unctad.org | Building youth creativity through skills - a Nigerian gamechanger
Building youth creativity through skills - a Nigerian gamechanger
25 March 2019
Damilare Ogunleye from Nigeria, e-commerce platform entrepreneur

Young Nigerian entrepreneur Damilare Ogunleye believes if entrepreneurs want to succeed in a highly competitive world, they not only need to recognize the need or the problem to address, but also how the message can be reinforced through effective branding of the product or service.

Under the slogan “Create Awesomeness”, Damilare set up the company Suvenia, which designs and sells customized and personalized items like t-shirts, mugs, hoodies and hats.

It aims to become a leader in the sub-Saharan African market. But his passion for communication and marketing pushed him to go beyond offering online and off-line customized items.

I felt the need to become more engaged in local communities and in turn, inspire people by boosting their creativity,” he said, emphasizing that initially he didn’t have a clue about on how to go about taking this next step.

That all became clearer to him in November 2017 when he joined the first group of e-founders on the UNCTAD and the Alibaba Business School eFounders Fellowship programme, offered to young online entrepreneurs from developing countries.

Damilare Ogunleye

The mind-blowing experience of visiting Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, and seeing how an eCommerce ecosystem can positively impact an economy, helped him realize there was a lack of effective skill-building among young people.

He identified the right opportunity to become a game-changer and, together with his team, expanded their business concept to social entrepreneurship.

They launched the DesignForCommerce initiative that helps bridge the knowledge gap between would be entrepreneurs and the digital economy. They now run workshops, summer camps and events for youth, delivering skill-based education.

As a champion for the new economy, I wanted to create a smart technology platform where people can design products at the speed of their thought, while effectively developing their career paths,” he said.

For Damilare and his team, it was the beginning of a quest to expand their ecosystem while making a difference.

Damilare Ogunleye

I had a good understanding of what business is about, but I think that seeing it through a new lens – as a tool for changing the country and subsequently empowering people – was quite new for me,” Damilare said.

Through this initiative, Damilare showcases how a start-up and social entrepreneurship can successfully go together and how they can address an important challenge such as skills development for the youth.

New technologies will change the landscape of the job market.

By helping graphic designers, photographers, content writers, entertainers and many others, learn new business marketing and branding skills creates added value that leads to competitiveness and job creation – this is the main goal of Damilare’s initiative.


eFounders Fellowship Programme

UNCTAD’s smart partnership with the Alibaba Business School aims to bridge the digital divide in Africa and Asia and empower young e-founders in developing countries to become champions for the new economy.

The partnership is the brainchild of UNCTAD Secretary-General Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi and Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, who served as a special advisor to UNCTAD on young entrepreneurs and small business.


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