12 August 2013


                           “It takes a very long time to become young” ~Pablo Picasso

Image Credit: Grace
It is often said that “the young shall grow...someday”, but when is that someday? The youths of this generation are tired of ‘waiting to grow’, ‘waiting for tomorrow’, ‘waiting to ripen’...
My guest on the Stroll today is a young social entrepreneur who is also tired of waiting to get ‘ripe’, and so she founded the RYPE initiative ; dedicated to raising young and productive entrepreneurs who will provide solutions to the problems the world faces on a daily basis. Grace founded RYPE in 2010 and since then her efforts have been recognized by the US Department of state, the British Council, Google, and recently the Future awards.

We talked about; youth and youth development, her social entrepreneurship projects, and her nomination for ‘The Future Awards Africa Young Person of the Year 2013’’. Here’s my stroll with Grace, get inspired:

Ebenezar: Hello Grace, thank you so much for having this stroll with me. It's really an honour speaking with a proactive changemaker like you.

Grace: Thank you Ebenezar and I’m very excited to take this stroll with you… :)

Image Credit: TheFutureAwards
Ebenezar: ‘The Future Awards Africa Young Person of the Year 2013’ honouree. This award has been described by the World Bank as 'The Nobel Prize for Young Africans'. How do you feel about this honour?

Grace: It is a privilege and honour to be selected for this award. I feel blessed by God and humbled by this and immensely appreciate the work of ‘The Future Awards’ team. They are doing an incredible job identifying and recognizing the efforts of young people across the continent. This is a call for more work and to be a true role model for other youths who look up to me for inspiration.

Ebenezar: Apart from this nomination, you've won so many accolades over the years. You were named as one of Google's 12 brightest young minds in 2011, The US Government's International Exchange Alumni Member of the month of September 2012, just to name a few. What have you learnt from these recognitions and accolades over the years?

Grace: It tends to be overwhelming especially with the way you mention them. (hahaha)

Ebenezar: (hahaha) Oh... you're even lucky I didn’t mention all of them :)

Grace: haha! I have learnt to take each accolade as a responsibility - ‘more work, more impact, more gain’. With this is mind, giving up even amidst challenges is not an option. I am reminded daily to work harder, draw closer to God who gives strength and grace as well as inspire others to become Changemakers.

Image Credit: Grace
Ebenezar: I've been itching to ask this, why did you study Sociology? Because it's so super rare seeing a youth in Nigeria who is passionate about any of these 'minor courses' as people call them--people only want these 'high paying' professions; Law, engineering, medicine--So what motivated you?

Grace: Good question Ebenezar. A few people have expressed their shock each time I mentioned that I studied Sociology, loved it and even graduated top of my class. I had the option to study Law or any Management course but as much as I wanted to have a good degree, I didn’t also want to end up wasting four years of my life.

I deliberately chose to study Sociology with inspiration from my late father who was highly intelligent and had achieved a lot in the field. I wanted to study the society and understand exactly how the social system works and what humans can do to make the society a better place. Truly, I had no idea what I wanted out of this initially but with time, hard work and curiosity, my perspective began to take shape. I didn’t want a First Class anymore because it would confine me to the library. I wanted to be sociable, do some stuff and still be good in class. As if my prayers were answered, a global campus-based organization called ‘Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)’ was instituted in my college and in my second year of study, I joined. My journey into the world of Social Entrepreneurship started.

Image Credit: Youtube
Ebenezar: Oh I see... that’s interesting! Okay, today is International youth day, and you've represented Nigeria in many International youth conferences...Now, youth activists around the world have been trying to motivate youths to stand up and take up leadership roles. As a result of that we've seen Arab uprisings and multiple revolutions in the past few years, but the question is do you think the present day youths in Nigeria—and Africa at large—are ready for leadership? Are they really ready to be leaders of today? Or maybe we should wait till tomorrow :)

Grace: I have asked myself this question severally. We are the youth! We make up the more than 60% of the population. We are the leaders of today, movers and shapers of our generation. But how prepared are we to take on the mantle of leadership?

The truth is, some of us are getting ready, developing and preparing ourselves. But the fraction of youth who are ready is insignificant compared to those who are not. You would agree with me that we need more people (if not everyone) to think, and act like leaders. Youths have a critical role to play in shaping the destiny of Nigeria and Africa at large.

Ebenezar: yeah that’s true, I agree...

Grace: We have to start taking responsibility, unleashing our ingenuity and creativity, taking actions and setting the pace in our various niches. Our collective efforts towards nation building will help make this country and continent a better place.

Image Credit: Grace
Ebenezar: Do you have any role models? Like, people you look up to who inspire you to keep working?

Grace: I admire the strength and vibrancy of Madi Sharma, an European entrepreneur and founder of Madi Group and Entrepreneur Envoy. I met her at Brussels during the Euro-Africa Youth Summit in 2012 and her story was more than inspiring to me. I continue to appreciate the work of other women in Nigeria who have made invaluable impact in the lives of many including; Ndidi Nwuneli, founder of LEAP Africa, Osayi Oruene, ED at Fate Foundation and a couple of other inspiring African Women.

Some prominent youth leaders in Nigeria and across Africa, who are a step or two ahead of me, are also an inspiration. I look forward to being a better person each day when I remember all these people.

Ebenezar: Okay... You started the RYPE Initiative in 2010, and you've also started iKapture and opportunitydesk.org. What do you intend to achieve with these?

Image Credit: RYPEinitiative
Grace: RYPE is an after school youth development project with the objective of educating, engaging and empowering young people especially high school leavers with skills to become leaders and entrepreneurs. As a way to scale up and sustain this vision, iKapture was created. iKapture is an education, ICT and youth focused company that is working to provide a wide range of services and innovative products to help equip students with relevant skills and improve learning.

Opportunitydesk.org is an online platform I created to provide timely and relevant information on various global opportunities that youth worldwide can take advantage of. I usually get asked by friends if I knew any conference coming up, scholarships, grant openings, or opportunities to help them gain exposure. It was becoming a growing need and it was obvious that there was an information gap. The Desk has since become the leading Opportunity Information Provider with over 50,000 hits monthly and an active online community. I hope to increase the reach and get information across to as many people as possible. The more opportunities we can tap into, the better we can become. We have a huge resource to help people prepare and apply. Sharing too is caring. Visit www.opportuntiydesk.org and let your friends know too.  In all of these, I intend to just create value and make an impact.
Ebenezar: Wow! well done that's awesome. I saw a picture of you giving a TEDtalk. I'm really a TED junkie and I'm anxious to know, what was the talk about? (hehehe)

Image Credit: Grace
Grace: Oh! Ok…that was a TEDx talk I did at a Youth Event in Bukoto, Uganda. The event was to showcase the work of young changemakers in Africa. I spoke about my social entrepreneurship journey and how it started with a selfish interest I had to travel, and how I transmuted the energy in achieving this interest to make an impact! :) I used the platform to try to inspire young people to transfer their energy into a noble and profitable cause, to take little positive actions that can have ripple effects. I need not say much, you need to watch it and let me have your thoughts too.

Ebenezar: Sure! I’m watching it right away! :) Thank you so much for your time Grace, good luck with your Future Awards nomination. I'm totally rooting and praying for you :) I hope we get to stroll again some other time...

Grace: Thank you Ebenezar. I totally had fun with this stroll. All the best and Happy International Youth Day! :)


For more about Grace (@graceiheji) you can visit her blog opportunitydesk.org. You can also read more about the RYPE initiative and find out how to get involved here
Unemployment figures have kept increasing over time, and recent figures especially from the Eurozone show that the most affected set of people are youths. Many other people just like Grace are trying to start forums that will raise entrepreneurs to solve this problem, but a lot still has to be done!
Youths need to take the bull by the horn, and get proactive! Don’t sit down there occupying space! What is the matter with you? Stand up and solve problems!
Youth councils also need to become less political, less factional, and less biased. Refuse to be used by politicians! Refuse to be idle! Youths should be a solution not a problem... Take up the challenge!

Till my next stroll... Jesus loves you.

Ebenezar Wikina (@poeticjazz) 
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  1. She is pretty, and so is her mind and her ideas...the young one can achieve a lot if we go for it...but those old ones dont want to shift.

    More grease Grace.

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  3. A lady with beauty, brains and a beautiful heart....So proud of you dearie

  4. @Grace Ihejiamaizu. I just read your stroll with Ebenezar. How awesome you were there. I love your brilliant mind and the way you respond to questions. And I am proud of the great works you are doing. Do I also say you are a very beautiful young woman. God bless.

  5. Nice one Grace. More power to your elbow!

  6. Nice work Ebenezar i'd keep saying... Keep it up.