Washington — This article is part of a series on delegates to the April 26-27 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship.
Omowale Ogunrinde, executive director of the Foundation for Skills Development, headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, is looking forward to attending the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship April 26-27 in Washington, not just as an observer, but as a significant participant who will be able to network and bring key skills and knowledge back home to improve the lives of people in her country.
Ogunrinde spoke to America.gov April 20 before leaving for the summit as one of three delegates from Nigeria. She is one of 23 African delegates (including 11 women) from 10 African nations who will attend the event.
Speaking from Nigeria, , she said: "I am happy that I am part of the program and am actually looking forward to bringing back something tangible to my country. I hope that it will go past the state of just being an observer so that we will be able to establish partnerships" and meaningful business relationships.
At the foundation, Ogunrinde helps train unemployed youth, adults and the handicapped so they can participate in the economy. The foundation aims to empower 5,000 people annually with the skills for self-employment. Ogunrinde also is an entrepreneur. In addition to her duties at the center, she serves as executive director for Tropical Naturals Nigeria Ltd., a cosmetic product manufacturing company; director of Main Street Technologies Nigeria; and director of Esther Lawrence Ventures Ltd., a trading business. She also has written educational literature for children.
Ogunrinde views the summit as a "learning process," and said she hopes to network with those who might be able to help finance small and medium-sized businesses in Nigeria.
There are two factors crucial to doing business successfully, she said: skills and finance. "If you have the finance and you don't have the skills, you are not going to be able to go very far. But when you have the skills, which you acquire through education, then you will be able to develop your business, grow it and apply those skills to ensure that you have a good outcome."
The problem in Nigeria, she said, is that too often "the skills are not there. The education is not there so a lot of industries depend on foreign technical experts brought in from outside of the country, and that makes businesses very expensive to run here." With the right training, she said, local residents could be qualified to serve in many more types of jobs, thus making doing business in Nigeria cheaper for foreign companies. More business means greater economic development and better lives for everyone, she said.
Development has been slow in Nigeria, she said, because most people are locked in low-income, unskilled jobs. There is a great need for technical education, she said, and she will be particularly interested in that topic at the summit.
She described how the Foundation for Skills Development has made a difference: "There was a woman who came to us who used to be a housewife. After three months of training, she got capital from her husband and succeeded in setting up [a restaurant] that now employs 35 people."
Another woman, she said, now runs two businesses in Port Harcourt, thanks to the training she received at the foundation. The foundation teaches business management skills and vocations such as fashion design, furniture crafting, electrical and electronics engineering, computer engineering, hairdressing and cosmetology, and basic handicrafts manufacture.
Ogunrinde said entrepreneurs are vital because "small and medium-sized businesses are actually the engines that run an economy."
With training as an entrepreneur, she said, a person can provide a better life for others. There is a significant multiplier effect, especially for women. A person trained at her foundation, she said, can have a positive effect on the lives of five other people.
Ogunrinde said: "A woman who is busy as an entrepreneur brings a balance to the home. Most women in our environment are homemakers ... but from what we have seen, when women become gainfully occupied, then there is a [positive] difference in the family environment. So women are actually very important to economic development."
Entrepreneurs from around the world will be attending the summit, along with a host of American entrepreneurs, business executives and top U.S. government officials.
Confirmed participants are coming from Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Finland, France, The Gambia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, Paraguay, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States and Yemen.