“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”  ― Nelson Mandela

I write this post mostly for the benefit of unemployed youths in Africa.

Two years ago, a Nigerian entrepreneur, Mr Eniola Fayose, received the West African Scratch Card Printing Services Company of the year award at the West African Awards for Corporate Achievement. The company he represented, O’ Naphtali Printing Company, was founded and owned by him. It employed more than one hundred members of staff and had huge assets running into multiple millions.

But had you seen Eniola Fayose merely seven years earlier, you would not have believed that he would encounter such success. Seven years earlier, this young man was roaming the streets of Ibadan, Nigeria, as a fresh graduate with no employment prospects. He had graduated from the University of Ibadan with a Third Class degree. Since he knew that most employers would be interested only in candidates with Second Class Upper or First Class Honours, he did not even bother to apply anywhere.

In other not to stay hungry, Eniola started buying and selling. He sold goods ranging from second-hand clothes to dried, grounded pepper and suffered various forms of embarrassment from his former classmates who had gotten respectable and high sounding jobs in big companies. He squatted in about three different locations per week because he could not afford to rent his own house. This was at the beginning, though. With consistency in his rather ‘lowly’ business, Eniola was eventually able to save up and rent a two bedroom “boys-quarters”. He had no furniture (not even mattresses), but was proud of his progress. With time, things improved. He ventured into printing and learnt by trial and error.

His big break came when he received a call from a client asking if he (Eniola) could produce scratch cards. As a daring entrepreneur, he replied that he could even though he had no idea of how it could be done. Eniola’s unusual boldness paid off as scratch card importation had just been banned in the country. He got the contract!  He then set about the task of producing the cards. It took him much longer than normal (about four months!) to get it done but eventually he did. That single contract opened the door for many others. The company began to expand. They purchased machines and employed more people. Eniola became very rich…

Eniola Fayose identifies a few reasons for his success:

·        He saw himself in a different picture: According to him, even when things were rough, he was able to keep going because he could see himself in a different picture.

·        He was consistent: He did not give in to desperation or engage in crime for lack of constant income. Besides, he worked very hard and learnt to grow from the little he started with.

·       He was humble: Can you imagine a university graduate selling pepper or second-hand clothes to make a living? But the truth remains that it is people who can humble themselves that can be exalted. Many graduates prefer to sit at home and wait until a proper job comes. That way, they are liabilities to their parents, their siblings and the society. Hard, honest work is honourable, regardless of how lowly other people may think it is.

·         He maximized relationships: If you can be trusted for little things, the same people will ensure that the big ones come your way.

Are you among those who blame your background for your current woes? Or do you believe the problem is from the government of your country? Do you think you are miserable because you did not have the privilege of a college degree or MBA? Do you wish you had been born elsewhere- the United States, for instance? Think again! While these factors are indeed important, examples abound of people who have risen to become very successful… What are youth waiting for?

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