showcase their ideas to the whole world alone but we’ll empower them to ensure that idea is put into action. So we’re going to be pitching ideas to various capitalists who are already in attendance at the event. Then, we’ll follow through from the beginning to the registration stage and late map out insurance plans to make sure all the ideas are protected. From there, if the capitalists present see ideas that are executable, they will follow through from that through a business partnership.

What then do the organisers stand to gain?
It’s not about what we stand to gain because ifest is not a business. This is conceptualised to improve our society. So it’s not what we will stand to gain that matters but the problem we are able to identify and solve with it. So, our satisfaction is ensuring that we have created jobs, identify entrepreneurs, or innovators with venture capitalists and getting the ideas off the ground.