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Promoting entrepreneurship through social media

This article by Olawale Ojo, Nigeria, was published on CTA's ICT Update magazine of February 2013 (n.70) (download the full magazine)Olawale Isaiah Ojo uses the social media to inform the youth about agricultural entrepreneurship. Followers have asked questions, made enquiries on how to start up agribusinesses, where and how they can gather the needed training for themselves to specialize in one aspect or the other.In April 2011, I noticed that young people were generating a lot of traffic on the social networks, but often they really were not doing anything particularly beneficial for themselves or their environment. So I decided to use this medium to reach out to young people in my country Nigeria by helping them to learn about the opportunities that would open up for them if they were to pursue careers in agriculture. Specifically, I wanted to encourage them to the entrepreneurial side of agriculture, i.e. see agriculture as a business.AgropreneurI therefore set up a social media outlet for my enterprise. This involved opening a Facebook group and blog ( www.agropreneurnaija.blogspot.com) for these young people where they could hold discussions among themselves, access information and share experiences. I then went a step further and opened a Twitter account ( www.twitter.com/agropreneur9ja) to draw information from other organisations and attract young visitors to my group, blog and other websites that provide them with important information and guidance.Internet services in Nigeria are expensive, so I enjoy using my Blackberry to do research on the web, especially the RSS feeds I have subscribed to. I identify materials that are useful to me and my organisation, and then use my USB dongle or visit an internet cafe to share this information using my PC. I monitor many research bodies, institutes, corporate bodies and those in the private sector who have information about my niche market, agribusiness. These organisations include CGIAR, CTA, FAO, IFAD, FARA and YPARD and a host of others.I subscribe to their newsletters, follow them on Twitter, like their pages on Facebook, read policy briefs and download publications. After gathering all this information I filter it and choose the information that fits my audience. It is important that I do this because there is a lot of information and there are many opportunities out there. It is essential that I provide credible and reliable information.I am always particular about learning from others, so I have found it helpful to engage my audience. This has really proved fruitful in my use of Twitter as it serves as a feedback mechanism. Followers have asked questions, made enquiries on how to start up agribusinesses, where and how they can gather the needed training for themselves to specialise in a specific aspect or other.My experience from my participation in the GCARD2, as a social reporter, impressed on my mind how important and far-reaching social media can be in promoting awareness, inclusion and capacity building. The things I learnt proved helpful thereafter as I used social media to publicise the ‘Cool to farm’ workshop series, which is one of my organisation’s initiatives. There were also live tweets which enabled those not present in person to enjoy the event’s proceedings.HootsuiteI have found social media tools especially helpful. They enable me to schedule my posts. I use HootSuite to put up posts both on Twitter and Facebook. Thus I prepare information for posting way in advance on my PC when there is no internet service and then schedule it for posting at times when I would not be available. It saves me time and money.There are lots of constraints to using ICT and social media in Nigeria, including power, poor infrastructure by the communication provider and the cost too. However, it also brings with it many opportunities to get young people thinking about how they can come up with solutions for the agri-sector without totally depending on the government.By and large – aside from opening up opportunities and information for me – my use of social media has helped me to have a realistic view of the development that ICT use can bring to the agricultural sector. Transformation can only occur once young people, who are open-minded, curious and quick to adapt to change, have access to ICT and social media.I have very keen interest in young people in rural areas, and one of the challenges that comes along with this is the fact that they do not have access to the internet like young people in the city. So I look forward to a future where young people can have e-centres where they can use the internet. A future where young people remain in rural areas to run productive farms and still return home to their internet enabled mobile phones and tablets to check up on updates and information related to their area of expertise. A future where ICT use has made agriculture trendy and cool. This is one essential way to stop the rural–urban migration trend that is keeping so many rural young people away from agriculture and therefore also agribusiness.