Sahara group to build innovation centre for UNILAG, gives students N39m scholarships

[Tribune Online] Sahara group to build innovation centre for UNILAG, gives students N39m scholarships

A global energy and infrastructure conglomerate, Sahara Group, on Friday, performed a sod-turning event to commence the building of the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka.

The company also announced Sahara Scholar Award of N39 million money prize for the students of the university.

The world-class building project to be domiciled at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the university will be completed within two years and with concrete plans for future maintenance.

Speaking at the event, the Director of Governance and Sustainability of Sahara Group, Ejiro Gray, said the school would serve as a platform to promote innovations and collaborations among students from various disciplines that could bring about meaningful solutions to societal problems.

She said Sahara Group is delighted to collaborate with UNILAG in this regard with a total conviction that the school would inspire future generations of innovators and entrepreneurs, particularly in Nigeria.

She said the group is more interested in certain areas of studies and research which she listed to include energy, entrepreneurship, data science, digital arts and culture, artificial intelligence and robotics, fintech, among others.

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She said the project is part of the company’s social interventions on education in Nigeria as a way of giving back to the system where it operates.

She said it is innovation and entrepreneurship that have driven the growth of Sahara group across over 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East within the last 26 years of its establishment.

She congratulated the leadership and entire UNILAG community on the 60th anniversary of the university, saying the quality of its products over the years across fields of endeavours has really proven its tradition of excellence in teaching, research and community services.

Speaking about the Sahara Scholar Awards, Gray said the scholarship is in two groups and the first one is N26 million to be given to 26 exceptional students at N1 million each as a one-off award to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the group while the remaining N13 million and for 13 students in select disciplines and to be shared equally will be in perpetuity.

She added that the beneficiaries of the latter group who are to be known as Sahara scholars would not be restricted to UNILAG students as the scheme would be progressively expanded in scope across Africa.

She, however, pointed out that the maiden edition of the Sahara Scholar Award which is for the students of UNILAG would be wholly funded from the personal purse of the Group Executive Directors of the company as part of their own ways to give back to UNILAG where most of them received their university education and some also had parents who taught at the university.

She said “The award will be N1 million yearly for each deserving student and mostly using their graduation grades in select disciplines that include economics, architecture, business management, finance, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, library and information science, insurance and actuarial science, as well as AI/fintech invention.

In his remark at the event, the Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, commended Sahara Group for both the innovation centre and award projects, saying the projects would certainly add great values to both the students and faculty members and also lift appreciably not only Nigeria’s economy but the world’s at large.

He said he was particularly happy that the drivers of both projects are alumni of UNILAG from different faculties who have by their achievements, individually and jointly, demonstrated the quality of products the university is churning out

He noted that the innovation and entrepreneurship centre is in tandem with UNILAG repositioning plans to be a university of the future.

He said the university would continue to produce graduates that are locally relevant and globally competitive and also carry out problem-solving research and community service.

He said even though he would be completing his tenure as vice-chancellor of the university in less than two weeks away, the university leaves its door widely open for individuals, groups or corporate bodies for problem-solving partnerships in any areas possible.