Hey guys, Do you know that opportunities no longer come once in a life time? Yes! There are opportunities all around you. It’s Mercy Omoregie on BeInspired Show. So today on the show we have the Co-founder of Mudia Project. Mudia project is a social enterprise that focuses on young Africans, providing them with career advancing opportunities. Please join me welcome Mr Dennis Erickson to BeInspired Show.
*Tell us more about you and The Mudia Project?
Mudia Project is found on the idea that any body can actually change the world and do something great if given the opportunity. You find that most Africans have this belief that the way to change the world is only through western worlds that have these opportunities and there is nothing here for you, so you can have a great idea and there will be no way to ever express it. Or you are looking for skills and there is no way to learn it because you are in a remote area or something out of the way.
“You can’t affect everybody’s life, but the goal is to affect as many persons as possible”.
I started Mudia project pretty much because I was trap into it. I was at the office and a girl worked into the office and was like “hey, I need a job”. And I’m like, ok… Do you have a CV? And she said no. Then I’m like, ok, what job are you looking for, what can you do? And she gave me the great Nigeria answer; “Anything! I can do anything”. For a moment I was like let me try and do something, I asked if she had some time, then we fixed a date for another meeting. This was in March 2016. On the set day, I went to the venue and sat there, and she came.
Then I said, ok, sure, let’s help her. I helped her with writing her CV, took like a week or two, I got her a job and that was supposed to be that. Then she came to the office with two friends and said, “hey… these are my friends, they need jobs”. And I’m like Haa.. Sure, we’re going to do this again. Then I helped her out. And I felt now it’s definitely over. No, it wasn’t over. I really hate these guys for what they did to me because those guys brought seven people over the course of a month and then here I was, finding people jobs for two straight months rewriting CVs and every other thing.
People think it’s hard to get a job, No. It’s hard to get jobs that pay you 100 thousand, 200, 250 thousand, those jobs are hard to come by especially when it’s entry level. But the problem is that most people that are looking for jobs say they don’t get jobs because they are not jobs that they want.
So, Mudia Hub started as a recruitment agency in 2016, but it has gone way pass that since then. Now, though it is pretty much the same thing, jobs were one opportunity, now there is more. Look at the world now, you will notice something, jobs that are coming by are weird. They are not jobs they teach you to prepare for in school.
Especially when in most Africa nation, they are teaching people long division in secondary schools and China is teaching programming in elementary school. We are being left behind drastically. So what do you do? You find the next best thing.
There are 600 million young people between the ages of 0-25 in Africa and about 400 million of them are unemployed. It’s ridiculous. To be fair, a large number of them are too young to be employed but the thing is to show that as much as they are unemployed people, 65% of the jobs in the next eleven years don’t even exist yet. That’s either something threatening or it’s an opportunity to do better.
So the goal is to find those jobs that don’t exist yet, and train people for those jobs. Because the future is this big bowl of opportunities but you have to get people prepared for it.
*I understand there are similar platforms like this, what makes Mudia Project stands out?
There are many similar platforms that do elements of what we do. There are several opportunity data basis, there are several job site, there are several hubs actually. But the difference is that, I don’t post every opportunity. I post something that an Africa can apply for. If an Africa cannot apply for something, I’m not going to post it. Sure, I post opportunities that both Africans and Europeans can apply for, but if it has no connection with an African, I’m not posting it.
And then when it comes to job, I am not so much focused on secretary wanted jobs, or just generic management jobs and the rest. If it has no string in creativity or creative media, I’m not interested in it. I have a specific kind of audience and I tailored the opportunities to them. For the parts of hub space, take Andela for example, that trains people, it’s programming, because that’s like the key thing now, but what happens to creativity?
Do you know that there are debunking softwares that write code? Like if you are debunking a software, it corrects your code, it rewrite code and then, there is WordPress and other platforms that help you build website. It’s ironic that they pretty much does half of the work of a developer. So the job of the developer is slowly being dwindled. What are now the skills? What are the truly major skills that is needed for the future? it’s not programming. Programming is going to be replaced by the computers because codes will write codes eventually. So I find that training people for something that will eventually become antiquated is unnecessary. What can never be antiquated is something that has been in humanity since our birth.
Creativity, creative, logical and strategic thinking, you cannot replace that in the job market. If you are going to build a robot, somebody has to build the robot, somebody has to think about how the robot will move, how it will work, how it will look, and think. Creativity can never be replaced.
*As an entrepreneur and in the tech industry, what has been the challenge so far and how have you been able to overcome?
I will say there are different kinds of challenges I’ve faced. Locally, I decided to do this in Benin for some strange reason. I find that Benin people are very creative people, and we don’t have the problem of over industrialization of Lagos or Abuja, so there are more raw material in Benin to train. But the issue is that when you train them without a proper structure, they leave. So we have the situation where we are grooming many people to help build the community back and they are going out. For most people, once they get to certain level, the target is not to be here, the target is to go to Lagos or Abuja and get that very sweet job. The Government is helping in Benin with certain kind of projects but it’s not exactly enough. However, in the end, it’s going to be better eventually. And as always, the problem with any Startup is electricity and funding.
There was a situation where there was no light in Benin for about a week and the Governor of Edo State has to go to social media to post that there is no light. That’s the problem we have. So how can a Startup work properly if there is no electricity supply and we are spending so much money on getting alternative energy. It doesn’t work. If we can solve just that, I believe like half of the businesses in Nigeria will thrive more.
*Where do you see Mudia hub in the next four, five years from now?
It’s a tricky question actually because where we are now is not where I saw us two years ago, when I was asked this question in 2017. Last year, we were given an astonishing award by the Africa Union, and I was actually shocked. I applied, but did not entirely expected it. Over 2000 plus people in different education innovation applied and they choose us as one of the top 50th education innovations. Not just because of what we are already doing, but because of the plans we have. We had plans to do virtual reality class rooms. Imagine this for instance, you are a parent, you fly around with your kids, but you don’t want them to miss a day of school. What do you do? Imagine if you could have an online class, not just for children, an online class that you not only are seeing what is happening, you are hearing it and are pretty much in the classroom. This also applies for online trainings. And that’s one of the big projects we are working on. I’m a big dreamer, and I’m already working on it. It’s something we are going to do in the next three to four years. But if we get funding, we can do it by next year. And if I can take care of that, I will take care of the next project.
*Who are some of the persons that inspires you to do what you do?
My mentors are people I’ve never met in my life like Elon Musk, he’s an absolute insane person. I look at him and I wonder why somebody would launch a car in space because he can. Elon Musk is doing things like mining for Diamond in Space. And building a space hotel. People that think that insane inspires me. But on a normal local scene, I cannot say who is inspiring me now but I can say who has inspired me. When I initially came back to Nigeria after my Masters, I got a job at Mobicure, I worked with Dr Charles Akhimien for about two years of my life. Dr Charles was this very weird person. I came to Nigeria and went to Lagos at first, there was way too much energy happening and I felt I couldn’t deal with everything and was leaving. Then I came to Benin and it was too slow. Then I came across Charles, I had known him before I traveled. By the time I got to his office, I saw different kind of people in Benin. They were creative, they were young, they were energetic and they wanted to do things. And I was like, ok, let’s just stick around and over the years, watching the way he did things inspired me to say that it is possible to do more. He was the reason why I decided to stick around.
*Maybe we should know more about your upbringing?
Ok, I did my Bachelor’s in Covenant University.
*So you are one of the Big Men’s children?
Yeah.. We were big men children. It’s how we started anyway. It was actually my step dad that paid for my education. I got to final year, and he was like, “You know what I have tried, Thank you”. And I was like ok,… “That’s how they leave people, no problem, it’s fine”. I had to find a way to somehow pay for Covenant University School fees myself in final year, when I hadn’t work before in my life. Somehow we pulled it off. I don’t still know how I pulled it off today. I sold laptops, sold tablets, I was going to computer village and coming back. I found a way.
Then I left school, I went to visit a friend in Kotonu. There was this exam for a possible scholarship outside, my friend told me about it. And I said, ” Sure, let’s just go.” I wrote the exam and I got a partial scholarship. And I’m like, ok, this is a thing that can happen to people.
Sadly, I actually had come across my biological dad at the time, and the man was going to pay the remaining because it was a partial scholarship. Then the man opt and died. So that was very annoying. And I once again find a way to save up. I learnt video editing, graphic design, web design, learnt programming, I learnt it all. Because somehow, someway, this thing had to be paid. Because I’m not throwing away such an opportunity.
I can’t even see myself that I started in one dirt hole place and the rest. No. I’m not inspired because I suffered all my life, I’m inspired because I’m one of those people that had this growth, then came across a little bit of hardship drastically, suddenly. And realized that excuses are just excuses. What Bill Gate says always gets to me. “It’s not your fault if you are born poor, it’s your fault if you die that way”. I’m trying my best to show people, not only by providing them opportunities, I actually help them apply it. Showing people that it’s possible to do more regardless of your circumstances. Whether you started well or bad, or somewhere in the middle.
*What special things do you do that makes you stand out?
There is this thing our parents tells us when we were children that were suppose to be something that annoys people, but it always got to me; “Obama doesn’t have two heads” I strongly believe that if I decides that something can happen, I will make it happen, somehow, someway. Think about it, whatever you are trying to achieve, somebody has done it right. I don’t care if the person was born with 5million dollars, somebody did it. So that means it is possible.
*How would you advice an upcoming entrepreneur?
First of all think about whether you are actually an entrepreneur. It’s a thing that Nigeria forces you into. Most people in Nigeria are entrepreneurs for survival. Because Bosses are horrible, they couldn’t take it anymore, so they decide to become an entrepreneur. Or they were looking for money so they decided to become an entrepreneur. But most people, if given the opportunity to have a comfortable desk jobs, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs.
So, think about it long and hard whether you are even meant to be one, before you decide to dive into it.
*I think you can actually learn to be one.
You can. But should you have to when it’s not your design? Take learning skills for instance, people think that you should learn skills so that you can be your own Boss. No, you can learn skills to be a better employee. The CEO of Uber is an employee, and he is a multimillion. It’s a thing that happens. You can be extremely wealthy as an employee. The only way to success isn’t by being an entrepreneur, you can be an investor, and still have a job. I don’t believe everybody should just jump into Entrepreneurship because it sounds fun. This road is not fun. If you are doing it well, it’s stressful. You don’t sleep well at night, you are thinking about weird things all the time. People are calling you, clients are impossible. This is a thing that you have to know it’s a calling before you dive into it.
Freelance/Side hustle is not entrepreneurship. You can have a job and be doing something on the side, that is not entrepreneurship. People call it entrepreneurship. Side hustle is not entrepreneurship. I like to be very specific about these things. An entrepreneur doesn’t have any safety net. Safety net is gone. If this thing doesn’t walk out, you are down and out for the count.
Woow ohh… It’s being an awesome time with Mr Dennis Ericson, Founder of Mudia Project. So much light, so much exposure. I am inspired! I hope you are too. It’s Mercy Omoregie on BeInspired Show. See you next week Monday.
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