ONE is just 31 years old, the other is even younger. He is 30 this year. And yet, through sheer hard work and cast-iron determination, they are known worldwide as successful entrepreneurs. Their fortune is already being measured in millions of dollars. And guess what? They are Nigerians. They are just two out of millions of Nigerian youths, to whom the future belongs, depending on how they use their youth.
Recent statistics from the Manpower Board and the Federal Bureau of Statistics show that there are about 80 million Nigerian youths, representing 60 per cent of the total population of the country. Sixty-four million of them are said to be unemployed, while 1.6 million are under-employed.
The two Nigerians, Jason Njoku and Ladi Delano, were named alongside eight others as 10 young African millionaires to watch by influential business magazine, Forbes.
Forbes is an American business magazine, which features original articles on finance, industry, investing, and marketing topics. It also reports on related subjects such as technology, communications, science, and law. The magazine is well-known for its lists, including its lists of the richest Americans (the Forbes 400), highest-paid stars under 30, and its list of billionaires. The motto of Forbes magazine is “The Capitalist Tool.”
The listed Africans, in their 20s and 30s, the magazine said, have built businesses and amassed million-dollar fortunes.
Delano, aged 30, is Founder and Chief Executive Officcer, Bakrie Delano Africa.
Forbes said, “The jet-setting Nigerian serial entrepreneur made his first millions as a liquor entrepreneur while living in China.” In 2004, at age 22, Delano was said to have founded Solidarnosc Asia, a Chinese alcoholic beverage company that made Solid XS, a premium brand of vodka. “Solid XS went on to achieve over 50 per cent market share in China and was distributed across over 30 cities in China, and pulled in $20 million in annual revenue,” said the magazine. Delano subsequently sold the company to a rival liquor company for over $15 million and ploughed his funds into his next venture – The Delano Reid Group, a real estate investment holding company focused on mainland China.
Today, Delano is said to be the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) – a $1 billion joint venture with the $15 billion (market cap) Bakrie Group of Indonesia. “Bakrie Delano Africa serves as the investment partner of the Bakrie Group in Nigeria. The Indonesian conglomerate has provided over $900 million worth of funds to invest in Nigeria and Bakrie Delano Africa is responsible for identifying investment opportunities in mining, agriculture and oil and gas and executing them,” said Forbes.
Also, according to the magazine, thirty-one-year-old Njoku is a maverick Internet entrepreneur and founder of Iroko TV, acclaimed to be the world’s largest digital distributor of African movies.
Iroko TV has been dubbed the ‘Netflix of Africa’. Earlier this year, the company reportedly raised $8 million in venture capital from Tiger Global Management, a New York, United States-based private equity and hedge fund run by billionaire Chase Coleman.
IrokoTV is claimed to enjoy lucrative content distribution deals with Dailymotion, iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo. Analysts believe IrokoTV could be worth as much as $30 million. Njoku is said to be the company’s largest individual shareholder.
The number of unemployed young people worldwide will reach nearly 75 million this year, according to statistics released recently by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In Nigeria, rising unemployment and fear of unpleasant future among Nigerian youths have arguably led a sizable number of them down the slippery slope of violent crimes ranging from robbery, kidnapping and assassinations to trafficking in drugs and/or humans.
A federal cabinet member noted recently that, “Our unemployment rate is spiralling, driven by the wave of four million young people entering the workforce every year, with only a small fraction able to find formal employment.”
But it has been dismissed that youth unemployment is a recent phenomenon. The rate of youth unemployment in the country was said to be high, even at periods of economic normalcy, that is, the oil boom of the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s.
The foregoing are a bleak representation of the stark reality staring youths, especially in Nigeria, in the face. But the examples of Njoku and Delano are proving that young people can actually ride on the back of ingenuity to break political and economic barriers and live a relatively ideal life.