Keke Has Given Hope To Many, by Nsikan Essien
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Alban Ofili-Okonkwo, Executive chairman of Autobahn Techniques Limited, is an ardent proponent of mass empowerment as a tool for wealth creation. This belief he has given practical expression through his Keke Nigeria Project, the first phase which has brought to fruition the Keke NAPEP initiative.
At the last count, the Keke NAPEP initiative has seen the Obasanjo administration purchasing about four thousand motorised three wheelers (tricycles), which were in turn distributed to otherwise unemployed Nigerians as a major plank of the federal government’s poverty eradication programme.
In this interview with Nsikan Essien, the brain behind the Keke NAPEP concept spoke on what informed the project, what it was meant to achieve and what it has achieved for the country. Excerpts:
Newswatch: What informed your decision to go into this unique business field of motorised three wheeler/tricycle?
Ofili-Okonkwo: The inspiration for the Keke Project stems from a combination of factors. One unmistakable feature of our national life is the abject circumstances in which majority of Nigerians live. As I see it, there are three ways one can react to this regrettable situation: one, you can completely ignore it and pretend that you are an expatriate in your own country; two, you could be concerned but helpless in the sense that you offer your regrets and move on; three, you could feel sufficiently challenged by the situation to seek to, at least, contribute to reducing or possibly reversing these miserable circumstances. I am more inclined to the third option because it offers me an opportunity to share my humanity in a meaningful way. On a very broad basis, that is the kind of sentiment that informed the poverty eradication initiative popularly known across the country as Keke NAPEP.
Again, I am troubled that Nigeria is so enamored by its oil resources, that its substantial national human capital is neglected. I believe that the greatest endowment God has given this country is our population, which unfortunately is a wasting asset. For me, the challenge is to see how I can contribute no matter how modestly, to transforming this enormous wasting human asset into a productive work force.
Keke NAPEP is an experimental model of poverty eradication that seeks to empower the poor unemployed or underemployed Nigerian to a position where he can create a measurable and verifiable value in society in order to earn daily bread. We have proven that with this Keke model it is possible to pick a street urchin and empower him through micro-credit to become a productive member of society. From our monitoring activities, we have established that Keke may not just be a tool for earning sustenance and daily bread; it is a formidable vehicle for wealth creation. In the current phase of the Keke project, we are grooming and training the Keke owners and operators to become successful small business owners. We are also soliciting the collaboration and partnership of the organised private sector in the keke wealth chain. We intend to go beyond poverty eradication.
Interview found here.