We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation… John F Kennedy.
History was made on Saturday 26th January 2013 as Port Harcourt opened wide the gates of its city to new and ingenious ideas based on systemic innovations in the creative industries geared towards creating sustainable economic developments and sensitising the entrepreneurial minds of the young people of Rivers State.
According to Perez Tigidam, the Convener of the event, Open City conference was birthed as a platform to facilitate cross fertilization of ideas, an opportunity to discuss and create pathways for the transfer of knowledge, reflect on social innovations driving change around the world’s biggest cities, connect ideas seekers and local innovators from communities and cities across Africa to gather, share and learn from each others on a wide range of issues ranging from economic development, governance, youth employment challenges and solutions, technology, urban growth and social inclusion, small and medium enterprise development, innovative policies and programmes, harnessing effective partnerships etc.
The conference, which is arguably the first of its kind in Nigeria, attracted the attention of global leaders and speakers in the areas of entrepreneurship, effective government policies, the powers of new media, entertainment, employment and empowerment, mentorship development and youth empowerment and development.
The speakers include; Obiageli Ezekwesili, former vice president, World Bank Africa. Tonye Cole, C.E.O Sahara Energy. Nike Ogunlesi, C.E.O Ruff n Tumble Limited. Ibim Semenitari, Hon commissioner for information and communications, Rivers State. Dabesaki Ikemenjima, post graduate researcher, University of East Angelia. Audu Maikori, C.E.O Chocolate city music. Ronke Kosoko, C.E.O Employment clinic. Mina Ogbanga, award winning development activist and Belema Papamie, principal consultant Belema Papamie & Co.
Topics discussed at the conference stemmed from the immediate needs of the city of Port Harcourt. Mr Tonye Cole centred on voices as an important element of change. He stressed that you become who you are, based on the kind of voices you identify and relate with. The kind of voices you are drawn to will ultimately give you direction and guidance. In his words, “Your voice must have an impact in people and the city, and this impact must lead to transformation.” He also identified the power of vision, passion and integrity as an important instrument of change. For your vision to materialise, you need the combination of wisdom and hard work.
Obiageli Ezekwesili spoke extensively on “The urgency of now.” She challenged that the status quo in which we operate is increasingly inimical to success and national development, she encouraged us to act with the urgency of now to change the present status quo to a better and sustainable one so that today’s generation can create a nation of enlightenment and abundant prosperity for the benefit of posterity. The kind of nation we clamour for will not come unless we change today’s Nigeria that tramples on the economic and political rights of Nigerians.
She explained that democracy will not be complete until citizens fully participate in the political atmosphere where their opinions are considered because there is no way we can move forward without a receptive political atmosphere. Good governance is the foundation of any prosperous country. The urgency of now insists that we must make demands from the government and know the intricacies of our democracy. The urgency of now insists that we must understand and know the demands of public policy; we must also be dexterous on the analysis of public policies based on in-depth analysis. The urgency of now also demands that we understand the benefits of global policies in the global environment in which we find ourselves. Global policies give us the ability to see things from a global perspective so that our nation will move with the existing trends in technologies and value adding innovations.
One of the salient issues deliberated in the conference is the effective use of social media. The mobile phone is a liberating tool as well as an educating tool; we must understand the huge powers of this platform and put them to good use. These powers give us the ability to make constructive contributions to nation building. The information we acquire through social media also serves as the power we have to check and correct the ills in the society. This knowledge gives us the pedestal to make effective advancements.
We also need collaboration to succeed in nation building because we will never succeed in isolation. This spirit of collaboration gives us immense powers of problem solving. Every problem we encounter on the way to reclaiming our nation need multitalented people with multitalented ideas in different fields of human endeavour to solve them
The conference also drives home the sense of hard work in nation building. One of the greatest reasons we are stagnated in our country is because previous generations have been complacent in the idea of nation building, they were interested in consuming rather than producing, we must redefine the dignity of our nation through labour. Hard work must refine our choices, through it we can be whatsoever we want to be, it gives us the ability to sacrifice who we are for whom we must become. Now, the big question is “what choices do we make?” we must make transformative and costly choices that will break the pattern of complacency that our previous generation have created, this will help us define the paths which we must follow.
Open City conference created an avenue for us to be fully aware of the entrepreneurial powers that lays deep inside of us that is still untapped. It also created a deep understanding of the threat we face in our country if we fail to embrace modern innovations and strategies and position ourselves in the path of sustainable development.
The conference encouraged free flow of information between speakers and participants. Questions were asked and answers adequately provided. The discussion sessions allowed discussants to have conversations with the participants and provide insights and solutions to the many problems associated with policy framework, governance and the future city, the creative industry and the cities of the future, modelling and mentoring as a solution, creative industries & the cities of the future, values reorientation, and sustainable youth employment and employability strategy .
Open City conference which will be hosted in cities, communities and campuses around Africa will develop content and context of every event based on the specific needs, aspirations and challenges of the host environment. This is to ensure that we move beyond the excitement of putting together a talk shop to driving local solutions, connecting local people to global leaders, trends and innovation.
Written by @richardchilee