Nigeria’s Top 10 Champions of Youth Empowerment – Jim Ovia

Mr. Jim Ovia is founder, Jim Ovia Foundation (JOF), which sets out on a mission of investing in the unlimited potential of the Nigeria youth as a key to the social and economic growth of the nation. It is the goal of the foundation to use education and information and communication technology (ICT) to equip young people to beneficially participate in the domestic and global economies.

The founder has a vision of a Nigeria where the knowledge gap is bridged and the youth empowered to compete in a global economy. His avenue for accomplishing this is increasing the knowledge base and skills of the youth through education and ICT.

The choice of education and ICT as the vital tools for the mission is in Ovia’s recognition that lack of quality education is intrinsically linked to poverty. He is worried by the existence of a wide gap between education and digital literacy in an age when the two have become the basic entry requirements into the corporate world.

JOF supports the use of ICT whenever and wherever possible to enhance the standard of living of society and increase human efficiency. It uses special projects, events and seminars to provide a benchmark for positive child and adolescence development. Its choice of tools for youth empowerment aims to better prepare young people for the modern day work-place, business opportunities and sharpen entrepreneurship skills.

The foundation, which took off in 2003, set out single handedly to pursue the goal of incorporating ICT into the Nigerian educational policy as a fourth science to foster an ICT literate society and ensure progressive and continuous learning.

Since then, it has become a major force in fostering social and educational uplift to underserved young Nigerians and in bringing ICT empowerment initiatives down to the reach of the Nigerian youth.

The foundation expresses its commitment to preparing the Nigerian youth for future leadership by inspiring them to create change for themselves and their communities. It believes that addressing the diverse needs of the youth is critical to the economic growth of the nation.

JOF has put together skills development vehicles designed to break the cycle of youth exclusion from the labour force and open new doors for their integration into the functional economy. Its effort is driven by the conviction of the founder that Nigeria’s economic advantage and competitiveness as a country is dependent on equipping the youth with the necessary competitive skills.  

The foundation has four intervention arms created for supporting students and entrepreneurs to develop the capacity to drive the economy along with the rest of the world. These are The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme and Empower YOUth Programme.

James Hope College is a secondary school located in Agbor, Delta State, equipped with world-class facilities at subsidised fees.

Jim Ovia Scholarship was founded to provide financial aid to outstanding Nigerian youth. The scheme offers an average of 100 opportunities every year. The award covers tuition and maintenance allowance.

Through the scholarship scheme, the foundation is creating a network of future leaders within Nigeria, who can compete globally with their peers, inject creative ideas in commitment to improving the lives of people in their respective communities. It is expected that with time, the beneficiaries will become leaders in helping to address the challenges in the areas in which the foundation is deeply engaged – including health, technology and finance.

Over 1,500 students and entrepreneurs have been supported with more than N1 billion in educational and entrepreneurial grants through the programmes, according to the foundation. The programmes are open to secondary school leavers, university students and aspiring ICT entrepreneurs, who meet the eligibility criteria. The criteria are personal intellectual ability, leadership capability and a desire to contribute to society to improve the lives of others.

The foundation also operates Jim Ovia Foundation Leadership (JOFLS) fund in partnership with Africa America Institute. The fund offers full scholarship to 35 Africans in STEM courses yearly through Ashesi University and Covenant University for high-achieving but under-resourced students. A quarter of that number is reserved for Nigerians.

According Ovia, there is need to collectively empower young people and create a network of future leaders and game changers that can propel the African continent. 

The goals of the scheme include promoting access to tertiary education, investing in the future leaders of Nigeria, providing a platform that encourages competitiveness and permits equal opportunities in the workplace and bridges the knowledge gap among the Nigerian youth.

Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme focuses on empowering up-coming young ICT entrepreneurs to explore the African market. The programme aims to nurture these entrepreneurs over a period of one year to set them on the path to achieving their full potentials.

A forum is hosted by the programme where between five and ten innovative ideas and 50 entrepreneurs are selected for funding every year. The entrepreneurs are given the necessary training and mentorship to achieve their goals.

The Empower YOUth Programme is an initiative that aims to familiarise children aged between six and 10 with the digital age through ICT. It is a twelve-week boot-camp programme that equips participants with ICT skills they need to gain access to the tech economy in the years ahead.

The ‘catch them young’ programme is a response to a research-findings that early intervention in education translates into very high graduation rates, well equipped labour market entrants, social welfare and reduced crime rate.