How FirstBank is powering the Next Generation of Nigerian Innovators and Entrepreneurs

What did (the various territories that were later to be amalgamated into) Nigeria look like in
1894? How about a hundred years later in 1994? And what could Nigeria look like in the
year 2094? History provides elaborate answers to the first two questions. Answers –
accurate or near-accurate answers, that is – to the third, however, will rely entirely on the
ability to predict/envision the future and work to invent and create the predicted future.
With a continuing shining legacy of nation building – supporting innovative financial,
commercial and other developments in Nigeria and even Africa – one bank is already
projecting beyond today to the year 2094 – exactly 200 years from its founding in 1894. The
bank, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, is not just predicting a bright, innovative future for Nigeria but
is going all out to foster what is required to invent it. FirstBank is putting its money where its
mouth is. The bank has been betting the farm on Nigeria’s young and emerging generation
for decades.

Take the last two decades, for example. FirstBank has been involved with Junior
Achievement Nigeria (JAN) for over twenty years as one of the many ‘fronts’ in the bank’s
engagements with the next generation of Nigerians to collaboratively create the bright,
innovative future that Nigerians dream of.

For ten years now, FirstBank has been supporting
the National Company of the Year (NCOY) competition, an extension of the JAN Company
Programme, designed to help senior secondary school students better understand how
businesses are organised and operated. The students will be required, during the course of
the competition, to develop a business plan, establish production and sales of goods and
services for their company, monitor progress toward goals at regular department and
company meetings, maintain complete financial records, compile a report to stockholders,
and liquidate the company at a given period with the support of a volunteer.

FirstBank’s partnership with JAN on the National Company of the Year competition has
meant a decade of impact and innovation illustrated by the very nature of innovative
products and services created by young minds to solve real problems facing society and the
business systems they put in place in form of student companies to successfully produce
and market the products and services sustainably and to impact their local communities.
Consider the growing problem of fire accidents and deaths from gas explosions resulting
from gas leakage in homes, offices and industries. The students from Taidob College,
Abeokuta, through their student company, TC Achievers, created an innovative solution to
address it.
TC Achievers produced a domestic and industrial gas leakage detector – a device which
raises an alarm and sends SMS to the owner’s mobile phone once there is any gas leakage.
Their innovative device fetched TC Achievers first position in the regional competition in
Ogun State and at the national level in Lagos, earning them the right to represent Nigeria in
Ghana at the 2019 African Company of the Year competition.

Taidob College emerged from Ghana with four awards, the most by any of the participating Junior Achievement member
countries, including Botswana, Eswatini (Swaziland), Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius,
South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Nigerian representatives won the
following: Client Focus Award, Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, Facilitator of the Year Award
and were second runners-up for Company of the Year Award.

The 2018 National Company of the Year competition winners who went on to emerge the
grand winners at the Africa Company of the Year competition in Ghana same year, Inventive
Explorers from Caro Favoured College, Ajegunle, Lagos were concerned about traffic
accidents, especially in areas with school children crossing busy streets. Their innovative

device, a rechargeable handheld LED traffic light, was designed to solve this real problem
faced by various congested communities. Besides the grand prize at the Africa Company of
the Year competition, they also brought back home the Access Award, given to the business
that best exhibits the principles of global connectivity.
Guided by the same spirit of innovativeness and enterprise and a passionate desire to solve
a real problem facing society that were at work when TC Achievers and Inventive Explorers
devised their award-winning innovative solutions, the first runners-up in 2018, Brain Max, the
student company formed by student representatives of Government Girls Secondary School,
Abaji, Abuja designed a website and software application for connecting local produce
farmers directly to their customers.

Brain Box also won Best Corporate Social Responsibility
Project Award on account of which they visited camps of Nigeria’s internally displaced
persons (IDPs) to provide financial literacy and entrepreneurship education to occupants,
including helping the IDPs to secure seed funding. It was the same inspiration for the second
runners-up, Sharon Glory Ventures, the student company formed by students of Sharon
Rose College, Saki, Oyo State who produced a water-level indicator to enable homeowners
to determine the level of water in their tanks. Sharon Global Ventures also received the
award for the Most Innovative Product.

In 2020, given the global COVID-19 pandemic, the FirstBank-sponsored National Company
of the Year competition will be conducted virtually. The virtual format will, however, not take
anything away from the allure and competitiveness that the competition has been noted for
over the years. This year’s unique competition, holding on Saturday, 12 December 2020
at 3 p.m. (West/Central African time), will bring together six outstanding student
companies across Nigeria to lock horns for a lifetime opportunity to carry Nigeria’s flag at the
JA Africa Company of the Year competition later in the year, and possibly repeat the feat
achieved by the 2018 Nigerian representatives.
The Virtual Company of the Year (VCOY) competition is the culminating point for the
implementation of the Virtual Company Programme. The goal of the VCOY is to create a
signature showcase for JAN and the students who benefited from the impact of the digital JA
Company Programme. This pilot programme will be in two stages where the first stage will
identify the top business ideas from each region and select the top five most viable business
ideas and reward them with seed funding to fully develop their ideas into businesses. The
second stage of this competition sees the introduction of top professionals across different
sectors who would serve as the panel of judges to determine each student company’s
performance against a set of established criteria. Judges look out for evidence of innovation
and application of new ideas in all aspects of business and select the best team to represent
Nigeria at the Africa Company of the Year competition.
Whichever student companies emerge as winners of the 2020 National Company of the
Year competition, one thing is certain: All the participants, not just at the national level but
also at the regional levels, will join the ever-growing and rapidly-expanding crop of young
minds engaged, trained, prepped and reoriented in a FirstBank-sponsored empowerment
programme to become innovative and entrepreneurial thinkers and problem solvers. The
bank is supporting such programmes so the young participants will join it in the arduous task
of nation building and inventing the desired future for Nigeria. FirstBank is confident that the
young minds who come through the JAN Company of the Year competition will be Nigeria’s
future Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson,
Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In their time and in the envisioned future for Nigeria, the
country will stand tall, unintimidated by her Western counterparts, having been catapulted to
the status of a leading developed nation by the young and emerging generation FirstBank
has been betting big on for years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.