The African Youth Gala (AYG) is an exciting new event the team at Our Vision NG is helping support to provide a unique opportunity for young Africans living in the UK. The goal of the event is to build connections with Africans in the diaspora from all sectors of business, technology, and politics, by offering a space for them to share their stories of success, as well as the challenges they face.

Debola Daniel, co-founder, African Youth Gala

Debola Daniel, co-founder, African Youth Gala (courtesy: African Youth Gala)

At Our Vision NG, we believe networking is one of the most effective ways for young people to solidify their futures today. Recently I sat down with one of the AYG’s co-founders, iDEY’s Debola Daniel (@Debola_Daniel), to talk about the event’s goals and why he believes building a network of young influencers is critical to our future success as emerging leaders in the diaspora.

 

(LJS) Good morning Debola, from what I understand, networking has helped you to grow over the years, hence your motivation for this event.

(DD) Good morning Laila, yes, networking has been a huge part of my personal growth. I believe that if we talk to people and get new connections, the sky is literally the limit.

(LJS) I can most certainly relate to that. How do you think networking has developed over the years and why is it such a major source of growth in the twenty-first century?

(DD) In today’s world, it is all about who you know. Previously, you had to actively go out and meet people at events and talk to people that you do not necessarily now. This has proved as a challenge to some people who are not easily outgoing and can be a hindrance but with the inception of technology and websites such as LinkedIn, networking is at your fingertips. Now it is possible to network with someone digitally – all you need is a fully completed profile and you can easily assess if someone is worth networking with before you say hello! I feel as though this saves time and energy and these possibilities were not handed to us in the twentieth century.

(LJS) LinkedIn is certainly changing the game when it comes to networking. How do you feel the African Youth Gala will benefit youths today? Is networking at events outdated?

(DD) There is nothing like eye contact and a firm handshake! The major disadvantage of platforms like LinkedIn is that although they teach us networking skills, they take away our skills at the same time. We have become so reliant on using a keyboard to pass on a message that some of us forget what it means to sit with another person, share ideas and assess personalities. So what an event like this does, is that it gives the qualifications a personality, which is so important for us as youths of the fastest growing continent on the planet. A question well asking is that, would you rather network with someone who has a CV to die for or a work ethic to die for? You cannot tell a work ethic from a CV. The African Youth Gala is here to bridge this gap.

(LJS) We often become so dependent on technology, we forget peoples skills such as emotional intelligence, which affects our social orientation. One problem I have come across is the weak social orientation a lot of African youths have. As a youth advocate, how have you approached this problem?

(DD) It all starts from education. There is more to education than a textbook and my partner in the African Youth Gala, Ife Tokan, is a strong believer that the current education system is extremely flawed. Take for example the fact that the square root of a negative number is an imaginary number. What is more useful to a twenty year old who is about to enter the industry? This imaginary number or skills that have never been taught to him such as emotional intelligence skills? Our education system needs to be revamped as it suppresses individuality and we are living in a world where we are not encouraged to think outside the box. These are problems that affect the social orientation of youths today and African governments need to take these problems into consideration when speaking of improvements that need to be made to be made to our educational sectors. The youth service system in Nigeria for example, is in theory a great way to help build these skills as it throws you into situations that you have no idea have to handle. However, the system has become inherently corrupt and regressive, rather than progressive.

(LJS) You’ve made some great points, these are also reasons why we have so many African youths growing up in the diaspora. I believe social orientation skills are more encouraged in the UK, but how can we encourage our African youths to take these skills back home?

(DD) It all starts with events like the African Youth Gala. This is a chance for us to come together, voice ourselves and discuss these issues. You never know, you may be thinking of going back home but you have no support so you do not know where to start. However, at the African Youth Gala, you may meet people who have the same ideas and are ready to team up with you. I therefore encourage as many African Youths in the UK so attend the African Youth Gala with an open mind as we are the agents of change and sometimes we all just need a little push. This is your push.

(LJS) Thank you very much Debola, it was great for us to connect and I really look forward to attending this event. Well done to you and your partner, Ife, see you there!

(DD) Thank you, I’m glad you are going to be there!