In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Kolawole Olajide

I met Kolawole Olajide at the India House in Lagos this year. The First Secretary of the Indian embassy, Mrs Rani Malick (who happens to be my mother) had invited me to a dinner, to introduce me to the ‘core team’ members of the IndiaAfrica Business Awards. The Indian Government had sponsored a bunch of Indians to Nigeria for an awards event, where two ‘young’ Nigerians were invited to speak on ‘competition’ at an earlier event.

I sat in a corner, slowly munching on my dal makhani, chapatti and samosa and drinking my Black Label diluted with Coke when Kolawole kept smiling at me. Maybe, because I was using my bare hands when others, even the Indians, were using cutleries to eat? He came over to my side and introduced himself and we started talking. He told me he represented South Africa at the competition. I was angered, so we began to talk more and I realized he lives in Cape Town. That moment, I realized one of our own has been bought out by the South Africans because of his extreme intelligence. The moment I knew Kolawole’s age, I went silent for a while and thought about my life because he had just won $5,000 from the Indian Government.

 I was particularly angered that most of our talents are being taken care of by South Africa, which makes the country feel more superior to Nigeria. Kolawole is one of those ‘good things’ South Africa will boast of tomorrow as he represents them. Yet, he feels more Nigerian than anyone else. His move to South Africa, however, was a motivation to not fail. Now, he is leading a squad. 

I am very age conscious. How old are you?
I am 20

What have you been doing with your life?
I am the Chief Technology Officer of Funda. I am also a Senior Developer at Temo Consulting in Cape Town and I work with some companies to provide great solutions for their clients.

It is very interesting how passionate you are about technology modeling and you very well known in South Africa! How did you get to where you are today? What is the voodoo?
I give glory to God for the opportunity he has given me. I believe everything happening is only possible by his grace. It has been a lot of hard work and sleepless nights but I find so much strength to move forward in understanding where I am coming from and where I am going to.

Recently, you won IndiaAfrica Awards for Business Venture. Can you tell us about it? I mean, if you can give us details. And also tell us about other awards you’ve won!
The competition was created to help entrepreneurs creating solutions to address developmental challenges in Healthcare, Education, Energy, Agriculture and Water. My Team came 1st in Africa and 3rd Overall.

Our Project called Funda is an online program that aggregates educational resources using artificial intelligence for learners and educators.
Funda was recently recognized by the World Summit Youth Award as one of the most outstanding examples of creative and innovative e-Content, addressing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, Funda came second in a South African competition that aimed at reducing the student drop-out rate. Funda will be recognized at the SAB Foundation Innovation Awards in Johannesburg

Many young people in Nigeria know nothing about what they want in life. I mean, how do you think they can discover themselves?
Depending on what you want in life, discovering yourself can be tough because of what you think people might say. I think the first thing is to block the noise coming from everyone, look at your strengths and weaknesses and create your own life timeline.

For some time now, I thought that university education elevates man to the highest order. I mean, I still find it appalling that many graduates haven’t even invented themselves and have nothing to do. What is your take on this?

Inventing one’s self involves more of a personal desire to make an impact. It has more to do with will than skill. The certificate will not hide your incompetence for long if you don’t know what you are doing.I have never submitted my CV anywhere because of the nature of the technology sector, the projects I have done and word of mouth have spoken enough about what I am capable of doing.

Are you an emotional person?
Not really, Some experiences have taken away the soft side and with the goals I have set for my future, I believe being emotional will weigh me down.

Nigerian technology has a long way to go. The market is not that healthy as we find more people in the entertainment industry. How do you make yourself unique as a technology entrepreneur?

By doing a lot of research and working with the right people. Technology changes every time. As an Information Systems Engineer you need to follow the latest bogs and ask the right questions.

I may need to get personal with you. Are you in a relationship? If not, why? If yes, is it distracting?
No ….but there is someone.

I hate to ask people this, because it is very cliché. What advice do you have for young people who want to be like you?
Get up and keep pushing, no matter the situation, no matter how tough it gets. Always remember where you are coming from and where you are going to.

What is your take on the political system of Nigeria?
I am Neutral.

Do you see yourself as a youth activist? Just like others?
I see myself as someone who has been failed by the present system and I am putting everything I have to become a success and helping a lot of young people. In 10 years’ time, I want to look back and say we made it against all odds.

You’ve travelled to so many countries and you’ve met different Nigerians. You’ve met quite interesting people. Do you agree that Nigerians should co-exist in one nation?
Nigerians need to know what’s going on around the world and experience it. I personally learnt a lot from meeting people with different beliefs.

Who is your favorite Nigerian musician?
Asa… I think she sings for me.

How do you unwind?
Chilling with my closest friends at private parties and meeting people.

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