By Manny Ita
“The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”- Bob Marley
These wise words of reggae legend Bob Marley succinctly captures the life and essence of quintessential icon of inspiration and hope, HRH Queen mother Amina Temitope Labinjo-Ajayi.
A woman of immense influence, and if you like great affluence, her unbridled integrity and unrelenting passion to affect humanity positively have been consistent parameters in her life’s endeavors which have in no small measure defined her unparalleled success and greatness.
Temitope is a yoruba name given by parents to express gratitude to things or circumstances that might have surrounded the birth of a child, and so it is clear to see that even her parents had a premonition of the fact that Temitope was going to become an illuminating and liberating factor, not just for her immediate family but for her country and the world at large; which is exactly what she is today.
A trained Accountant by profession, Queen mother Temitope Ajayi actually wanted to be a computer scientist but sadly her father would not have her tow that line. Nevertheless, after stumbling onto Information Technology at the age of 60, becoming savvy in AI (artificial intelligence), block chain, cloud, software, hardware, data, etc., she has become a powerful reference point in the global silicon valley; a feat tremendously intimidating and inspiring.
HGH Queen mother Ajayi was fortunate to become a member of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, where every powerful company from Apple to Google, Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel and so on hold a membership. Silicon Valley exports 100 billion dollars yearly on IT, and exports 52 billion dollars’ worth of Agricultural produce.
Given her experience as a minority CEO in Silicon Valley, where scores of other nationals of the white stock were taking advantage of, it broke her heart that she hardly saw anyone with her color therein, but Indians and Asians with just 1.0 per cent of Africans in Silicon Valley even though many Nigerians were employees of multi-billion dollar companies. This saddened her, much as it challenged her.
Subsequently, Ajayi launched the Silicon Valley-Nigeria Economic Development Inc. (SV-NED Inc.), a company established to reinforce a strategic bilateral economic relationship between Silicon Valley and Nigeria, creating opportunities for Nigeria and tech companies in Nigeria to do business with companies abroad, especially in the information Technology, Agricultural and Financial Services sectors. SV-NED Inc. is dedicated to creating a bridge between Technology Hub in Silicon Valley – San Jose CA, and Nigeria, serving as an Incubator for Entrepreneurs and Startups.
Taking a cue from Silicon Valley in the US, Ajayi introduced what is called the Eco System in Nigeria’s Silicon Valley; where multi-billionaires investors, some anonymous, would rather invest in intellectual properties instead of putting their money in the banks, making billions in intellectual properties or human capital, with the Startups who are eager to do something but don’t have the capital. These entrepreneurs are packed into an ‘incubator’ where their ideas are evaluated before being moved to the ‘accelerators’.
“By that time, we know they can do something and so we invite the venture capital (VC), do a one-pager for them, and have their apps or software sold for up to millions of dollars.” She says.
“Whenever I see young Nigerians, I see potential millionaires and billionaires but nobody has introduced the Eco system to them yet. There is no rocket science to it; it is business. If somebody invests in you, puts you in his incubator where you produce an app, you have to do your part and share the proceeds. We call that equity contribution.”
“India, which is well known for their movie industry, today lives on data, Information Technology. Nobody talks about oil and gas like before, everybody talks about IT, which is where the money is now and anybody that invests in that, will have made a good business move, especially with the kind of resources and intellectual properties we have in Nigeria.”
“I’m introducing this ecosystem to my leaders, and people are responding positively. Somebody has said he will sponsor 65 graduates in his own incubator. I want Nigerians to snap out of the mentality of getting things for free”.
“In my own little way, I have been able to achieve a lot because I was in a meeting with some of the CEOs in Silicon Valley when one of them said, ‘’Queen mother, they call you Mama Diaspora, we saw how passionate you are, so we in SV will act as a shadow behind you to bless those children”.
With her company here in Nigeria she hopes to harness the potentials of young men and women, and take Africa to the margin markets.
Her immersion programme is billed to set this in perspective.
According to her, “We have 5 Ivy League universities on board namely; Harvard University, Stanford University, New York University (NYU), San Francisco University and Morgan University where people go to for short courses and get certified but not everyone can afford to go there, my children in Nigeria can’t afford the costs”.
“Now, this is an opportunity for them to have these professors come to Nigeria, what they are teaching them today in America will be taught here too”.
“The second advantage is that IBM, Cisco, Oracle and some others have already agreed to come. All we need are start-ups and graduates that are ready. I have to commend this present administration, the team of President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo for their effort so far. I met with the Special Adviser on Innovation and Technology and we had a discussion, where I told them how proud I was about what they have achieved so far, I am just here to take it to the next level which will help generate revenue from IT, the kind of revenue that is being made from oil”.
She has identified some potential start-ups in the country to begin with, one of which is the Yaba Silicon Valley and the Civic Innovation Centre in Lagos.
“When our resource persons come, we will have a one-week intensive immersion programme in Abuja and Lagos, and an exam will follow thereafter. 30 of the most brilliant young adults will be picked with the possibility of them getting an internship, while the others will be put in incubators”. She says.
“Out of the 30 picked, 5 will be those with disabilities who have shown us that being handicapped is not a barrier. Another 5 of the slots will go to women who I am also passionate about”.
Decrying the situation where China has over 1500 incubators while the whole of Africa has about 500, with Nigeria having only 30, Ajayi intends to change the statistic, working and hoping that in a no-distant time there will be over 1000 in the country.
In 2015, Ajayi was made an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Information Management, The Institute of Information Management (IIM) is a professional membership driven Institute, developed to serve the growing community of Data, Information, Records, Document and Archives Management professionals who are tasked with managing the dynamic information life cycle within the enterprise. It is the goal of the institute to provide members with objective insights and guidance on their career path and technology options.
For Temitope Ajayi, Fame and fortune are just illusions, with a string of achievements and awards under her hat. What matters more to her is how these are translated for the benefit of humanity. And given the zeal and energy she dissipates into this cause, there doesn’t seem to be a slowing down for this amiable, humble, kind and enterprising woman of excellence.
A member of the SV Capital Club and SV Black Chamber of Commerce, Ajayi has received so many honorary citizens’ awards by several states in America, and holds the keys to many cities in America, representing the states of Arkansas and Maryland as Goodwill Ambassador. She is also the Honorable Chair at the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W), an approved US non-profit organization that believes in all women and youth and their right to create new opportunities for themselves and their communities.
Temitope Ajayi was the former President of All Nigerian-American Congress (ANAC). Her efforts and continued advocacy on the Nigerian Diaspora issues have earned her in the media the moniker “Mama Diaspora”.
She believes establishing the commission for Nigerians in the Diaspora will attract some of the most coveted multi-national investors to Nigeria within a very short time, saying the commission will serve as an eye-opener to those who have been waiting on the wings to see if they can come into the country and invest.
“It is going to allay all the fears that successful Nigerian and foreign investors have been nursing over the years and open the doors to a flurry of opportunity for Nigerians. By so doing, development that has been eluding Nigeria will come with jet speed if the Government will allow us in Diaspora to pilot the affairs of the commission un-inhibited”.
Other achievements of HRH Queen mother Temitope Ajayi:
In 2014, Ajayi served as a distinguished delegate at the National Conference in Abuja, Nigeria representing the National Council of Women’s Society.
Ajayi is the Chairman and CEO of Nigerian-American Agricultural Empowerment program (NAAEP Ltd.), and NCF Investment Inc.,
Ajayi’s political career included her service as the Special Assistant & Advisor to the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria.
Ajayi has achieved 25+years of experience as an International Business Speaker at IMF and World Bank Annual Meeting.
HRH Ajayi is well known for promoting women empowerment and poverty eradication in Africa through Agri-business. She is committed to her dream of exposing underprivileged families to farming, in order to combat unemployment and to eliminate poverty under United Nation Millennium Development Goals – Food Security Poverty Eradication.
“I have dedicated 25 years of my life to this mission, and would not trade the fulfillment I derives from empowering Nigerian farmers for anything in the world.” She avers.
A most patriotic Nigerian, Ajayi has been at the forefront of championing a good and healthy image for the country.
In her capacity as the then President of ANAC, Temitope Ajayi mobilized a Nigerian leadership coalition to challenge the false imagery of Nigerians in America as criminals, a documentary forecasted on CNN titled: How To Rob A Bank? After several dialogues, CNN representative apologized to the Nigerian Community for such false imagery of Nigerians in the United States.
The philanthropic gestures of Temitope Ajayi started when she established a Fashion/Technical school for underprivileged students in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1980-1985.
In building cultural capacity and diversity, Temitope Ajayi held the First Nigerian Valentine Dinner Party. Which, in addition to breaking bread and fraternizing with fellow Nigerians, students ranging from 12 to 25 years old received educational achievement and community service awards from several government officials.
The Congresswoman Barbara Lee,Mayor of Oakland- Jerry Brown, State Senator Don Perata, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, and several others, made these awards available to all the recipients.
HRH Queen mother Ajayi has been championing and advocating for One Million Goodluck Housing Programme for the Diasporas in collaboration with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria under the DIASPORA Housing Loans Scheme.
She is currently working assiduously, selling the idea of Nigerians in the diaspora and businesses alike to take advantage of the Eko Atlantic city, bringing worthy investments to the zone.
With the recent passing of the Bill establishing the Diaspora Commission, Ajayi called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint credible individuals from the diaspora into the commission to ensure its success.
Queen mother Ajayi is a recipient of several high-profile international honors and awards. For her service to African communities in the US, Ajayi was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award issued by President George W. Bush, which is a national prize under the patronage of the President of the United States recognizing voluntary engagement.
HRH Temitope Ajayi is the recipients of several high-profile international honors and awards: For her service to African communities in the US, Ajayi was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award issued by President George W. Bush, which is a national prize under the patronage of the President of the United States recognizing voluntary engagement.
In 2013, Governor Mike Beebe conferred Honorary Citizenship of Arkansas State on Temitope Ajayi alongside few other prominent Nigerians including Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group; Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State; Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In 2014, Queen mother Temitope Ajayi was honored alongside Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, H.E. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria’s Finance Minister) and many others by the Global Connection for Women (GC4W) in its 2014 International Women’s Day Awards Gala at the Harvard Club of New York.
Temitope Ajayi was among the few Nigerians selected as part of Nigeria’s Success Stories in the Private Sector in Agriculture by the Corporate Council on Africa and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She received a Congressional award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee for her role. She was appointed the Goodwill Ambassador for the state of Arkansas and Maryland by the Governor and Mayor respectively. Ajayi also received “the key to the city” of Dyersville, Iowa, USA from the Mayor of the city, James Heavens, who also presented a proclamation affirming that every 16 July will be celebrated as “Nigerian Friendship Day”.
During the 2006 G8 United Nations World Summit, Temitope Ajayi, was invited by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nation to serve as an advisor on Global and Pan-African Women issues. She received a Certificate of Commendation from the Board of Supervisors, Alameda County, California – USA.
Also, HRH Queen mother Ajayi received a “Woman of Distinction” Award given by the Foreign Investment Network with Global Trusted Alliances. The editor, Chido Nwangwu of US Africa Class Magazine named HRH Temitope Ajayi the “Mother of the Year”, and Ebenezer Olayiwola of Events Worldwide Magazine named Ajayi as one of the most influential Nigerians in the United States.