IBM’s Big Data University Project Targets Empowerment of African Youths

As oil-dependent economies combat volatile currencies and shaky GDP rates, increasingly, countries look toward cultivating the intangible.

A nation’s most valuable resource isn’t oil, gas, or any other extractible good–

It’s human capital.

For developing nations in particular, opportunity lies in the minds of its inhabitants.

Most importantly, youth inhabitants–

Photograph by Michael Hogan

According to a recent UN Population Fund report, young people around the world have reached a record high of 1.8 billion, with 9 out of 10 of them living in less developed countries, and Africa leading with 1/3 its population: 200 million people aged 15 to 24.

To a blossoming economy, this is gold: a strong workforce, and unique, unbridled perspectives to promote innovation. But as it currently stands, youth make up 60% of the unemployment population.

The jobs needed to absorb almost a million young people entering the labor force each year simply don’t exist.

As a result, many young people are capitalizing on their entrepreneurial talents, and creating rather than waiting for opportunity.

Photograph by Antonio Cangiano

And while inadequate education systems, underdeveloped banking infrastructure and bureaucratic barriers often hinder the progress of Africa’s young innovators, country leaders and international actors alike are recognizing the value in supporting entrepreneurial activity on the continent.

From domestic initiatives, such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP), to private societies like Kairos, to USAID Development Lab, UN and the World Bank, investing in Africa’s entrepreneurs has become a global affair.

IBM’s sponsored Big Data University is one example of an international actor aiming to create opportunities for the world’s most talented youth populations.

The online university provides an open source platform for students to access information and learn Hadoop and Spark, among others. Perhaps more compelling than the quality of content is the mindset behind the mission. The intention is clear;democratize big data education and empower young entrepreneurs to solve global issues.

Photograph by Antonio Cangiano

In supportive of the University is IBM’s LEADing to Africa internship program. I spent the day getting to know these 20 international fellows, tasked with solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.

One group of college kids from Nigeria, Haiti, and Southern US built a wearable for the elderly, tracking vitals to notify close ones if something internal goes awry.

“Thanks to new technologies, it is possible to create new businesses and disrupt existing industries with limited resources, provided you address a real user problem. We are striking a balance while solving this problem.” says Coralie Phanord, Haitian-born Computer Science student from Dartmouth.

These technologies come from weeks of deep-dive followed by problem identification, building, and testing.

“My goal here is to provide the interns with requisite tools to achieve their potential, in a lighthearted and productive environment. These young men and women will build tomorrow’s IBM and, thanks to their keen interest in the challenges affecting Africa, they’ll bring their talent and technical skills where innovation matters the most.” claims Antonio Cangiano, Software Development Mentor for the IBM Analytics LEADing to Africa group.

Another group took on the challenge of Lagos traffic.

Photograph by Antonio Cangiano

“Traffic congestion is a major problem faced by a number of African cities. Without proper transportation, you can’t meet fellow founders, you can’t build product. Lagos, one of the largest of such cities, is plagued by daily several hour-long traffic jams, due to poor infrastructural planning and road maintenance. Most of us in the Traffrica team have experienced this first hand, and so we jumped at the opportunity to provide some sort of solution. Our app, Traffrica, will enable users to take control of their time.” claims Nigeria-born Tochi Onyenokwe.

Initiatives such as Big Data University and IBM’s LEADing to Africa offer essential resources to help young entrepreneurs succeed, but it is up to governments to create an ecosystem that helps Africa’s entrepreneurs thrive. This environment consists of sound policies that promote private sector growth–like IP protection, regulated low interest rates, and tax opportunities for young companies–and thus make space for new technologies and innovations.

This new network welcomes the voice of Africa’s emerging generation of leaders.

To learn more about African entrepreneurs and their disruptive technologies, join us this September on Tour of Tech, a private trip to Lagos and Nairobi. Travelers will spend a week exploring the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Africa, meeting founders, ministry, and Pan-African leaders.

Thank you, Jenny Parham, for contributing to this post.

Culled from

Keeping the Faith – Sneak Peek Into The Journal of a Cancer Conqueror

Today is a great day as I set out to be brave.

My Cousin sent me a book from America, where she lives with her family. The book is titled ”I Declare, 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life’ by Joel Osteen.

I’m on Day 4 and it’s about – it not being too late to be all that you are created to be… I made the declarations and made up my mind to start writing.

Writing for me is a long time passion which I always shoved aside due to my state of mind and probably laziness.

What is the difference between laziness and lack of motivation? I have to look for definitions from the Webster’s dictionary.

It’s exactly a month to my 35th birthday and I’m still unmarried, live with my Dad and don’t have a company or a daily income generating business of my own. I really want to get married, live with my hubby, raise a family and have my own income generating company.

Dreams don’t die. At the same time, I am fighting the fight of faith dealing with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer barely months after thriving through the ordeal of ovarian cancer and chemotherapy sessions. Two cancer diagnosis in less than a year.

I must be a great light no doubt! I’m going to shine!

Beyond all of this, I’m grateful for my spiritual leaders, family, friends, colleagues, doctors, nurses, my amazing friend whom I will simply call AM and most especially the God of all creation who knows me by name.

It’s an amazing thing to know that I won’t die and that the Lord has me in great regard. How do I know? It is revealed deep down in my heart and I’m so glad about the future.

Thank God for Bible stories…

Joseph was sold so as to be killed and he ended up in the palace.

I know my experiences are necessary because I’m going to be in places I never thought possible.

I anticipate a glorious future and I embrace my fame now… I’m rehearsing greatness somewhere in my spirit. It’s in the obvious.

I’m taking a lot of anticancer supplements daily and yes! My anticancer tea is brewing, I love to take it with some dash of lemon slices-tumour shrinkers.

I trust God daily to show me the path of life, more and more… as the moments roll by…

Anyways though… This is the route my journey has taken and I blaze it with the consciousness that it is temporary…

It will be great to get your feedback though, – What do you think is the best way to find emotional stability during a health challenge?

From me… Ciao! Shine!


#MyVoteMyDemand – The Disenfranchised Many by Oluseyi Adebiyi

It’s been days since the previously scheduled election date. Unlike the initial uproar and threats the postponement brought, the day passed by like any other day. Many Nigerians quickly settled into the thrills, frills and romance that Valentine’s Day brought. In the course of last week, the INEC Chairman was on National TV – before the National Assembly – to defend the commission’s decision to postpone the election and to also give a brief on their level of preparedness for the coming election. In his presentation, the Chairman, reeled out statistics for PVC collection, declaring that about 75.94% of registered voters have been able to collect their PVCs.

For any student sitting for an examination that figure would easily have passed for a distinction for which he/she would always be proud of. However, as it concerns the matter of election preparedness, this number is at best an abysmal performance for the electoral body.

In 2011, when INEC, newly under the leadership of the current chairman (Professor Attahiru Jega) announced the need for voters to get registered to be able to vote, not many people stayed back. Nationwide, large turn-outs of Nigerians were recorded at the many registration points, as people remained defying the scorching sun, endured the failing direct data capture (DDC) machines and endless queues, to get themselves registered. To think that four years after that exercise, about 25% of the registered voters are still yet to collect their Permanent Voters’ Card, remains an anomaly.

While taking a ride with a new acquaintance of mine, he expressed his inability to collect his voters’ card, simply because he registered for the elections in a far-flung state during his NYSC. For all the enthusiasm he had for the coming elections, he is indeed concerned about his current dis-enfranchisement, wondering how many other people were in his shoes. This perhaps best describes the predicament that many Nigerian voters have found themselves. The current state of our electoral system has made it such that anyone who for one reason or the other has had to migrate from their previous location of voter registration was almost automatically dis-enfranchised from voting.

Think of the many individuals who registered in their various campuses as undergraduates at that time, and who have now graduated and moved further away from their previous locations, or perhaps the case of other people who may have relocated because of their jobs, families, or even the insurgency in the North. Although INEC has tried to solve this problem by trying out a system which allows voters transfer their PVCs, not much has been seen regarding its effectiveness. In a situation where it’s effective and PVCs are successfully transferred, would a voter who registered in Agege, be able to vote in Asokoro?

Truth be told, I remain a firm believer in the current INEC Chairman, as I have no doubts in his desire to ensure a free, fair and hitch-free elections. I am however concerned about the possible risk of dis-enfranchisement that a vast majority of the population currently faces.

I look forward to a time when issues like PVC collection would no longer be rocket science for us. I look forward to an electoral system in which a voter registered in Ughelli can go on to cast his vote in Isale-Eko. Ultimately, how nice would it be for Nigerians in the diaspora to be a part of this process.

Perhaps that’s the future… God take us there.

Targeting Business Growth? Keep These 10 People Away!

If you want to build a great business, you have to be very deliberate about whom you let into it.

Emotions and behaviors may circulate through social networks in patterns similar to what’s seen in epidemiological models of the flu virus. Every positive person you let into your life increases your chances of being positive 11 percent, estimated a study published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

“Just one sad friend was needed to double an individual’s chance of becoming unhappy,” Wired summarized about the report.

Figuring out whom to avoid and whom to let in won’t always be easy. But with a little practice, you can get really good at staying far away from people who might bring your business down. Here are 10 people (whether employees or clients) you should avoid if you’re starting a business:

  1. The siren.

Sirens are those amazing and enticing people who come into your business and completely distract you. More than anyone else, these people have a way of stealing your focus and throwing your efforts off track.

A lot of promising futures have been sacrificed to sirens. Some people have sold their businesses for way less than they are worth and others have given up on their businesses to chase a get-rich-quick scheme than some sirens pitched them. Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let an amazing person make you forget that you and your business have something amazing to offer the world, too.

  1. The goat. 

Goats are those wildly charismatic, big-talking and full-of-luck people who seem to get away with everything. These people have many strengths.

The problem is that they use their strengths in devious ways. Goats have little ambition beyond convincing others to make bad decisions. If you find yourself constantly making bad business decisions every time you’re around someone in particular, it’s time to cut that person out of your business.

  1. The elephant.

An elephant never forgets. Elephants are those people in your business who never let you live down past mistakes. They never let you live down who you used to be or how many times you’ve messed up.

Don’t let an elephant pull you back into the past. Everyone fails, especially entrepreneurs. If you’ve failed, it means you’ve learned. So stay on track and keep moving forward.

  1. The hater.

Haters are people who want to be on top but don’t want to work to get there. Instead, they want to push everyone else around them down so it will seem like they’re on top.

Haters are losers but they also can serve as a source of motivation in a strange way. Don’t let haters into your business but use them as motivation to make your business as strong as possible.

  1. The narcissist.

Narcissists are talented people who are too consumed with themselves to take action. They’re especially bad at taking team-oriented action.

A narcissist might even encourage you to put the image of your business over its reputation. This is always bad idea. When starting a business, it’s best to be transparent and authentic. Don’t try to make things seem bigger than they are and avoid trying to be something you’re not. Instead, be real. Keep narcissists out of your startup and stay focused on your reputation, not your image.

  1. The nemesis.

When you’re starting a business, sometimes you’ll have to work with someone whom you can’t stand and who can’t stand you. If you’re not careful, this can become a major distraction.

Try to realize that what you don’t like about a nemesis is probably something you don’t like about yourself or it’s something that you like too much about yourself. Either way, something is at odds with your identity and the only way to fix it is to turn the mirror on yourself, not the nemesis.

Your adversary can be your advisor in a way. If you bring a nemesis into your startup, use this person to learn about yourself. Once you do this, he or she won’t be your nemesis anymore.

  1. The Ares.

Ares is the Greek god of war. Ares-type people love conflict. They are addicted to drama and winning at all costs, even if there’s nothing to be won. Any time spent trying to correct or even understand an Ares is a waste of time. You are better off ignoring these people and keeping them out of your business altogether.

  1. The Dionysus.

Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, parties and pleasure. Dionysus sorts are pleasure seekers who have very little patience for anything other than instant gratification.

Be careful when letting these people into your business because base pleasure of any kind is both addictive and time-consuming. It’s important to have friends and have fun, but you should never sacrifice your startup to a string of late nights.

  1. The black cat.

Some people can walk into a business and light it up. Others walk in and kill it. Black cats are the latter. They are the people who seem to have a dark cloud following them everywhere they go.

These people are unlucky, negative and always depressed. Don’t feel bad for these people. Odds are, they like sitting in the pits. They like the attention it gives them. So, let them sit. Just make sure they’re sitting outside your business.

  1. The fat cat.

Fat cats are those people who will come into your business, throw a bunch of money around and offer you the world. Whether these people are angel investors or venture capitalists from top firms, don’t let their flash or their cash distract you from the fact that they want to control your company and make money off you.

Be very careful with whom give your business to. You didn’t work this hard to watch your brand and reputation go down in flames at the paws of some fat cat who is now calling the shots.

Culled from