Meghann has been a Global Shaper in the Charlotte Hub since 2012. WEF defines the Global Shapers Community as a global network of local communities led by exceptional young people whose potential, achievements, and drive make a positive contribution to their communities.
Each year the World Economic Forum and the Global Shapers host regional summits to track progress on our previous commitments and to brainstorm new, bold solutions to the worlds plaguing problems. Upon seeing the application for SHAPE Africa months ago, I jumped at the possibility of participating. The focus of SHAPE Africa is on BOLD solutions in Technology, Education, Agriculture, and Entrepreneurism.
Nigeria’s capitol, Abuja, was the host city.
Having spent a lot of time in East and Southern Africa, I was eager to spend time in West Africa. While Nigeria has battled Boko Haram and terrorism, I had no idea I would arrive at the peak of such unrest. This added a whole new layer to the experience.
Africa’s remarkable growth trajectory is projected to remain above 5% in 2014 and 2015. Even though individuals under 30 make up more than 50% of the world’s population, this demographic is excluded from global policy discussions. On the continent of Africa, 70% of the population is under the age of 30.
This is where the role of the Global Shapers comes in.
We are young. We are bold. We are indispensable.
As “Shapers” we’re on a mission to make the world a more sustainable, inclusive and livable place, one community (or hub) at a time. There are 72 Global Shaper hubs in Africa. I was the only participant from a hub outside of Africa at this SHAPE Africa Summit.
I arrived in Nigeria last Sunday. I had the typical preconceived notions of Nigeria—the scams…the scams….oh yes and those wheeler dealers. While, like everyone else, I am biased by some stereotypes, I am also eager to be proven wrong and to learn by experience.
This gave me the perfect opportunity.
I happened to be on a plane coming here with roughly 20+ WEF staffers, so I felt pretty secure. Even with recent security breaches and the 250+ Chibok Girls still missing—#BringBackOurGirls—I felt the warmth of the Nigerian people right away.
The half hour drive from the airport to Abuja centre city was interesting. The roads were well paved and HUGE—7 makeshift lanes in each direction. Along the road tons of middle to high-end housing communities popped up out of nowhere. It was green but also barren, very clear that the city was just exploding outward.
With my adrenaline running high, I decided run to dinner with 20+ other shapers from 10 different African countries. I relished in hearing where they were from and what they are passionate about.
Everyone has a story…. and at dinner we shared them ALL… I didn’t get back to my hotel room until midnight fresh off of a 24 hour journey from the US!
The next morning started with a thunderstorm, which I happen to LOVE. I was shocked to learn that, unlike Tanzania, the rainy season in Abuja goes from March all the way until September. INSANE. I am not sure I could handle that with my frizzy hair!
The intense energy of the first session completely overpowered my jetlag. There was some serious positive disruption in the hall. Over the course of the day we had sessions focused on our four themes: Technology, Education, Agriculture, and Entrepreneurism. We were constantly checking ourselves that we reviewed our aspirations, commitments, and achievements in all four areas.
I am a bit partial but I really enjoyed the panel I spoke on in the afternoon.
We looked at shifting the focus on education from quantity to QUALITY. I sat on the panel with the Director of Oando Foundation, the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, the co-founder of Golden Baobab, the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at American University of Nigeria, and the Founder of Open University of West Africa. Not everyone agreed on the path, but it was very clear we all believed in the power of investing in our educators.
I particularly like John Robert‘s remark that quality breeds scale, not the other way around.
At TFFT we believe so strongly in the power QUALITY education has to transform lives.
I hope I can take back many of the lessons learned from other great initiatives happening throughout the continent to make TFFT’s work that much stronger.
After this week I am excited to head back to Charlotte with renewed energy and new relationships that will positively impact TFFT. More to come on lessons learned from SHAPE Africa later in the week – I just wanted to make sure I took this energy and shared it with our incredible network of committed friends of TFFT.
African proverb of the day:
“If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go together!”
Tuko Pamoja–We are together