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Big Bets on big problems: Fireside chat with Dr. Rajiv Shah explores solutions for global challenges

Big Bets on big problems: Fireside chat with Dr. Rajiv Shah explores solutions for global challenges

On Friday, June 14, HBSAN, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, NESG, and Lagos Business School, hosted a fireside chat featuring Dr Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The event focused on Dr. Shah’s book, “Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens,” and facilitated discussions on tackling global challenges. Held at Capital Club, Victoria Island, Lagos, the event also included the book signing of this insightful book for guests by Dr Rajiv Shah.

The event was anchored by William Asiko, who kicked off the event by thrilling the guests with his fond words for Nigeria and his relationship with Nigerians and shared an anecdote concerning being mistaken for a Nigerian even though he is actually a Kenyan. He noted the importance of Nigeria in the scheme of things, which led to the decision by Dr Rajiv Shah to make it the preferred choice as the first stop to kick off the African book tour for the book.

Read also:Big Bets: Transformative solutions for global challenges

Florence Okoli, the Vice President of the Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria (HBSAN), was invited to give the welcome remarks. She warmly welcomed the guests, with a special focus on the Guest of Honour, Dr Rajiv Shah. In her speech, she introduced HBSAN and its mission, which is to create a transformational impact in Nigeria and beyond by fostering nation-building activities and initiatives.

According to her, “The Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria is a nonprofit organisation that was formed by HBS alumni over 40 years ago to build and lead organisations that will create transformational impact in Nigeria and beyond.”

In addition to that, she explained further that “the key word again is transformation. Over the years, HBSAN has continued to foster activities and initiatives (including collaborating and partnering with other organisations) for nation-building and, in line with the mission of Harvard Business School, to make a difference.

She concluded her speech by noting that this event, which is a collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, NESG, and Lagos Business School, is a great opportunity that will lead to other initiatives through future collaboration among these four institutions, all united by the mission of making a positive impact.

The CEO of NESG, Dr Tayo Aduloju, was the next to address the audience. He highlighted the significance of Dr Shah’s book, “Big Bets,” for Nigeria, describing it as a bold response to the formidable problems of our generation. He noted that the book offers strategic solutions promising long-term gains rather than short-term wins. In his words, “I think the most inspirational part of it is that it’s an immense gift; it is a paradigm shift. It’s inspiring and daring for a country like Nigeria.”

Dr Aduloju emphasised the book’s importance for Nigeria, a country undergoing a demographic transition with a predominantly young population. He stated, “We are in a demographic transition; Nigeria will remain young for a longer period. Therefore, this book is a gift to the younger generation, encouraging them to envision bold new dreams and shape the future.”

He urged the younger generation to aim for seemingly impossible achievements and surpass global expectations. He said, “This book is a call to us in the room to undertake ambitious missions, to do the impossible not tomorrow but right now.”

The main fireside conversation of the event was led by Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli, CEO of One Campaign and Trustee of The Rockefeller Foundation, following their introductions by William Asiko. Through her well-crafted questions, Mrs Nwuneli engaged Dr Rajiv Shah, who provided insightful answers to the various questions posed to him. The session was an excellent platform for meaningful discussions on addressing global challenges, many of which are covered in the book.

Furthermore, Dr Shah explained his reasons for writing “Big Bets,” reflecting on global events and the necessity for bold, innovative solutions. He recounted the transformative impact of Bill and Melinda Gates’ commitment to vaccination, as well as his own experiences combating Ebola during his tenure at USAID.

Dr Shah commended the crucial roles played by women on the front lines during the Ebola crisis.

He also addressed the Rockefeller Foundation’s efforts to enhance energy access, especially through renewable sources, with the goal of reaching over a billion people worldwide lacking reliable electricity.

Read also: Africa countries need global support to address challenges Tinubu

Dr Shah highlighted Nigeria’s potential to shift from reliance on generators to cleaner, more affordable energy sources, which could benefit millions of people. He emphasised that such investments are essential for developing countries to compete in the global economy and offer sustainable energy solutions.

He further emphasised the value of personal relationships and their potential to unlock collaborations among organisations as a key to achieving Big Bets in our sphere of influence.

The session concluded with Dr Rajiv Shah fielding questions from the audience and addressing their inquiries directly.

The event’s highlight occurred with the sharing of copies of the book “Big Bets: How Large-Scale Change Really Happens” with all attendees, a generous gift from Dr Shah. This act underscored Dr Shah’s philanthropic spirit and was met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Prof. Uchenna Uzo, Faculty Director of Lagos Business School, gave the closing remarks and noted how impactful and insightful the conversation with Dr Shah was. He noted that the audience had been energised. He shared his optimism that the insights shared would motivate everyone in the room to go out and make a difference. He challenged the audience to seize the opportunity to make those big bets that would transform Nigeria. He concluded by making a big bet himself that the transformation of Nigeria would be led by Nigerian women, especially the women in the room.

Mrs Hetty Ugboh, Treasurer of HBSAN, rounded off with the Vote of Thanks, noting how inspirational the conversation had been for everyone, and thanked all four organisers, as well as the Guest of Honour, Dr Rajiv Shah, and the Moderator, Mrs Ndidi Nwuneli, for such a rewarding and impactful event.

The book signing event followed with cocktails for guests, providing the opportunity for everyone to further interact freely.

“Big Bets” is an inspiring read for policymakers, philanthropists, and anyone interested in global development. Dr Shah’s optimistic yet practical approach offers a roadmap for tackling some of the most daunting issues of our time. The book encourages readers to think big and act boldly, highlighting that with the right strategies and partnerships, large-scale change is not only possible but achievable.

In conclusion, “Big Bets” is a valuable addition to the literature on global development and philanthropy. Dr Rajiv Shah’s expertise and vision shine through, making it a must-read for those committed to creating a better world through strategic and innovative approaches.