Simi Nwogugu is the executive director of Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide, which is the world’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit economic education organisation that empowers young people to own their economic success. Simi brought Junior Achievement to Nigeria in 1999, after she served as a volunteer in New York and realized that the entrepreneurial training programs were exactly what the large unemployed youth population in Nigeria needed.
Simi started her career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs after studying Economics and English at Mount Holyoke College, and it was at Goldman that she was introduced to JA New York. After setting up and running JA Nigeria for three years, she left to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School, after which she worked at MTV Networks in Business Development and Corporate Strategy for a few years before launching HOD Consulting, Inc., a New York-based leadership development firm that helps major corporations retain and advance high-performing women, particularly women of colour.
Nwogugu and her contribution to work-life management in the United States, youth empowerment in Nigeria and her own personal struggles to balance work, family and social responsibility, are the subject of a Harvard Business School case study titled, An Entrepreneur’s Journey: Simi Nwogugu.
After a decade of entrepreneurship, Simi returned to her role as executive director of JAN in 2016, to help the organisation expand its economic empowerment programs to young people in the North, especially those displaced by the Boko Haram crisis. Junior Achievement Nigeria has reached over 950,000 in-and-out-of-school youths in over 29 cities across Nigeria, and some of its alumni are successful business leaders and social entrepreneurs who volunteer their time and resources to ensure JAN’s sustainability.
“As a global organisation, JA delivers unique, experiential programs focusing on the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy which ignite the spark in young people to experience the world of business and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century.” She says.
According to Simi, the role JAN plays is to bring together resources from the private and public sector to improve the delivery of practical education, particularly entrepreneurial education, to Nigeria’s nation’s youth. This is because “we realize that to achieve our vision of a vibrant economy led by conscientious business leaders, we must engage as many stakeholders as possible’ She insists.
Simi has dedicated majority of her working life to two things: helping women, particularly multicultural women, realize their full leadership potential without giving up their ability to achieve excellence in their private lives as wives and mothers; and helping young Nigerians, particularly girls, realize their full leadership potential, particularly in business, and how they can combine financial success with social responsibility and macroeconomic development.
Nwogugu is filled with the determination to expand JAN programs to the North and Northeastern parts of Nigeria so as to reach and empower those girls and young women who have been denied education and rights to own their economic success.
Simi says in recent years, many Nigerian states have seen their population growth far outstrip the growth in their economy, and this has left them with the problems of falling standards of living, a huge increase in unemployment and underemployment, especially among young people, whose inability to obtain the requisite STEM skills in high demand in today’s marketplace, has rendered them unattractive to 21st-century employers.
To this end, “Junior Achievement Nigeria’s unique delivery system provides the training, materials, and support necessary to bolster the chances for student success.” Says Simi.
Simi sits on the Advisory Council of the African Capital Alliance Foundation and is a member of the Global Advisory Committee for Teach For All. She is married with three children.