90 Us-nige­rian so­cial en­trepreneur An­gel Ade­laja

An­gel Ade­laja moved back to Nige­ria from the US and started an ur­ban con­tainer farm­ing ven­ture that en­ables young peo­ple with rel­a­tively lit­tle startup cap­i­tal to rent space and be­come en­trepreneurs in their own right

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view by Ay­o­deji Rot­inwa

Though all my train­ing is in the med­i­cal sciences – from a BSC in bio­chem­istry to a PHD in epi­demi­ol­ogy – I have al­ways loved agri­cul­ture. I was born in Lon­don, but moved to the US at the age of three. From age 15, I worked ev­ery sum­mer. One sum­mer, vol­un­teer­ing at the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse, I met one of my men­tors, who is Rus­sian. From the first day, she gave me a log­book and made sure I doc­u­mented ev­ery ac­tiv­ity, ev­ery ex­per­i­ment in the lab. I am very in­ter­ested in the how or why some­thing works or doesn’t work, and this helps me make bet­ter de­ci­sions for the fu­ture. This is one of the things that has helped me build my busi­ness – Fresh Di­rect Nige­ria (FDN). FDN is an ur­ban farm­ing com­pany that makes use of stack­able con­tainer far ms in Abuja. We bring to­gether com­mu­ni­ties and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, to grow pre­mium fruits, veg­eta­bles and other pro­cessed end prod­ucts in th­ese con­tain­ers and in ur­ban ar­eas. My goal is to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tract young peo­ple into prof­itable agri­cul­tural ven­tures, em­power them with em­ploy­ment and fi­nally pro­vide them with the ex­pe­ri­ence to be suc­cess­ful fu­ture em­ploy­ers. Young peo­ple who can­not af­ford land or the cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive means to pre­pare it for crop grow­ing now have an al­ter­na­tive. They can rent space in the con­tainer farms at a dra­mat­i­cally re­duced cost. There, they grow their crops and sell them, cre­at­ing in­come for them­selves. When I moved back to Nige­ria from the US, I got a job work­ing as a part-time con­sul­tant to the Of­fice of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and Part­ner­ships, Osun State, Nige­ria. In this role, I be­gan to un­der­stand the de­gree to which agri­cul­ture is a part of the cul­ture of the Nige­rian peo­ple. I also got to see up close how the gov­ern­ment def­i­nitely would not be able to solve prob­lems in the sec­tor alone and that it needed the help of the pri­vate sec­tor. So I de­cided to con­trib­ute.

ROAD­BLOCKS

I wanted to in­vest in agri­cul­ture, but then re­alised how dif­fi­cult it re­ally was to en­ter a sec­tor that should be so ac­ces­si­ble. So, if I faced such chal­lenges, what about other youth? I re­ally was pushed by a need to make it sim­pler for my­self and oth­ers. Grow­ing up, my par­ents used to tell me it was im­por­tant “to live a life of ser­vice”. I have held on to this, and it in­forms how and why I do what I do to­day. My days start with prayer, an early morn­ing run, yoga or dance class and a lit­tle desk work. Then my day can in­clude su­per vis­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in farm work or de­liv­ery, talk­ing to staff to see where we can im­prove, qual­ity con­trol, strate­gis­ing with my part­ner on tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments, search­ing for new cus­tomers/mar­kets, bal­anc­ing books, so­cial me­dia, and meet­ings. It usu­ally proves a very tight sched­ule. What keeps me go­ing is my per­sonal motto: ‘Even if you give a lit­tle, you can change a lot.’ I’m mo­ti­vated by and driven to do my part to make a dif­fer­ence and shape my com­mu­nity. I’m op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture, too, and other peo­ple con­tribut­ing to mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. I see a pro­duc­tive Nige­ria, driven by Nige­ri­ans. I moved back to be part of the so­lu­tion. No one had to ask me.

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