Now I wouldn’t call myself a subject matter expert on meeting people online but I do have a fair amount of friends or acquaintances that are friends or acquaintances because of twitter, instagram, this blog, maybe snapchat and other social media spaces. Fun fact, I once “dated” a girl online for almost 2 years if my memory serves well without ever meeting her. This was in the days of yahoo messenger and myspace before I ever had a Facebook account. I was in Nigeria, she was in the US. We bonded over our mutual love for Eminem. Yes he of Marshall Mather LP. Great rapper but I think I stopped paying attention after Slim Shady Show. I eventually came to the US within this time but we never got to meet. Don’t judge! I was 16, finished secondary school and was bored at home. The cybercafe was my friend and I was applying for colleges.
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So I just finished watching “the social network” a movie about the rise of Facebook. So while and after watching this movie, I let my thoughts drift to if the founder had been Nigerian living in Nigeria. Why? Well basically this guy invented Facebook when he was 20 and by the time he was 23, he was already a billionaire.
The question I asked myself was, could this happen in the United States of Nigeria? It could happen in some shape or form but I couldn’t help feeling that in our society he would have finally succeeded in founding facebook probably between the ages of 30-40.
Why do I think so? I believe the way the Nigerian society is structured doesn’t encourage creativity amongst the youth (for me, youth ends at 32 or so, sue me) and before I go on I want to state that this is simply my opinion. One of the fundamental problems that discourage creativity is the overbearing nature of the Nigerian family structure, which for the most part ensures that “children” are not truly independent until they get married or are in their mid-thirties.
You are thinking, why and how? I am making this assertion comparatively because typically in America for instance there is a staggered approach that ensures some sort of independence. First of all, you have a case where many children engage in summer jobs as early as 12 and some even sell lemonade or do little cute business at younger ages. Once they are 16 they are technically allowed to drive and this brings some more independence. Once they turn 18 they are allowed to own their own bank accounts and typically do. From the age of 18 the child does not have to be the financial responsibility of the parent. He/She is allowed to take loans in their own names in terms of school and other things. At 18, the child is allowed to move out on his/her own if they so wish.
Now let me contrast this with the Nigerian system. In Nigeria even though the law is pretty laissez-faire and basically you can do anything as long as you look old enough. You can drink, smoke, drive and whatnot. The typical Nigerian kid (maybe not so typical but I m referring to the lower middle class and above who go to school and whatnot) probably has never had a summer job, will probably not do any work to earn money after school and even in University does not take on-campus jobs even when they are available because his whole life is bankrolled by his parents. And even in the case where the said child makes some money, he doesn’t tell his parents about the money and hence does not invest it or contribute to his own education he uses it to have fun. The society basically expects parents to bankroll their children’s lives till they get a job after university or get married. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally there are brilliant kids who get scholarships and lighten the load for their parents but basically the whole system doesn’t encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship and the kids are taught this one way step-by-step process to success. Basically go to school and by school I mean tertiary education, get qualifications and get a good job so that you help take care of your parents who spent a lot of money on your education. This partly the fault of a society that values qualification and paper certificates as opposed to know-how. No matter how technically gifted you are, the typical Nigerian will rather listen to the person with fancy degrees.
After the child’s education when he doesn’t get a job, which is typically the case because of a high unemployment rate and not enough encouragement to go into entrepreneurship he goes and stays with his parents. They continue to feed him/her and take care of him/her while the child looks for a job and guess what they pressure him about getting married and who he/she should marry because like in the business world, when your parents make a lot of investment in you, they will definitely have a say in the running of your affairs. You cant tell them to go to hell because you need them and to some extent the society encourages the veneration of parents, notice I didn’t say respect I said veneration because lets face it many Nigerian youth grew up in autocratic homes by this I mean, many of you basically took what your parents said or you got whooped. This could be a by-product of a society where democracy is yet to be fully entrenched.
Basically, this jobless phase is your best shot at starting a business. Why? You basically have time on your hands, have the degree that will make people listen to you and you are desperate to make money and leave your parents house because they might be starting to annoy you. For many Nigerian youth, they are probably in the mid to late 20s at this stage because until recently a lot of people take a lot of time to finish university and some who finish early get a masters just because we like fancy degrees in Nigeria. Also the lack of a venture capital culture in Nigeria makes it hard to start a business. They will have to still source for funds for their idea from parents and close friends as getting loans in Nigeria is another big problem.
Although this might have been a ramble, you see how if Zuckerberg was Nigerian he might have started facebook at 30 something. In fact I believe our definition of youth in this country is a bit screwed up. We consistently call people in their 40s and 50s youth. I believe as I ve said earlier that this is partly because many people are still children under their parents care and influence until maybe 30 or even 40 in some cases. In all honesty, the only way I believe we as youth can move this country forward and liberate it is if we start by liberating ourselves and letting our ideas flow.