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Ahead of Oxford Africa Forum, Nigerian presidential aspirant and former Oxford Saïd student shares his vision for Africa
March 11, 2022 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Former MBA student, Chukwuka Monye, shares his dreams for his country and continent, and heralds the next generation of Africans
Chukwuka Monye is about to ask more than 80 million people to go out and vote for him and his vision of restored dignity for Africa’s most populous country, as he bids to become the next President of Nigeria.
The former Oxford Saïd MBA student, and graduate of the Executive Diploma in Strategy and Innovation at the School, is a candidate for change in a country ‘bursting with talent’ but beset with significant economic inequality.
Ahead of the Oxford Africa forum, of which Mr. Monye is a key speaker, he shared his motivations, his thoughts on how the world must prepare for the African youth bulge, and how his time at the School helped shape the type of President he wants to be.
Mr. Monye’s inspiration he says is simple, stating he sees an urgent need to change ‘the status quo’.
‘I see a pattern, a cycle we need to break out of. A lot of Nigerians talk of helplessness and economic depravity. A lot of people discuss these issues but not enough find solutions to fix them. We can’t keep talking about resources without translating it to improved quality of life. One day, I raised my hand and said I want to change this. That’s when I started my bid for the presidency.’
It is this simple desire for change that helped shape his political ambitions. Mr. Monye states he isn’t beguiled by grand ambitions that he says many politicians can be enticed by. Instead, he believes small changes can have a big difference. The race has not yet been run, yet he already knows how he wants to be remembered:
‘I want to be the leader who brought a better life for average Nigerians. The poverty rate is so high. The literacy rate is so low. It needs solving. There’s the cliché that Nigerians outside the country excel, and it’s true, they do. I want them to excel here. I want to be the leader who restored dignity to Nigeria. That will be my legacy.’
The simplicity of his ambitions offers a grandeur of their own. In a country of 206.1 million people, improvements to the wellbeing of its people would have a marked difference, felt across Africa and the world. As it stands, Nigeria has the highest rate of children out of school globally, so much so that one-in-five children out of the classroom worldwide is in Nigeria.
To Mr. Monye, school is very important. He is a lifelong learner, currently undertaking a Doctorate in Business Administration. His thesis explores the factors that affect the commercialisation of ideas in Africa – a subject close to his heart.
Reflecting on his own education, he speaks very fondly of his time at Oxford Saïd and the effect it had on him. He singles out the diploma in Strategy and Innovation for sharpening his innovative thinking, and the MBA for further developing his already incredible problem -solving skills.
‘Even today, when I think about the economy, my mind still travels back to my Oxford classes. The things I learned at Oxford Saïd, haven’t left me. It showed me the world is complex, and it takes dynamic, innovative leaders to rise to that complexity. That’s the leader I have become.’
With a background in business, his path to government, if successful, would be unconventional, but he considers it a strength.
In his eyes, it separates him from other candidates and lends him perspective. His lengthy career in consultancy makes him a seasoned problem-solver and provides an enviable knowledge in a range of industries, such as healthcare, mining, hospitality, financial services, energy, agriculture and tech – which is booming in Nigeria. He’s proud of his status as an outsider, believing it positions him perfectly to approach problems from a new angle.
‘Given the current state of the Nigerian economy, the country needs an inspirational leader who is also commercially-minded, in order to make Nigeria “profitable” again.’
It is widely accepted that dynamic thinking is required to respond to Africa’s so-called ‘youth bulge’. By the year 2030, there will be 321 million Africans living across the continent, and one-fifth of them will be aged between 15 and 24.
The theme of this year’s Oxford Africa Forum, ‘The youth of Africa: Accessing the opportunity, navigating the challenge’ reflects the need for solutions to harness the demographic changes to come.
Mr. Monye’s message to the Africa forum is clear:
‘Africa is at a critical point of development. The young are coming. Africa’s bulging youth bring with it so much potential, but it will be wasted unless it results in real change. We need to go beyond theorising, beyond analysis. Yes, the statistics paint a promising picture, but we need to bring it to life. To do that, we need action, and we need change. We’ve got the ideas, now it’s time to invest in them.’
For global businesses, investment in Africa is crucial to make the most of Africa’s growing population. And with Africa soon to make up an even larger proportion of the world’s population, it’s not an opportunity to miss.
Recognising the need for global investment in Africa, he said:
‘Foreign investors need to be strategic. Africa is coming and in a big way. The world needs to be proactive. That means investing early and starting to form meaningful economic and political partnerships which will shape the world when Africa comes of age. By aligning themselves early, these collaborators can explore new opportunities together, pooling expertise and strengths, allowing for long-standing strategic growth.
‘Equally, foreign players must assess what the needs are like, closing the education gap and providing digital skills. Moving early is the best way to ready ourselves. There is a big opportunity here and the world must seize it. We will all be richer for it.’
The love Mr. Monye has for his country is clear. He is incredibly proud of Nigeria’s heritage and achievements, and is highly optimistic for the country’s future:
‘Nigeria has long been dominant culturally, excelling in sports and the arts. Our entertainment industry bursts with talent. But in many ways, it serves as an outlet for the frustration people feel for not living in a Nigeria or a world they want. We need to channel that creativity, bringing about the change we all desire, and deserve.
The opportunities in technology, digital media, and think tanks are plentiful, but to create more diverse opportunities we need to be dynamic and innovative with the resources we have. For instance, young people might not want to become farmers, but by promoting strategic planning in agriculture we can create new roles and inspire a new generation into farming. It’s all about innovating.’
His advice to Oxford Saïd students, said with a smile, was simple ‘pay attention in class’. But offering some more heartfelt words, he told students to take advantage of every opportunity:
‘By immersing yourself in every moment, you will end up with a library of memories to refer back to throughout your life and career. It will benefit you in ways you can’t imagine yet. Cherish Oxford Saïd for what it is, a family and a lifelong community of like-minded forward thinkers, all linked with a passion to leave their mark on the world.’
Mr. Monye is due to speak at Oxford on Friday 11 March, during its annual Africa Forum. You can sign up to the event here.