By Ebenezer Ishola
At 24, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu initiated a disruptive shift in the plumbing sector, which revolutionised the vocation and aided its transition from the trade of unskilled artisans to professional occupation.
The young freshly graduated Sanwo-Olu, in early 1990s, incorporated “Dial The Plumber” – an engineering and business-centric coy that leveraged the limited telephone technology of the period to create hands-on solutions in plumbing ecosystem for the growing oil industry in the Niger Delta.
The disruption created huge opportunities for local skilled plumbers until the mid-1990s when advanced technology swept through the sector and created a wide knowledge gap for local professionals. With no Government incentive and support for up-skilling, the firm had the market out of its reach and became disadvantaged.
The short background narrative about his start-up experience set the tone for the robust conversation Governor Sanwo-Olu had, on Thursday, with dozens of under-35 young executives in Lagos tech space, telecommunications, Fintech, banking, arts and creative industry, health, agric and logistics sectors.
The Rafkatu Hall in The Wheatbaker in Ikoyi offered a relaxed ambience for the engagement tagged “Meet and Greet: In Conversation with Mr. Governor”, organised by the Senior Special Assistant to Sanwo-Olu on Development Partnership and Economic Planning, Ayisat Agbaje.
It was the second in the series of the strategic engagements the Governor had with innovative millennials in private sector to foster the administration’s objectives of promoting youth inclusion in public governance through deliberate partnership and collaboration.
Sanwo-Olu said his “Dial The Plumber” start-up idea came 10 years ahead of its time, stressing that the innovation could have been fully activated and sustained job opportunities for the then young skilled plumbers, carpenter and IT professionals had GSM revolution in Nigeria happened in the early 1990s.
From his interaction with the young tech disruptors, Sanwo-Olu said he could visualised a lot of possibilities through the minds of the participants, assuring that his Government was ready to take forward the conversation through interventions.
He said: “In the space of 32 years, we have seen advancement in digital technology, which has created a lot of opportunities across sectors. We believe you young people of today have a lot of creative and innovative ideas that can change our society and bring us in tandem with modernity. We are having this conversation because we don’t want these brilliant ideas and energy to exist only in your minds; we want to create an avenue for partnership where the Government can initiate necessary interventions, so that you won’t feel discouraged and be at disadvantage.
“The intervention could come in terms of Government incentives, encouragement, public policies, funding or bringing your creative ideas in contact with investors to take them up for full activation. Our Government in Lagos is about giving support to young people to nurture their dreams to reality. Many start-ups were not opportune to have opportunity of technology decades ago. My own start-up idea came 10 years ahead of its time. If there was GSM revolution in the 1990s, the idea would have been fully activated. My charge is that, you must first believe in yourselves and ensure your creative ideas are genuine. As responsive Government, we are ever ready to partner with you in driving your passion.”
Sanwo-Olu said Lagos could not afford to lay back in taking the advantage of young people’s innovations, noting that the disruption caused by global pandemic had effects in food supply chain, nature of work and access to medical services. Lagos, the Governor said, was able to turn around the challenges, given the creative solutions encouraged by the State Government through youth innovators.
The Governor took the participants on achievements recorded across his administration’s THEMES agenda, especially the ongoing rollout of smart city capability of the State to deliver a resilient 21st century megacity with functioning integrated urban mass transpaotation system.
Sanwo-Olu said: “We want to have this kind of engagement with you, where Government does not have comparative advantage, let it slow down and create relevant ecosystem where the private sector can take leadership role. We strongly believe it is the private sector that can create the jobs, while the Government enables the environment to flourish. We want to leverage this platform to build strong and lasting partnership with you to co-create the growth trajectory we all want to see. One of the ways of achieving results is engagement like this.”
Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Mr. Sam Egube, gave a projection of the future development Lagos was working towards. He said Lagos was running on a big vision that situated its development activities in group of developed economies.
The convener and SSA to the Governor on Development Partnership and Economic Planning, Ayisat Agbaje, said the programme was initiated on the desire of Sanwo-Olu to meet young people doing outstanding work to drive economic development in the State.
She said: “The event focuses on igniting communication between the high-flyer youths in the State and the administration. Establishing consistent communication is not our only goal, we want you to promote full understanding of the activities of this administration and give participants a sense of satisfaction for their contributions to the development of Lagos emerging economy.”
Some of the participants had the opportunity to share their transformational ideas with the Governor in the segment tagged: “The Lagos I See”.
Hanu Fejiro Agbodje, founder of Patricia – a Fintech company focusing on blockchain technology.
Named Vanguard ’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, Hanu shared story of how he hit gold with his Patricia dream, having failed 13 times to build at start-up stage.
Others are Anthony Azekwoh, a digital artist who lives and works in Lagos; Folake Owodunni, CEO of Emergency Response Africa, and co-founder of Hook Creative Agency, Toheeb Balogun.