The Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya has stated that MTN remains committed to driving innovations at all levels. She made this statement at the Alliance for African Partnership [AAP] panel discussion at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
The conversation which was centred around Innovating Solutions to African Challenges, was attended by different stakeholders from all over the continent such as Professor Titulaire des Universités, Ahmadou Aly Mbaye; the Director, Ford Foundation, West Africa, Catherine Chinedum Aniagolu-Okoye and Director, Partnership and Communications, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Somachi Chris-Asoluka.
Speaking on the role of the private sector in facilitating transformative change, Odunayo states that the private sector is aware of its benefits, and more importantly its responsibility to drive innovation. She reinforces MTN’s belief that everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life, therefore lifting people and connecting them to their dreams.
She stressed the importance of creating inclusiveness at all levels, outside the classroom as we strive to solve these problems.
“We need to drive a bit more unstructured innovation. We need to drive innovation at all levels, not everyone will end up in the four walls of a university. And that one doesn’t get into a university doesn’t mean they cannot create innovation. I think we need to be able to target innovation at different levels.”
Beyond academia, Odunayo identifies the need to be able to transfer skills to the recipients of the scholarship that the Foundation facilitates, which is very important. She attest that the universities’ curriculum is a bit inadequate.
She said, “A lot of students pass through universities, without engaging in adequate research. Dissertations are usually not geared towards innovation, so they struggle by the time they come out of school. To address this, MTN Foundation collaborates with its ecosystem partners; Google, Microsoft, IBM, and recently Meta, to train beneficiaries of MTN Scholarships on the needed ICT and Business skills for the labour market. These graduates are also trained to be entrepreneurs enabling them to create jobs and wealth for themselves.” On entrepreneurship, Odunayo aslo noted that MTN has recently launched Y’ellopreneur which is a women-targeted funding and skill training program.
Odunayo maintains that other key roles of the private sector in driving innovations are in the areas of funding and influencing policies. MTN Foundation partners with The Bank Of Industry to give out loans at 2% interest to young university undergraduates, to help them through school. She points out that private sectors are policy influencers that birth policies that makes things easy for all the stakeholders contributing to the sustainability of innovation.
Founded by Michigan State University in 2006 in collaboration with African colleagues, the Alliance for African Partnership [AAP] is an Association of the MSU committed to working in equitable partnership to transform lives and address global challenges. Their priority areas include Agri-food systems, Water, energy and the environment, Culture, Youth empowerment, Education, Health and Nutrition.