The sod-turning ceremony of the Sahara Group School of Innovation and Extrapreneurship Building at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has opened a world of endless opportunities and global competitiveness for young Africans, Ejiro Gray, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group has said.
Speaking at the groundbreaking event on Friday, October 28, 2022, at the Faculty of Social Sciences Lecture Theatre, Gray said the leading energy and infrastructure conglomerate was delighted to collaborate with the University of Lagos to deliver a world-class facility that would inspire future generations of innovators and extrapreneurs.
She congratulated the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, FAS, Management, staff and students on the University’s 60th anniversary, applauding the institution for sustaining the tradition of excellence and actively promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.
Gray said the Sahara School of Innovation and Extrapreneurship would be open to young people desirous of making a difference and birthing solutions to future challenges today, with emphasis on areas such as the future of energy, entrepreneurship, data science, digital arts and culture, artificial intelligence and robotics, and fintech, among others.
“This project reinforces our commitment to giving back always and serves as one of Sahara Group’s contributions towards building a formidable legacy for sustainable development. For over 26 years, innovation and extraprenuership have driven Sahara’s growth across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. We are confident that working with the University of Lagos, a foremost institution of global repute, the school would deliver sustainable value for the benefit of Africa and the world at large,” she said.
According to Gray, a timeline of 24 months has been set for the completion of the project with clear sustainability indices in terms of seamless maintenance, inclusiveness, transparency, relevance and scalability of modules/inventions, access to strategic/financial advisory and collaboration for regional and global impact.
Gray also announced the launch of the Sahara Scholar Award aimed at “energising excellence” through rewards to university students with outstanding performance in select disciplines. The Sahara Scholar Award will commence from the University of Lagos as a pilot scheme, and progressively expand in scope across Africa.
According to her, “the project is targeted at producing Sahara Scholars that are MAD, that is: Making a Difference globally in their respective areas of endeavour”. “The unique thing about the first phase of the Sahara Scholar Award is that it is wholly funded by the Group Executive Directors of the Sahara Group as a way of giving back to the University of Lagos where most of them received their university education and some also had parents who taught at the university. The award will be N1 million yearly for each category, including provision for annual sponsorship of exchange programmes for lecturers within Africa,” she added.
Categories under the Sahara Scholar Award include: One-off prizes for 26 outstanding students to mark Sahara Group’s 26th anniversary, Temitope Shonubi prize for Best Improved Student in Architecture, Moroti Adedoyin-Adeyinka Prize for Best Graduating Student in Economics, Wale Ajibade Prize for Best Improved Student in Economics, Ade Odunsi Prize for Best Student in Finance , and Kola Adesina Prize for Best Graduating Student in Business Management.
Others are: Dr. Folashodun Shonubi Prize for Best Graduating Student in Mechanical Engineering, Zacchaeus Odunsi Prize for Best Entry Level Student in Civil Engineering, Mr. Adegoke Adeniji Prize for Best Graduating Student in Library and Information Science, Dr. John Falegan Prize for Best Graduating Student in Insurance and Actuarial Science, Asharami Prize for Best AI/Fintech invention and Sahara Group Prize for Best Entrepreneurial Dissertation in Architecture, Engineering, and Economics.
Commending Sahara Group for the projects, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, FAS stated it is particularly gladdening that the drivers of these projects are alumni of the University from different Faculties who have by their achievements, individually and jointly, demonstrated to the world the quality of UNILAG products. He noted that the School of Innovation and Extrapreneurship project hallmarks the repositioning of UNILAG as a “University of The Future”, a vision that has shaped its pursuits over the last five years and informs its 60th anniversary theme: UNILAG@60: Eyes on the Future.
His words, “We, at the University of Lagos are committed to building on our heritage of excellence to continue to produce graduates that are locally relevant and globally-competitive as the alumni before us today. We aim to instill in our students, more than ever, the culture of innovation, enterpreneurship and research, to an extent so impactful that they will become great ambassadors not only of University of Lagos as a research and innovation-driven institution but demonstrate to the world that Nigeria and indeed Africa are the places from which the future will arise. But as I know that foreigners will not come here to help us build a globally competitive University, Nigeria or Africa, the onus is on us to chisel and polish our community and this is what the University of Lagos and Sahara Group partnership is ser to do.”
He expressed the belief that the sod-turning ceremony would mark the official commencement of mutually beneficial collaborations between the University and Sahara Group.
Sahara’s Governance and Sustainability Directorate will collaborate with the University to drive the vision of the Sahara Group School of Innovation and Extrapreneurship and Sahara Scholar Award projects.