Dumebi Agbakoba has a dream that one day all young people in Africa, irrespective of age and physical ability, will be given an opportunity to succeed in life. Through her organization, Do Sumthing Positive Africa (DSPA), she’s on her way to realizing that dream. Dumebi founded DSPA in response to the abject poverty of resources and prospects she witnessed in her native Nigeria. Her motto? Stop complaining, DO SUMTHING! She tells Clutch what she’s doing, and what we can do, to help our peers in Africa.
Q: Why did you decide to start Do Sumthing and how did you set about doing it?
DSPA started three years ago because I felt there wasn’t enough opportunity for disadvantaged youths, and youths in general, in Nigeria and across Africa, especially after they graduate. It started small. We hosted a charity ball and a charity Christmas party/fundraiser to create awareness of the project and also to give back to society to help raise funds to provide water supply at the Disabled Charity home in Nigeria.
Q: What’s the purpose of the organization?
It seeks to provide a forum where Africans, especially the youth, can come up with a plan of action for solving the pressing problems of the continent such as poverty, lack of efficient infrastructure, inefficiency in various sectors. With a united voice, we want to become a source of positive motivation to African governments to address our concerns, and take steps in the right direction.
Q: What kind of things have you done since you started and how has this impacted on the lives of those in Africa?
We’ve created an awareness of the plight of the physically-challenged in the media and drawn attention to the need for jobs for the physically-challenged. Recently, a bill to cover disabled persons was passed and implemented in Sokoto, a state in Nigeria but it hasn’t been implemented in Lagos, which has a much higher population. There’s a need for such a law in Lagos–healthcare, education and subsidized accommodation should be made available to the physically-challenged and this is what we’re trying to achieve.
Q: Why have you decided to concentrate on youth?
I believe that many young people across Africa are brilliant and very talented. Many have tried and struggled to make a living for themselves and others who are talented don’t have the means to achieve their dreams so they turn to crime and drugs. The DSPA team is made up of young, motivated and very talented people between the ages of 24 to 30. We believe that everyone should be given a fair chance and should be supported to be successful. At DSPA, we host talent competitions and charity events to draw in talented youth in academia or arts.
Q: Tell me about yourself and your upbringing?
Both my parents are lawyers, but my mother also owns a real estate company in Lagos. My father is the Nigerian Bar Association President, a senior advocate and human rights lawyer. I’m very blessed and lucky to have him because he is my main source of inspiration and the driving force behind me, which enables me run DSPA.
Q: What other things are you involved in?
I started a clothing line called Dakou Clothing, www.dakoucollection.com, two years ago and I’m also studying marketing at the university. The Dakou ready-to-wear collection is trendy, fashionable and chic for the everyday woman, from one-off pieces to ready-to-wear garments. Dakou also creates pieces for the voluptuous woman to celebrate their curves and feel good about themselves.
Q: How do you balance your work at Do Sumthing with all the other things you do?
Sometimes it’s very difficult and a lot of hardwork but as a team we work together for the DSPA Project so I get some free time to focus on Dakou and my course. I found what works for me is jotting things down and thanks to technology, I’m armed and ready with my Blackberry.
Q: What inspires you to do what you do?
In Nigeria, you witness a lot of things and get to see the way people live and behave. When I see beggars and little children on the roadside, hungry and helpless, begging for food, that moves me to do more with the DSPA project.
Q: Where would you like you and the organization to be in five years time?
I’d like to set up a Youth Centre for Arts for people aged between 15 and 25, to develop their talents in dance, fashion, culinary arts etc. I’d also like DSPA to set up shelters for the homeless equipped with showers, kitchen etc. at a subsided rate. DSPA will be an internationally recognized NGO for youth.
Q: What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date and why?
Making my parents proud, following my dreams and ambitions by reaching out to people and giving back to society through humanitarian work.
Q: How can young people of African descent help to build the continent?
By being honest and hardworking. We need leaders who are hardworking, can reach out to the people, and are just, driven by the people and have the country’s best interests at heart. Youth form a vibrant part of any society. Their input is vital and an integral part of any country’s economy. But this is not always the case in a country like Nigeria where young people feel disappointed and have lost hope due to a failed system. The effect of leaders on youth is vital–if they do the right thing, naturally the youth will follow suit. The mentality of corruption and stealing needs to be addressed. These days all we see are people trying to make fast money. To make a change, the right orientation needs to be in place. Service to humanity should be addressed; creating a good health care system, a good education system, good roads. Limitations or barriers don’t exist in the child’s mind and it can be the same for youth if they live in a disciplined and organized environment where education and careers are made widely available to them.
For more information on the Do Sumthing Positive Africa (DSPA) visit www.dosumthing.org.