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Author: SONadmin

Redeeming Public Goods

ORGANISATION: The Redeemed Christian Church of God

STATE: Lagos

SECTOR: Education, Infrastructure

There are some wonderful self-organizing structures and entities in Nigeria that has contributed to the national development of the country, amongst them is the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is a pentecostal megachurch and denomination founded in Lagos, Nigeria. The General overseer (most senior pastor) is Enoch Adeboye, ordained in 1981. The church in Lagos has an average church attendance of 100,000.

The RCCG was founded in 1952 by Rev. Josiah Olufemi Akindayomi (1909–1980) following his involvement in other churches. Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a mathematics lecturer at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, was one of the interpreters translating Akindayomi’s sermons from Yoruba to English. He was ordained a pastor of the church in 1975, and his appointment as the leader (General overseer) of the church was formalized by the posthumous reading of Akindayomi’s sealed pronouncement.

Andrew Rice, writing in The New York Times, calls the RCCG “one of [Africa’s] most vigorously expansionary religious movements, a homegrown Pentecostal denomination that is crusading to become a global faith”. The church’s leaders preach that in the future, “in every household there will be at least one member of Redeemed Christian Church of God in the whole world.”

Redeemed Church Role in Business

It should be said that apart from being a place of religious worship. The church has used its influence to create value in society despite not having government help. The redemption camp, the church ground is powered by a mini power station. According to the Nation Newspaper, “It started as a small place on the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway about 35 years ago. The Redemption Camp’s growth now has the reputation of being the largest Christian estate in the world. Sitting on 1,687 hectares of land, the community of Christians has different exciting places in it that can make it function as a local government in Nigeria. With beautiful edifices springing up weekly, Redemption Camp has over 15 residential estates with over 7000 houses, a mega amusement park known as Emmanuel park, a post office, events centres, a television studio (Dove Television) and two radio studios (RCCG Radio and Liveway Radio)”.Apart from this, it has become a major incubation hub for businesses. 

The Nation Newspaper further stated of “the Christ Redeemer’s Ministries, the arm of the Redeemed Christian Church of God that is saddled with the responsibility of running and managing businesses in the camp. Their operations have brought about the proliferation of banks, the establishment of chalets and lodges and shopping complexes. Other businesses in the camp include CRM Press, Redemption Water, CRM Bakery, CRM Supermarket, various restaurants and stores owned by members of the church. All of these businesses are powered off-grid.” Having started from using different generators, power supply evolved into the use of a 25-megawatt power plant using gas turbines. The Federal Government restraints the camp from supplying electricity to communities around it. Camp residents pay for the electricity supply through the prepaid metering system, which is highly subsidised by the mission.

Just imagine if the Federal government agrees, Redeem church can adequately supply power to communities around Mowe and Ibafo.

The Role of the Redeemed Church in the Covid-19 fight

The church through its university – Redeemer’s University in Ede, Osun State, Nigeria (RUN) – has become a centre of excellence in the fight against Covid. Before the pandemic, there have been many interventions in the health care sector and the Redeemed Church had donated to many cancer treatments and screening centres across the country.

The Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) lab at Redeemer’s University (founded by the Redeemed Church) and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) were the first institutions in Nigeria to sequence the genome of the SARSCOV2 virus. This contributed to public knowledge regarding spread and strains. The Redeemed Church is another example of a self-reliant institution making positive societal change.

A Beacon of Knowledge

ORGANISATION: Afe Babalola University

STATE: Ekiti State

SECTOR: Education

Afe Babalola University (ABUAD) is a private university located in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. It was founded by a lawyer and philanthropist, Afe Babalola, in 2009. Afe Babalola University offers academic programs in six Colleges: Sciences, Law, Engineering, Social and Management Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Postgraduate Studies. The Engineering College, built on three and half acres of land and equipped with sophisticated state-of-the-art equipment from Europe and the Americas, is reputed to be one of the largest in Africa. The college was inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The university has one main campus which is located in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. The campus is situated in the hilly part of town directly opposite the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti. The campuses houses 5 undergraduate colleges, a post graduate school, conference halls, a teaching hospital for medical students, student and staff accommodation, sporting facility and other auxiliary services such as cafeteria for staff and students, a laundry, a bakery and a water processing plant.

Afe Babalola University holds a reputation for being one of the few Nigerian universities to begin academic work in the campus permanent site. However, due to the requirement by the National University Commission that the school must possess a functioning teaching hospital, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Nigerian Federal Government to make use of the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Ido-Ekiti, Ekiti State as its teaching hospital for a period of ten years beginning from October 2014. But four years later, in 2018, the Afe Babalola Teaching Hospital was established and it has helped in reducing medical tourism in Ekiti State.

The Afe Babalola Multi Systems Hospital (AMSH)

Located in Ado-Ekiti the capital of Ekiti state, AMSH is a 400-bed teaching hospital affiliated to Afe Babalola University, one of Nigeria’s foremost private tertiary educational institutions. The hospital was established in 2018 to serve as a centre of excellence in health care delivery and education, as well as bridge the critical gap in health care investment in the country. Its establishment was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a loan of $40million (N14.6billion), the first non-sovereign (non-government) loan by the continental bank in Nigeria.

PharmAccess Foundation, an international non-profit organization committed to improving access to quality health care, is supporting Afe Babalola University Multi-System Hospital to implement the internationally accredited SafeCare Standards. SafeCare holistic methodology empowers health providers to continuously monitor and improve service delivery through innovations that promote transparency and benchmarks quality. Some of the specialty departments include accident and emergency (A&E), surgery, internal medicine, paediatrics, obstretrics and gynaecology, community medicine, physiotherapy and dentistry among others. These departments provide day to day inpatient and outpatient care to clients, as well as opportunity for hands-on learning for medical students of Afe Babalola University.

The medical diagnostic centre is top quality. Managed by Abbot Laboratory, the centre is equipped with CT, MRI, X-Ray and Ultrasound scanners. The centre performs examinations such as fluoroscopy, bone densitometer, bronchoscopy, gastroscopy, echocardiography, Arthroscopy, endoscopy and colonoscopy among others. The cardiac centre, managed by Tristate Healthcare system have conducted over 50 heart surgeries for all age groups.

According to Professor Kamar Adeleke, the Chief Executive Officer of Tristate, the cardiac centre “have performed both open-heart and closed-heart surgeries, and for different categories of patients. We have a modular theatre with all the required equipment. It’s a whole package.” The cardiac centre also has two mobile dialysis machines to support patients with both cardiac and kidney complications. The hospital’s kidney centre is another trademark of quality. It is installed with 16 new dialysis machines to support its operation. AMSH has a helipad for evacuation of patients to and from the hospital by helicopters if the need arises. To ensure comfort of both patients and their relatives, the hospital has an in house 50-room hotel for patients’ relatives to stay while the patients are receiving treatment, and for patients to recuperate fully after being discharged before going home.

You will see that Afe Babalola University has used its own resources to bridge the gap in education and welfare. It has also done a lot in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and has helped to bolster confidence in the Nigerian healthcare system with investment and scrutiny that would have been lost if government was providing the same services.

Edge of Chaos by Dambisa Moyo

Why Democracy is Failing To Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix it

A generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world is once again on the edge of chaos. Demonstrations have broken out from Belgium to Brazil led by angry citizens demanding a greater say in their political and economic future, better education, healthcare and living standards. The bottom line of this outrage is the same; people are demanding their governments do more to improve their lives faster, something which policymakers are unable to deliver under conditions of anaemic growth. Rising income inequality and a stagnant economy are threats to both the developed and the developing world, and leaders can no longer afford to ignore this gathering storm.

In Edge of Chaos, Dambisa Moyo sets out the new political and economic challenges facing the world, and the specific, radical solutions needed to resolve these issues and reignite global growth. Dambisa enumerates the four headwinds of demographics, inequality, commodity scarcity and technological innovation that are driving social and economic unrest, and argues for a fundamental retooling of democratic capitalism to address current problems and deliver better outcomes in the future. In the twenty-first century, a crisis in one country can quickly become our own, and fragile economies produce a fragile international community. Edge of Chaos is a warning for advanced and emerging nations alike: we must reverse the dramatic erosion in growth, or face the consequences of a fragmented and unstable global future.

Social Innovation In Africa – A practical guide for scaling impact


Expand/Collapse Synopsis

Encouraged by the emergence and early impact of social innovators on the African Continent, but frustrated by the slow pace of large scale change, this book is focused on filling the knowledge gap for those tackling Africa’s serious social problems.

It lays out the required building blocks for achieving scale at impact. By creating clear mission, vision, and values statements and piloting and rolling out business models that are demand-driven, simple, and low-cost, with compelling measurement and evaluation tools that leverage technology. It also explores the steps for attracting and retaining talent and financing and forming strategic partnerships with the private, public and non-profit sectors to foster scaling. Practical case studies provide inspiration for those who seek to become innovators or to be employed by them.

Finally, it outlines the crucial steps for key stakeholders to take in order to support the emergence of more social innovators on the African continent, create an enabling environment for the scaling of high-impact initiatives and advance collective efforts to build stronger communities for current and future generations.

This is a practical and inspirational guide for all entrepreneurs and individuals that seek to combine business and social goals and for those in the public, private and non-profit sectors that aim to foster and support these projects.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Antifragile is a standalone book in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s landmark Incerto series, an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand. The other books in the series are Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, Skin in the Game, and The Bed of Procrustes.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls “antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish. 

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. In Antifragile, Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better.

Furthermore, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call “efficient” not efficient at all? Why do government responses and social policies protect the strong and hurt the weak? Why should you write your resignation letter before even starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives? The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine. And throughout, in addition to the street wisdom of Fat Tony of Brooklyn, the voices and recipes of ancient wisdom, from Roman, Greek, Semitic, and medieval sources, are loud and clear.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world.

Erudite, witty, and iconoclastic, Taleb’s message is revolutionary: The antifragile, and only the antifragile, will make it.

Praise for Antifragile

“Ambitious and thought-provoking . . . highly entertaining.”The Economist

“A bold book explaining how and why we should embrace uncertainty, randomness, and error . . . It may just change our lives.”Newsweek

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth.

In fact, poverty levels continue to escalate and growth rates have steadily declined—and millions continue to suffer. Provocatively drawing a sharp contrast between African countries that have rejected the aid route and prospered and others that have become aid-dependent and seen poverty increase, Moyo illuminates the way in which overreliance on aid has trapped developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid.

Debunking the current model of international aid, Moyo offers a bold new road map for financing development of the world’s poorest countries that guarantees economic growth and a significant decline in poverty—without reliance on foreign aid or aid-related assistance.

Dead Aid is an unsettling yet optimistic work, a powerful challenge to the assumptions and arguments that support a profoundly misguided development policy in Africa. And it is a clarion call to a new, more hopeful vision of how to address the desperate poverty that plagues millions.

The Great Leveler Summary – Walter Scheidel

What’s in it for me? Learn why democracy and capitalism have been inefficient in eliminating inequality.

The Great Leveler Summary  – The overriding thought – in the West at least – is that democracy and capitalism have improved the lives of modern citizens. Democracy, in principle, promotes fairness and equality among the members of a society, and capitalism has extended the ownership of property beyond the rich and the noble.

This article suggests that the historical evidence points to the contrary: the rise of capitalism and democracy have failed to solve the problem of inequality. The author provides a plethora of examples from different societies and time periods from around the world to illustrate how terrible events and disasters have actually played a bigger role in dealing with inequality.

By going through the historical efforts by governments to curb inequality – and their consequent outcomes – you’ll be better informed as to how you can help in today’s fight to build a more equal world.

In this article you’ll find out:

  • how certain ancient societies were socially structured;
  • when and where the first visible signs of inequality occurred; and
  • one of the worst places you could live.

A better quality of life gave rise to inequality, before technological advancements made it worse.

The ice age was a difficult period for humanity. When it finally ended, you’d expect that our lives would’ve gotten better. Yet, while in some ways they did, not all the changes that came with the improved climate were positive.

As the last ice age came to an end some 11,700 years ago, we entered a period of climate stability known as the Holocene. During this time, humans who had settled in Middle East began cultivating the land and producing food, eventually resulting in a surplus. This marked the start of disequalization, as some began to accumulate larger areas of land and more food resources while employing others to work on their property. The structure of society was beginning to take shape.

In contrast to earlier hunter-gatherer societies in which power was spread equally and horizontally, the new society that emerged during the Holocene was structured hierarchically, with stark differences between rich and poor. Evidence for this discrepancy comes from archeological remains dating back 11,000 years, showing for the first time large differences in household sizes. In addition, the fish bones found in the perimeter of the larger households indicate that these people were eating large fish, whereas in the smaller houses, small fish were the norm.

In addition to the increased quality of life, technological improvements also impacted societies for the worse. Not even smaller tribal communities could escape inequality. During the period AD 500-700, the Chumash tribe – who lived on the Californian coast – developed a new type of canoe that increased the number of fishermen journeying out into the deep sea to catch fish. In no time, men, who controlled and managed the canoes, rose to dominate the tribe. Males secured control over tribal land, religious ceremonies and the war-making. As gratitude for their safety, other members of the tribe offered the male chiefs key trade items such as food and shells.

As you can see, inequality has been around for a long time – brought about by increased quality of life as well as technological advancements. In the next blink, we’ll see what continued to drive this divide.

In the beginning, land ownership was egalitarian, but in certain circles property soon became concentrated.

Today we hear plenty of talk about the one percent of the population controlling the majority of the money available in the world, but that wasn’t always the case……..

Food Entrepreneurs in Africa Scaling Resilient Agriculture Businesses

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the agriculture and food sector in Africa, which is projected to exceed a trillion dollars by 2030. This book is the first practical primer to equip and support entrepreneurs in Africa through the process of starting and growing successful and resilient agriculture and food businesses that will transform the continent. Through the use of case studies and practical guidance, the book reveals how entrepreneurs can leverage technology and innovation to leapfrog and adapt to climate change, ensuring that Africa can feed itself and even the world. The book will:

  • Inspire aspiring entrepreneurs to start and grow resilient and successful businesses in the agriculture and food landscapes.
  • Equip aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs with practical knowledge, skills, and tools to navigate the complex agriculture and food ecosystems and develop and grow high-impact and profitable businesses.
  • Enable aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs to develop scalable business models, attract and retain talent, leverage innovation and technology, raise financing, build strong brands, shape their ecosystem, and infuse resilience into every aspect of their operations.

The book is for aspiring and emerging agribusiness entrepreneurs across Africa and agribusiness students globally. It will also inspire policymakers, researchers, development partners, and investors to create an enabling and supportive environment for African entrepreneurs to thrive.

Table of Contents

Foreword (Dr. Lawrence Haddad)


1. Overview of the Food & Agriculture Sector in Africa

2. Developing a Compelling & Sustainable Business Mode

3. Talent for Scaling

4. Leveraging Innovation & Technology to Leapfrog

5. Building your Brand & Amplifying your Impact

6. Financing Growth

7. Shaping your Ecosystem

8. Building Resilience




Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is a social innovator and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience. She is the cofounder of Sahel Consulting and AACE Foods, as well as the founder of LEAP Africa and Nourishing Africa. A graduate of the Wharton School and Harvard Business School, she serves on the boards of the African Philanthropy Forum, AGRA, Godrej Consumer Products, Nigerian Breweries, and the Rockefeller Foundation.


Africa’s demographic dynamics are rightly cited as one of the megatrends which will shape the Continent’s path and trajectory. Ndidi’s book throws that much needed focus on what that means for Africa’s agriculture, farmers and entrepreneurs. No one could have done it better. Ndidi brings to the fore the critical importance of African ownership and the centrality of those responsible for over three quarters of what Africa consumes: the local entrepreneur. Ndidi’s life long-commitment and rigorous study of the issues pertinent is all evident in this timely publication.
Dr. Donald Kaberuka7th President African Development Bank

Food Entrepreneurs in Africa is a unique book that sets forth the requirements to be a successful African change maker at each level of the vertical food chain from seed to the kitchen table. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli emphasizes that change makers be more creative in responding to the health, economic, and environmental needs of both producers and consumers. To my knowledge, I know of no other book that has done this for Africa. This book will be useful to entrepreneurs, public policy makers, educators, and to all those who want to improve this much needed and too  long neglected important part of the global food system.
Professor Ray GoldbergEmeritus George M. Moffett, Professor of Agriculture and Business, Harvard Business School

This book, through the voices of active entrepreneurs, distills the building blocks necessary to fortify courage for the brave few who will dare to rise to the challenge of feeding Africa, and the world. Through eight chapters, readers are carried along on a journey of discovery; parsing the challenges, motivations and value proposition for embarking on agribusiness entrepreneurship. This should be the first reference material for anyone, in the public or private sector, willing to contribute to Africa’s prosperity in agribusiness. I am proud to recommend this book to governments, entrepreneurs and students of agribusiness. Mrs. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli continues to demonstrate her leadership in fostering agriculture transformation in Africa.
Dr. Debisi ArabaManaging Director, African Green Revolution, Forum (AGRF)

Food Entrepreneurs in Africa is a must-read for anyone who cares about building a more inclusive, fair and sustainable world, both within food and agriculture and beyond. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is an exceptional entrepreneur and story-teller. She offers a rare combination of hard won, on-the-ground practical experience, intellectual and analytical rigor and a deep-seated passion and personal commitment for driving transformational change. She knows first-hand how difficult it is to implement, let alone scale new financing and business models, new technologies and new mindsets – both at the firm-level and more systemically. She also understands the enormous positive potential when such change can be achieved. This book is both a practical guide for action and how to overcome obstacles as well as an inspiring vision and reflection on what is possible.
Jane NelsonDirector of the Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

Ndidi Nwuneli describes extensively in this book the need for scalable entrepreneurship in the agri-food industry in Africa. This is critical to make Africa self-supporting in its own food-production and more independent regarding food import and aid programs. By developing knowledge and experience, Africa can become more resilient with respect to the adverse climate impact, natural disasters like locusts or infection diseases. This book is very welcomed and enhances the entrepreneurial spirit in Africa.
Feike SijbesmaHonorary Chairman Royal DSM, Africa Improved Foods, Global Climate Adaptation Centers

How this book is organised

So Nigeria is the self-organising nation … but how is this book organised?

Consistent with our theme of Nigeria as the self-organising nation, this book is self-organising (the self-organising book about self-organising) and our approach has been designed to allow Nigerians to tell their own stories.

Chapter 1 set up the central self-organizing thesis.

And if you are reading this sentence, then you are reading our website to create the book. We are inviting you to submit stories about self-organising from your own experience. The submissions are meant to create a rich tapestry of self-organizing Nigeria that we can share with all Nigerians.

The guidelines and template for submission can be found here. (‘Tell Us Your Story’)

Then the subsequent chapters will be organised around different types of self-organisation. As discussed above, Nigerians self-organize in every sphere. But our focus at the moment is on collecting stories where the self-organizing impulse works in areas often provided by the central authority in other countries. So at the moment, we are planning chapters on:

  • Security and safety of citizens (examples include policing of public areas like streets, courts, judiciary)
  •  Infrastructure that is a public good (examples include roads, bridge, port, power)
  • Education (example includes schools, universities, madrassas)
  • Healthcare institutions (examples include primary healthcare, maternal care, acute care, Emergency response, mental health etc.)
  • Water, sanitation, refuse collection
  • Protection in time of need (examples include if unemployed, too old to work, disabled, mentally ill)

Of course, we are open to other stories of the self-organizing impulse, and the final book will likely include many other chapters and we welcome being surprised with the range and impact of the self-organizing impulse.

So please click on the links and start contributing. We will assemble all the contributions in each sector in a coherent way and publish the results as a complete book – a book entirely due to the self-organising capabilities of Nigerians

God Bless Nigeria.

Teaching teachers

ORGANISATION: 1 Million Teachers

STATE: Africa, Canada

SECTOR: Education

Victims of Their Own Success

A Nigerian proverb says, “The same sun that melts wax is also capable of hardening clay”. This saying illustrates the idea that a liability can also be an asset – it all depends on your situation. For Hakeem Subair (MMIE’17), the runaway popularity of his fledgling social enterprise has given the organization many quick wins. However, his team faces a challenge in keeping up with the demands and expectations of its early adopters while scaling for future growth.

1 Million Teachers (1MT) was founded by Subair and his wife Olajumoke after the pair were exposed to the ineffective teaching and financial constraints in their home country’s education system. To help address these challenges, 1MT provides low cost, competency-based, online and in-person professional development for teachers in Nigeria and an increasing number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The aim is to supplement the theoretical training most teachers receive in university with the skills they need to be effective educators. The organization is primarily based in Canada with some customer support and business development personnel on the ground in Africa.

Since its launch, 1MT has benefitted from significant interest and support in Canada and in the growing list of African countries who are partnered with or wish to partner with the organisation. 1MT has been successful in attracting significant partnerships and grant money. Its pilot offerings are well subscribed with over 4,000 participants.

Demand for new course content by 1MT’s existing participants is so high, in fact, Subair’s small organization is having difficulty keeping its high performing clients engaged and busy while engaging the new inflows of participants. This is presenting challenges for 1MT’s content production team and causing Subair to re-evaluate his approach so he can resolve this bottleneck. Difficult decisions are needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization and its important work.

On the Road to 1 Million

It was 2008 when Hakeem and Olajumoke Subair were having challenges finding a suitable school or daycare for their daughter Nadrah. Their problem was not unique. Nigeria and its neighbours suffer from a chronic shortage of teachers. A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) projection shows the Sub-Saharan region of Africa – including Nigeria – will be short 17 million teachers by 2030.[i] This shortage of teachers is coupled with a growing Nigerian unemployment rate above 23 percent,[ii] and a relatively young population which is overburdening the already strained education system. Nearly two thirds of Nigeria’s 191 million residents are under the age of 24.[iii] Part of the reason for this undersupply of teachers is low wages. Most public sector Nigerian teachers earn, on average, the equivalent of $100 Canadian dollars per month, affecting the country’s ability to train and retain quality teachers.

“Beyond the poor salaries, some of the teachers go anywhere between one month to two years – 24 months – without receiving a paycheck from their government employers in Nigeria,” added Subair. “In the private sector, while average salaries are slightly lower, their salaries are paid more regularly.”

Coupled with the pay issues, Nigerian teachers are generally not well equipped for the classroom. Though teachers must possess a bachelor’s degree, a national certificate in education and, in some cases, a grade 2 teacher’s certificate, these programs do not necessarily teach proper pedagogy, classroom management, or other best practices in learning.

The Subair family’s solution to their problem was to start their own school – Tiny Tots, Osogbo. The school quickly developed a reputation as one of the best in its area and, a few years later, Tiny Tots was no longer looking so tiny with 198 students attending the school. The Subairs even briefly operated a junior high school following demand from parents.

Buildling on this experience, Hakeem got involved in a project called “Opon Imo” launched by the government of Osun State in Nigeria. The project aimed to provide digital access to all relevant textbooks for senior secondary school students in public schools. The learnings from this project proved valuable when it came time to launch 1MT – for instance, Hakeem noted the effectiveness of gamification techniques, the need for highly engaging and visual content, and the importance of delivering courses to user’s existing devices.

“I made up my mind that if I was going to be involved in the education space in Nigeria…I was going to do it in a different way,” he said.

Teach Me

The Nigerian education system was overburdened, underfunded, and there was a lack of reliable, quality teaching. Hakeem Subair told Global Citizen Magazine[iv] that he would often need to schedule three teachers, two of them as backups, to take on a class at Tiny Tots, Osogbo. Even with one of the best schools in the region, inevitably some teachers would either not show up or would resign without notice during the school year.

Subair’s initial idea to address these challenges was to bypass the teachers. His organization would provide low cost online or app-based courses to Nigerian students directly, curating videos to supplement their regular classroom curriculum. However, Subair eventually came to a realization: why not work with the teachers to improve the classroom experience instead of setting up his own virtual school?

As he explored the issue further, Subair realized what other educational stakeholders in Nigeria and around the world had concluded – improving the quality of education in Nigeria had to start with improving the quality of teaching. “Priority should be given to the area with the biggest return on investment, which is teacher development,” he said. This is what led to the founding of 1 Million Teachers. Driving 1MT’s philosophy are three components, or what Subair calls his “triple challenge”: attracting new teachers; training both existing and new teachers; and keeping them engaged and motivated to continue to learn whilst improving their performance.

Hakeem Subair and his team worked diligently to recruit a group of teachers – through his personal connections from his time at Tiny Tots, Osogbo, some media coverage, social media, support from various partners, and word of mouth – to run a pilot for the initial launch of 1MT. The team was successful in attracting 200 signups in the summer of 2017, and several schools paid to enrol their teachers two months before any courses were available.

Let’s Get to Work

Most of 1MT’s ideation, research, and other pre-operational activities started in the fall of 2016 at the Smith School of Business. The project became the final master’s project work for Hakeem, and two other MMIE students – Afreen Khan (MMIE’17), who joined the project in November 2016, and Rizma Butt (MMIE’17) who joined in January 2017.

A few months after Subair’s presentation at The Breakout Project[v] in May of 2017, 1MT began to publish its first batch of courses on its website. The courses were titled The Heart of a Teacher, Teachers as Leaders in a Changing World, Introduction to Critical Thinking, and Class Management.

What had taken the team months to create was finally ready for its grand debut. And the teachers were eager to take the courses – “Within a few hours after we published the Heart of a Teacher, most of the participants had completed the course and were already badgering us about when the next course would be published,” said Subair. “I was getting several messages through WhatsApp by participants every day.”

These teachers wanted the training, and those all-important Black Belts.[vi] They were engaged and motivated – just what Subair and the Nigerian education experts said was needed. And yet, based on the plan he had laid out, 1MT would need 60 courses with 400 modules available so teachers could certify as First Dan Black Belts – a far cry from the four courses they were rolling out that fall. “Based on our program design, we estimated that it would take between nine to 12 months for participants to achieve First Dan Black Belt from the online component of the program,” he added. Yet the team would need another eight months of work to roll out just four new courses.

Between the time needed to create courses and the resourcing issues, there was no clear path for 1MT to keep creating content, stay ahead of their client base, and stay financially solvent.

“We had amassed a substantial following since our presentation at The Breakout Project,” Subair said. “We were on TV, newspapers, radio, and social media – if we failed, our shame would be very public indeed.”

In the time since fall of 2017, 1MT’s course development process has become significantly faster. As of summer 2019, they have launched 175 modules and are working towards having 400 modules available by the end of calendar 2019. Additionally, Subair and representatives from Queen’s Faculty of Education spent time on ground in Nigeria in August 2019 with 25 top performing participants and assigning mentors to help them reach the end of their programming.

Bringing a Course to Life

The problem for 1MT was not a lack of content, but how they were delivering it.
In addition to text, the 1MT team uses a combination of graphics and recorded audio files to create the course content. As its trainees primarily used cell phones to access the courses, and the cost of high-speed data availability is prohibitive on a Nigerian teacher’s salary, the team did not employ video.

“We continue to monitor data costs and plan phased introduction of videos to supplement the materials so we can compare user experiences,” Subair says. “For now, the learners are pretty happy with the format.”

This process and 1MT’s approach to course creation was decided through consultation with numerous instructional designers who volunteered with 1MT through The Breakout Project. These experts recommended a highly visual course delivery to maximize student engagement, and suggested using animations, links, quizzes, and infographics to help retain learner’s attention. It also incorporated the best practices Subair observed during his time in Osun State. This process is also informed by the unique situations of each country[vii] 1MT operates in. During the pilot phase, they document any relevant local observations and findings, make adjustments as needed, and identify early champions who are equipped to provide technical support and early leadership. 

To begin creating a course, the instructional designer – based in Canada – assembles up the course’s written content. This designer then provides the written content and detailed notes to a graphic designer. The graphic designer creates a PowerPoint template and source images to support the content. The instructional designers work collaboratively with a subject matter expert to address questions and fine tune the end product. Once the course is ready, it is signed off by the instructional designer and released to 1MT’s learning portal, which is called iSpring.

Once the course is released to iSpring, participants can begin taking it right away. The student logs into the learning management system via the 1MT website or app, picks the module they wish to complete, and listens to a narration accompanied by PowerPoint slides. After considering a multitude of platform combinations, 1MT eventually settled on simple tools such as PowerPoint due to its ease of use (both for the team and the participants), flexibility, and low cost. All courses contain a quiz, reflection questions, and final assessments at the conclusion. Participants may take as many attempts as they need to complete the courses but passing requires a grade of 90 per cent or higher. The participants can also participate in online discussions around the content they have viewed.

Following the submission of the written content to the designers, Subair said developing each one-hour course can take approximately 270 hours of work at a cost of roughly USD6,000 – though he notes the team is becoming much more efficient as they gain more experience designing courses. Seventy per cent of those 270 hours is spent on graphic design.

If I Had a Million Dollars

The Breakout Project in 2017 resulted in 19 million volunteer hours being donated to 1MT. Presenting at the conference resulted in media coverage and connections with Kingston-area education experts who became donors, volunteers, and advisors. A significant breakthrough came when Subair was introduced to Dr. Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, through a connection made at The Breakout Project. Dean Luce-Kapler committed her Faculty to providing significant in-kind contributions to support the program framework development, course sequencing, and content development along with other volunteering. The Faculty of Education also offered to deliver educational bootcamps as rewards for Black Belt teachers.[viii] Importantly, this relationship has helped to establish credibility for the then-new organization.

In addition to these in-kind and volunteer supporters, the 1MT team currently consists of eight employees in addition to five unpaid founding team members. The majority are based in Kingston and Toronto, with customer support personnel operating out of Nigeria and Uganda. These employees are drawn from among some of the most promising teachers in the program. 1MT additionally works with affiliates focused on business development in the other countries where it has a presence or is looking to grow its presence. 1MT operates as a social enterprise and is registered as a corporation in Canada. It is separately registered in the 13 African countries where it is active, and Subair noted that they register mainly as a not-for-profit, or in some cases as limited liability corporations, depending on what best supports their operations in that country.

Their approach is dictated by local norms and laws and a desire to keep overhead low. Subair says his aim is to keep the organization as lean as possible, with 90 per cent of funding focused on programming. Financially, the organization has grown rapidly since the Subairs’ initial vision in 2016. In the later half of 2017, 1MT spent USD36,900 developing content and a learning management system. It generated a small surplus of USD4,630 on the backs of a mixed assortment of government grants, prizes and donations, loans from the Subair’s family and friends, seed funding, and USD6,346 in course related revenue. The organization received significant non-cash contributions such as content from partners like Queen’s University.

Most of 2018 was spent developing courses as well as documenting use cases and testimonials for marketing purposes. Subair sought ‘quick wins’ in the form of partnerships and agreements with African governments and agencies, and he leveraged the resources of Canadian High Commissions in Africa through the offices of Canada’s various Trade Commissioners to open doors for 1 Million Teachers. 2018 saw a significant increase in both expenses and revenue, as 1MT began investing more heavily in content creation and business development. Expenses for the year topped USD111,000, with USD45,000 spent developing courses, USD28,000 to support the learning management system, and USD22,000 for business development.

Inflows for 2018 came in a few hundred dollars ahead of expenses. The largest sources of revenue in 2018 included government grants, a one-year sponsorship by Sterling Bank Plc of Nigeria, and additional support from friends and family. Course revenue more than doubled year-over-year to USD14,735. So far in 2019, the organisation has engaged the Government of Rwanda on a pilot program to train 10,000 teachers, recruited prominent board members to help its future growth, and worked on pathways for its Black Belts to enroll in graduate education at the Queen’s Faculty of Education. The organisation is on track to increase its subscription revenue, yet its business development and content development expenses continue to outpace the money it is earning from courses.
To keep 1MT afloat since its initial founding, the Subair family has thus far contributed USD29,000 of their personal funds. Friends and family have contributed another USD105,000 since 2017, including USD75,000 in 2019.

The Triple Challenge
With healthy demand for its courses and corresponding increasing programming costs, 1 Million Teachers faces a triple challenge of its own. Its product is highly popular and costly to produce, but its target market has few resources of its own and its social enterprise model is predicated on wide access. 1MT’s approach to content creation makes for a high-quality product, and yet this also means producing their product is expensive and time consuming. The organization has attracted significant non-financial support, yet financial support is what it needs most.1 Million Teachers was created because of the low level of investment in Nigeria’s educational system and now that Subair has proven there is a spark of interest in making the system work better, he must find the fuel to keep his growing organization alive.


[i] “Closing the Teacher Gap: Almost 69 Million Teachers Needed,” UNESCO, October 5, 2016., accessed on June 27, 2019.

[ii] “Q3 2018 Unemployment,” Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics., accessed on June 27, 2019.

[iii] “World Education News + Reviews – Education in Nigeria,” World Education News + Reviews March 7, 2017., accessed on June 27, 2019.

[iv] “Meet the Global Citizen of Canada Who Wants to Transform Teaching in Nigeria,” Global Citizen Magazine, September 5, 2017., accessed on June 27, 2019.

[v] “The Breakout Project – 1 Million Teachers,” The Breakout Project website. Retrieved from, accessed June 27, 2019.

[vi] Attaining the terminal credential – a ‘Third Dan Black Belt’ – triggers a host of benefits, including cash payouts and invitations to 1MT programs and events. The Black Belt is also the level at which the trainees qualify for an immersive teacher education boot camp and classroom workshops facilitated by Queen’s University, 1MT faculty members, and senior Black Belts. It is at this point 1MT and its partners start to look for significant change in the classroom cultures of their Black Belts.

[vii] 1MT is separately registered in 13 African countries.

[viii] “Building teacher networks across borders,” Queen’s Gazette, April 3, 2018. Retrieved from, accessed on June 27, 2019.