NJ Ayuk

NJ Ayuk Offers Tips for the Next Generation of African Entrepreneurs: Image: Supplied

NJ Ayuk: Tips for the Next Generation of African Entrepreneurs

NJ Ayuk started as a young lawyer. He started a law firm focused on supporting Africans in the energy sector. Here is more

NJ Ayuk

NJ Ayuk Offers Tips for the Next Generation of African Entrepreneurs: Image: Supplied

Today, African entrepreneurs face incredible opportunities and unprecedented challenges. If the next generation of business leaders wants to ensure success, they need to work hard and focus on building companies that improve the economic and social welfare of their countries, according to NJ Ayuk, founder of the international conglomerate Centurion Law Group and executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber.

“Africa has an advantage on the world stage: a young population,” Ayuk posted on his LinkedIn profile. “If we give our young people the power, they will make energy poverty history, shy away from aid, embrace free enterprise, and defeat xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia that continues to affect our communities. But we must empower them with an education that focuses on the just energy transition.”

And in a post on CNBC Africa he wrote, “I am the first to advise many young people to avoid feeling entitled to anything. No one owes you or us anything. We have to earn it. Our approach and success in oil and gas negotiations stem from our deep preparation and mindset. More of that is needed.”

NJ Ayuk’s Mentor

NJ Ayuk speaks from experience. As a young lawyer, he started a law firm focused on supporting Africans in the energy sector. Over the years, he built Centurion Law Group from a single-office business into a Pan-African operation with offices throughout the continent and partnerships in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. As a leading authority in the African energy sector, he drives the development of the African energy industry.

His success is the result of many factors, and top of the list is finding — and listening to — a valued mentor.

“Look for mentors and let them mentor you, he advised. “It’s important to have someone who’s promoting you when you’re not in the room.”

Ayuk pointed to one of his mentors, the late Dr. Ronald Walters, a prominent American academic and expert on race relations and politics. The two connected during NJ Ayuk’s undergraduate years, finding common ground in their desire to better the experiences of those around them by standing up to oppressive systems designed to keep them down.

“As a student at the University of Maryland, I was mentored by Dr. Ron Walters, who was Jesse Jackson’s deputy campaign manager and he shaped my belief in justice,” NJ Ayukl told Forbes. “He laid a strong emphasis on believing in the teachings of [first general counsel of the NAACP] Charles Hamilton Houston that a lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society. Each one of us has a mandate to use our education to impact communities and to also promote economic growth and empowerment.”

Next, Ayuk shared, “Be stubbornly loyal. Don’t try to pull a fast one because you know more than others.”

He continued, “Further, embrace your trials and shortcomings; they teach you to be a better person and lawyer. Also, spend more time looking at the work and find solutions. I have seen too many young lawyers who get a chance to be on a podium and then they tend to spend more time being celebrities than being around colleagues or supervisors.”

NJ Ayuk: ‘Never Lose Sight of the Significance of Your Work’

Ayuk cautioned that it’s crucial to focus and build skills, including writing, critical thinking, and industry knowledge. Most clients, he said, “want to know you are qualified and can you get the job done.”

He added it’s important to never “lose sight of the significance of your work.” There’s more at stake than just personal success.

“By negotiating effectively for African businesses and governments, you can play a huge role in transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans,” he said. “Few things in life are more satisfying.

“I am proud of the law group I have built, but I consider the work I have done to get justice for and empower African individuals, businesses, and communities among my greatest successes.”

Another piece of advice NJ Ayuk offered to budding entrepreneurs across Africa is to check their social media consumption. While he knows this might annoy up-and-comers, he believes it’s crucial to put down the phone and fully engage.

“Get offline,” he said. “Social media is nice but it isn’t everything. We have seen people who prefer to sit on their phone even during business meetings rather than engage in real business. Why have a meeting with someone when you will be on your phone while they are talking? Get out of the room and take the call or send a message. If you decide to work on your Instagram while talking to me, I walk you out of my office or end the meeting.”

NJ Ayuk’s Hope for the Future

In the end, NJ Ayuk is hopeful for the future of young African entrepreneurs and professionals.

He wrote, “Commit to work. Pay your dues. Your time to shine will come.”

But he cautioned, “Always ask yourself, ‘Am I adding value to the firm or the company?’ Don’t think you are in the firm to be the labor union representative or the head of diversity. You are in a firm to serve clients and get results.

“Don’t walk around the firm with arrogance or give off a sense that you are entitled or your opinion matters on every subject. You are not owed anything. It is important to not cry discrimination on every issue whether it is sexism, racism, or xenophobia. You beat them with excellence and success. I see it every day. I just work harder, and God knows I always have the last laugh.”

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