Wave Academies is a vocational training platform which aims to empower millions of disadvantaged West African youth. With skills that transform their mindset and employment opportunities that enhance their social mobility.
Misan Rewan is the founder of WAVE Academy. Born and raised in Nigeria, Misan plays a vital role in the transformation of Nigeria’s education and skill development sectors. She has worked in management consulting with The Monitor Group on a wide spectrum of projects in both the private and public sector. She also supported aspiring Ivoirian entrepreneurs through, TechnoServe’s Business Plan Competition; and developed a scholarship administration model as a consultant with the Center for Public Policy Alternatives in Nigeria. Misan supported Bridge International Academies’ international expansion strategy, and is a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur.
Noella Moshi is the Programs Lead at WAVE. She was on the founding team of African Leadership University (ALU) Education where she directed Marketing, and worked on the curriculum. Noella co-developed Goodbye Malaria, a social impact venture that works with private and non-profit organisations to eliminate malaria. She is a Mandela-Rhodes scholar, and a Praxis Fellow.
Ifeanyi Okafor grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. She is passionate about helping young people discover themselves.
Aissatou Gaye is a Senegalese citizen who works as a Finance Coordinator at WAVE. She is currently helping the organization draft its way towards financial sustainability through various revenue diversification and cost reduction strategies. Aissatou is also the co-founder of YAWcamp, a summer camp that focuses on developing critical, creative and proactive thinking among Senegalese youth.
Amina Lawal is the training operations coordinator at WAVE. She is skilled in communication, research and creative writing. She firmly believes that having the balanced 360 degrees life is possible and steadily strives to have such balance. When she is not working, Amina writes for various blogs.
We share the amazing story of these great women and how their awesome work at WAVE is creating the next generation of change drivers.
What was the driving force that lead to creating WAVE?
Lifting John Stott’s definition of vision as: a deep dissatisfaction with what is and a clear grasp of what could be, I’d say the driving force behind starting WAVE was a deep dissatisfaction with the state of affairs for West African youth.
There are over 40 million unemployed youth in West Africa, but beyond the statistics are real faces, people like you and I, whose reality is chronic unemployment, disillusioned poverty and a loss of dignity that leads to growing levels of frustration across the region.
WAVE was an attempt to stop complaining and to do something about it. So a few friends got together in a room and started designing a solution. Enter WAVE – an attempt to level the playing field for hardworking young people by teaching them the skills required to get a good job, increase their incomes and build a brighter future
What has been the biggest challenge(s) you’ve faced and how have you crossed each hurdle?
Biggest challenge faced has probably just been me dealing with my own insecurities (imagined and real) and coaching has been helpful in crossing the hurdle. I don’t hear enough leaders in this part of the world talk about their shortcomings and how they’ve built support networks to deal with them, and I’m no different.
So overcoming has been through everything, from having a coach who helps bring self-awareness to my “automaticities” (my default way of responding) and helps me generate my best self, to family and friends who “hold the space” for me to JUST BE (rather than DO), to the serenity prayer that helps me discern where to focus my brain cells, effort and anxiety. I could give you a laundry list of other challenges faced but the critical challenge/hurdle is dealing with me first so I can see most other challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.
What values have been crucial to your success in the business world?
Inclusiveness – Most of what drives me comes from a simple notion I’ve had since I was a kid, of not wanting poor people to be poor.
At WAVE today, this value translates as “Putting People First” – from the people we exist to serve, to our team who does the serving to our partners who support our service. Our clients see how we have designed our model, service delivery and feedback culture to put them first and so are able to be very forgiving when we slip up, give us feedback and grant us a second chance to make it right.
What principles and skills are necessary for young people to possess in order to excel in today’s world?
There are three things I think are important for success: Knowing your “why”: Understand what motivates you, and connect it to whatever work you are doing. For example, I care about learning for the sake of personal growth. That’s my “why”. As long as I am doing work that pushes me to stretch beyond my current capabilities, my “why” is being fulfilled.
Learning from everyone: Everyone has something to teach us, and if at any point we aren’t learning, then we need to look harder for the lessons. One of my favourite things about working at WAVE is that each person brings insights from their unique experiences; from the driver to an intern, to the people we serve.
Trusting yourself. No one knows you better than you know yourself. Take advice from everyone, but at the end of the day, whatever decision you make must come from you, so that you can stand by it. That way you avoid regret, and you avoid living someone else’s life.
What innovations have helped in achieving the set goal at WAVE, and how exciting is it to train young people of diverse background and see them become more equipped Africans?
Our goal at WAVE is to increase income for unemployed youth. We do this by screening youth for attitude and motivation, training them on employability skills, and then matching them to job opportunities, where they can earn while they learn.
Our most powerful innovation has been to integrate “paradigm change” throughout our process. End to end, we focus on helping youth to mentally connect the dots from where they are, to where they want to be. After WAVE, youth who had dreams but no belief that they could achieve them, can now see how their current efforts will lead them to the next step of the ladder to wherever they want to go. Their self-image also changes: After WAVE, they no longer say “I can’t do this”. Instead they say: “I can’t do this yet”. And that mindset shift makes all the difference.
What mechanism are necessary for facilitating trainings at the Academy?
A trainee must be between 18 and 35 years old, they must agree to the terms and conditions of the training. The trainer and the training operations coordinator must be physically and mentally ready. We make sure each training cycle runs at it’s optimum best.
What tools and support are relevant for young people in the course of their advancement and what kind of partnership would be vital to this?
We provide absolute in-house trainers and also external facilitators who are experts in their fields to train these young people. We also provide ”on the job” support for them, by arranging workshops, alumni panel and counselling.
A partnership with Google could help with the ICT angle, covering the fundamentals of computer skills and basic software they need to know about. Also, the social media angle, most of the jobs we get are evolving, so many of our employers want people with computer skills, or those who can use social media.
What support system has been relevant in helping WAVE thrive over the years?
The success of WAVE over the past three four years has been a combination of multiple factors. The level of engagement and passion from our staff to deliver a rigorous and excellent model. To make access to economic opportunities easier for young underprivileged youth, the financial support we receive from our funders and their commitment to the vision that we are after, and last but not least our employer partner network who are willing to hire based on soft skills, instead of proxies like degrees.
How impactful have the programs at WAVE been over the years, and what kind of investors are you looking to work with in the future?
WAVE’ s reach has grown a lot over the past four years. Since our inception in 2013, we were able to train over 1600 youth on employability skills and place over 800 of them on jobs in the hospitality and retail industries, of which a good number was able to double their income after a year on the job.
We however still have a long way to go to reach the numerous unemployed youth in Nigeria and across West Africa; we cannot do the job alone. We are currently codifying our magic to share with different stakeholders that could effectively reach our target market and bring about the change we want to see: a world where every young person is equipped enough to move up the economic ladder.
What’s the one phrase that resonates for WAVE and why?
The resonating phrase at WAVE is “Start small, Learn fast and Grow big”. The reason behind this is that we believe and understand that the soft skills we train on are vital to the achievement of career goals. Success is not achieve overnight, but it takes consistent conscious steps towards the achievement of success. WAVE is one of those conscious steps to career growth.
What recent achievements have re-echoed the growing impact of WAVE?
One of the recent achievements that re-echoes at WAVE is the increment of our Alums average Salary to N33,000. It is an achievement for us because this is what we set out to do; increasing the income of youth who do not stand a fighting chance in our economy today.
Tell us your favourite destination country?
My dream destination country is America because of the limitless career growth opportunities available.
Are you doing any impactful work to empower unemployed youth?
Let us know more here.