I first started talking with Ms. Ronke Kosoko when she posted on LinkedIn Maritime Group (group managed by the Futureoftheocean team) about the Maritime Conversion Program (MCP) initiated by her Employment Clinic. I must confess that the idea was too good to be true, so I challenged Ms. Kosoko to provide details.
The first line of her statement was electrifying and sparked the idea for this interview:
This is a charitable program geared towards galvanising people with experience in this highly technical industry to help build the skills of teeming unemployed Nigerians who are always desirous of jobs but have no skills.
End of quote
I trust there is no need to emphasize why one woman's vision of the future of Africa's maritime industry is a message that deserves the attention of the entire maritime and offshore industry, so let's begin the interview.
Thank you very much Ms. Ronke Kosoko for agreeing to do this interview for the Futureoftheocean initiative website.
Futureoftheocean interviews start by discussing how the interviewee started their connection with the sea and oceans, so please tell us about the beginning of your connection with the ocean.
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Well, my connection with the sea started at graduation from University in 2010.
Although my school, University of Lagos was on the waters and has a popular place called the Lagoon Front from where Third Mainland Bridge can be seen and where students love to hangout, yet I knew nothing about maritime until I was invited to a maritime event in my final year. I got invited because I was always organising Employment Summits on Campus for my fellow undergraduates where we bring employers to campus for preparing undergraduates for the labor market, for helping them in their journey from school to work. This experience led to the establishment of Employment Clinic on campus and ultimately where we are today and all that we do.
You testified in the Maritime Group that your first attempt to enter the maritime industry was 13 years ago (2010?) and it was – to quote you – a horrible experience followed by agony. I am sorry to hear that, but, if possible, can you share with us your memories of those moments?
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Let me start by letting you know that we recently ignited the Gender Inclusion conversation for the Nigeria Maritime Industry, a sector with 2% women representation and 98% male domination. My horrible experience referenced here is just of the many proofs that it is an absolute necessity for the next generation to start this conversation now, with no delay! But this is my testimony and what actually happened.
Having organized Employment Summits for my fellow undergraduates while in school and now about to graduate and didn’t know what to do next. I wondered if I should run my businesses after leaving school or I’d go looking for a paid job.
Right then I was invited to my first ever maritime event so I can learn the fusion of economics and maritime. For the first time I saw a maritime professional making a presentation on ships and the employment potentials of the industry and that was it! The enthusiastic young me exchanged cards with him telling him about my aspirations and I’ve kindly asked him to mentor me. He promised to invite me for a meeting which he did about a month later, but the same man raped me during the meeting. After, he walked away like nothing happened. I was dazed and confused, I didn’t know what to do because he was an old man, more than twice my age, looks so accomplished on the outside but he was a predator on young girls in the industry… Next day I got an appointment and a job offer with his Secretary. I decided to take the job offer and that was how my journey in maritime started and the rest is history.
I decided to learn by myself so I took a job with her because they were looking at that time for a Relationship Manager to handle the communication for the 2011 Maritime Expo so I took my life in my hands, plunged into the industry and never looked back.
I now occupy the same position of the same man after a decade of him trying to do everything possible in ensuring that I don’t thrive in the industry. This struggle became very messy so we had to fight publicly to the point that I was kidnapped, incarcerated, brutalised with the police. He also stole my contract which I signed with the nation’s apex maritime agency on securing seatime training onboard international seagoing vessels for 1,200 Nigerian cadets under the Nigeria Seafarers Development Program (NSDP). At the age of 30, I was among the youngest people to initiate such an ample project but also the ONLY woman involved is such project. Apparently, this was very disturbing for the older people including my rapist so they enjoyed telling to the local authorities that I was the real enemy of the whole industry and a thorn in the flesh of the upcoming generation…
You are now a successful business person in Nigeria, owner of Employment Clinic recruitment agency and very involved in the local maritime community. How did you manage to be successful after a dire start 13 years ago?
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Determination, that’s it.
You have to be determined about your destination which I was from the onset.
I wanted to learn about maritime and I’ve asked an elderly person twice my age to mentor me and all he did was to rape me???
Did I go home to cry in silence and forget about my career as probably the irresponsible elder which abused me really wanted for me? No, I took a job in the industry and climbed through the ladder with tenacity, grit and focus.
That is how to inspire a generation and that is why I am now in a better position to empower the next generation so whatever took me 10 years shouldn’t take them more than one year.
What does a typical work day, or perhaps no typical work day, look like at your agency?
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Well, I work everywhere and at every time because millions of Nigerians are unemployed and someone had to do the needed hard work.
We had to dedicate a whole building to helping young people in the industry at the centre of the port city in Apapa where they can come into with all their career problems and we set them on the right path.
Every day is a lot of work… many buildings full of young people waiting for our daily work.
You stated in your LinkedIn Maritime Group post that the Maritime Conversion Program (MCP) initiated by your Employment Clinic for the Nigerian Maritime Industry should be your lifetime legacy. Please provide more details about this initiative and how this initiative could become a reference point for the local maritime industry?
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
I am happy so far for having the privilege to build the next generation without been a clog in the wheel of their progress. They are now all over the country and overseas making waves due to our investments into their lives.
As I already said, we recently opened an operational facility at the centre of the port city in Lagos (Apapa specifically). We have plans for other places but in Lagos alone, about 50,000 youths will receive trainings, mentorship, Internship and job placements within the shipping and maritime value chain annually.
They are now not anymore exposed to rapists and destiny destroyers like I was, but they are now backed by law because the necessary legislations been pushed on a platform that government at the highest-level listens to.
In the meanwhile there are more development than the Maritime Conversion Program.
At the recently concluded Gender Inclusion Conference 2022, we ignited the Gender Inclusion conversation for the Nigeria Maritime Industry through the Nigeria Economic Summit Group and the Policy Innovation Centre
This initiative led to an ongoing work between the UN WOMEN and the Employment Clinic, which, with the approval and the support of UN WOMEN would be scaled through the IMO (International Maritime Organization) and the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Transportation
on a Gender Inclusion program across this sector with 2% women representation and 98% male domination.
What legacy can anyone have in life if it is not the legacy of building lives who you can point to as your future really??? The greatest men and women that I know are those whose focus is on building other people whether they be government officials or politicians, religious leaders or even organizations. Also the most successful nations today are the nations that has prioritised human capital development and the poorest set of people as well as countries are those who can’t point to conscious human capital development as their legacies because human beings are actually the biggest product ever produced by God and their worth is limitless so whosoever is investing in building and unleashing the capacities of others are actually building legacies and that is what we are doing.
Imagine what the world would have lost without Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Dr. David Oyedepo, Albert Einstein, Barrack Obama, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu just to mention a few or what is your legacy in life when all you have is yourself and maybe some material things to show around but when life is gone who remembers your house or shoes or clothings?. What people remember is your legacy and that is the only thing that would remain in the news so why not focus on that and let the universe take care of the rest?
The program seems very ambitious and your intentions very generous and definitely more similar initiatives are needed around the world. I guess the idea behind this initiative is your own response to the challenges of the maritime and offshore industry in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. Please tell us more about these challenges.
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Well, there are too many problems in Nigeria and in the Nigeria Maritime Industry as well as the offshore industry in Africa which words can’t describe in just one interview but there are also very enormous potentials but the fundamental problem is the people problem which if we don’t address, we ain’t going nowhere.
Sadly, the people who talk the most about the industry challenges, postulating all sort of counsel to the government in different fora are the actual problem of the country while the real professionals are not been heard.
This is why we are working right now in first bringing back the professionals on board by reviving the Nigeria Maritime Expo which I now Chair.
The intention of Nigeria Maritime Expo is to run like the Posidonia of Greece and the OTC and to be a forum where we all can forge ahead toward a common goal on a united platform with a unified voice. We need to solve the problems of Nigerian maritime industry as a collective rather than as individuals working in silos with different paths scattered all around with no impact on nobody.
Last but certainly not least, let's discuss the youth generations. What is your message to them?
Ms. Ronke Kosoko:
Youths all over the world don’t need any message because they actually know what they are doing.
What they really need is an enabling environment that allows them to thrive and that is what we must create for them before we start giving them any wisdom from the elders.
But all in all, I’d say that they should stay focused in life because their dreams are valid and that their dreams would definitely come true with tenacity so they should not give up and to keep learning.
Ms. Kosoko Aderonke Oriyomi is Employment Solutions Strategist, Speaker, Thought Leader, Author, Blogger, Maritime Consultant, TV Show Host, Local Content Advocate with almost 13years of continuous professional work experience in development, project/programme design, management and evaluation, as well as leadership on practical work delivery at various levels.
She is also the Founder of Employment Clinic.
Founder of Employment Clinic address and contacts:
PLOT 12-24, ADEOLA ODEKU STREET, VICTORIA ISLAND. LAGOS 234 (0) 8055312748
Ms. Kosoko Aderonke Oriyomi can be contacted via Employment Clinic:
or at the direct email address:
All pictures were provided by Ms. Ronke Kosoko.
Please contact Ms. Ronke Kosoko for any questions or clarifications regarding the pictures.
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