Afrinection's network is growing fast, with dozens of entrepreneurs, innovators and professionals signing up for a free profile every month. One of our cherished members is 35-year-old John Adams Smart from Nigeria, founder of African Identity Communication Company. The company offers an array of travel, tourism and ICT services. The reason he became an entrepreneur has roots in his teenage years. “I didn't like the fact that I had to depend on my family for my personal expenses,” he says. This drove him to sell and buy used electronics. The rest is history.
1) Why did you become an entrepreneur?
My journey began in high school. As a student, I didn't like that I had to rely on my family for my personal expenses, especially since the guidance came from my older brother and not my father. I had a friend who served his uncle in a male hair salon after class. I asked him to ask his uncle if he could take me on as an apprentice. He agreed! We also started to sell and buy electronics. Because my friend and I had so many friends, we decided to turn them into prospective customers by posting and distributing ''buy/sell used electronics' notes. That is when it started, resulting in the African Identity Communication Company (AICC).
2) What else are you doing with your life?
One thing I don't take for granted is learning, I am using most of my time developing strategies and learning new relevant skills. I am currently developing what I call the ''AICC vision 2020.'' Growing my business is key! I am striving towards achieving an enabling market for young people in a continent of which the vast majority of people are youths. To achieve that, I am currently working with a group of young Africans to launch a new forum to support the African Union Vision.
3) As a child, what did you want to become?
I grew up in a marginalized community that was deprived of access to education, social services, and anything else you can think of. SI always wanted to be a lawyer to advocate for my people.
4) What are the biggest opportunities in terms of achieving economic freedom for Africa?
A young continent means strength, and that is an opportunity as it means a huge pool of human resources and talent. In addition, we have an abundance of natural resources. The problem is that we are not adding value to our products. African cocoa is exported before it is turned into chocolate, then imported back to Africa. With that, we are exporting jobs and importing poverty. The biggest opportunity is to invest in ambitious, creative, young minds and adding value to our natural resources locally.
5) How can Africa’s challenges be overcome?
The problem is not that we are poor or that we lack skills, creative minds and resources. The most effective way to address Africa’s problems is for all stakeholders to start doing things the African way. You won’t attract tourists from the UK if everything in your country is a photocopy of the UK.
Finally, I encourage every young man and woman to go to school – not to train to become a future slave, but to develop applicable skills that can make a difference.
6) What must governments do to help Africa reach its full potential?
Governments should abstain from looking for countries elsewhere to magically solve our problems. They should make a law to prevent our over-dependence on foreign countries and they should move towards developing an African skills-based education system. Thirdly, they should make it easier for start-ups to emerge and sustain themselves.
7) In terms of entrepreneurs, who are you two biggest role models?
They are so many but since you said two: Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu and Njideka Harry. I look up to them because of their commitment to empowering entrepreneurs in Africa.
8) If you were Nigeria’s president for one day, what would you do first?
I would sign an executive order to mandate all educational establishments to switch to an African skills based system and another one to allow young people to register businesses and operate for a period of at least six months before they have to start paying tax.
9) Why did you join Afrinection?
Because I believe it is part of what we need. Platforms like Afrinection can bring together our continent’s most creative minds.
View our interview with John on YouTube!