Olawale Olaleye , Demola Ojo and Olaseni Durojaiye
Last week we celebrated leading Nigerian Game Changers, who made a difference in the polity. Today, we continue. Our game changers conquered the economy, and finance, technology and the arts, culture and beyond. Here are the champions:
Jim Ovia: Re-telling Africa through the power of books
Jim Ovia founded Zenith Bank in 1990 and served as CEO until 2010, when he moved into the chairman role. During two decades of leadership, he helped position the bank as one of the most resourced, the largest and most profitable bank in Africa.
Ovia was also the founder of Visafone Communications Limited, which he sold to MTN and is the chairman of both the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and the National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC).
However, the serial entrepreneur and recipient of a Nigerian national honour showed a different side in 2018 when he authored Africa Rise and Shine telling the world that Africa is beyond poverty and that in Africa we too can rise and shine with little startup capital.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, Ovia explained that this perception of Africa from a hopeless continent to a continent now rising inspired the title of his book.
Hitherto, when people around the globe think of Africa, they visualise conflicts and war, famine, poverty, and desolation. However, Ovia paints a very different picture in his book: Africa as a continent ripe with untapped resources, a growing middle class, and abundant opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors.
Part-memoir, part-inspirational business guide, Jim uses his story to remind us of this valuable lesson: You must never allow the perceptions of others to impact your own vision of what is possible for the future.
Herbert Wigwe: the rise and rise of a pair of steady hands
The CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank plc, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, is a celebrated banker, who has seen Access Bank grow to become one of Nigeria’s top banking institutions, soon after succeeding his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhede in January 2014.
Apart from being one of the top tier banks in Nigeria, Access Bank is today ranked among the top 500 global banks according to a 2015 report by The Banker magazine and still aims to be Africa’s top bank.
To this end, it recently acquired another top tier Nigerian bank, Diamond Bank in a deal worth well over $200 million according to Bloomberg, making Access the top bank in Africa with the largest customer base of 29 million.
With over 29 million account-holders, through some 600 branches and with more than 3,500 ATMs in major centres across Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom, Wigwe has helped to develop some of Africa’s biggest companies in the resources sector as well as in construction, telecommunications, energy and oil and gas sectors through a unique model, which involves understanding and providing financial support and expertise.
His career in financial services spans more than 25 years, including over a decade as Deputy Managing Director. Today, under his watch, Access Bank has become one of Africa’s foremost financial institutions with a strong bias for excellent service delivery as can be seen in its 2018 scorecard. And with the Diamond Bank merger, Wigwe is the game changer to watch for 2019 and beyond.
Abdulsamad Rabiu: the challenger!
Still building cement factories, Abdul Samad Isyaku Rabiu is the founder and chairman of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture with revenue in excess of $2.5 billion. In 2013, Forbes estimated Abdul Samad’s wealth at $1.2 billion, bringing him to the global billionaire’s club.
From establishing the BUA International Limited in 1988, Abdul Samad Rabiu has grown the business into a vast empire with interests in cement, edible oil, rice and steel.
Few years down the line, BUA acquired Nigerian Oil Mills Limited, the largest edible oil processing company in Nigeria and later set up 2 flour milling plants in Lagos and Kano in 2005.
By 2008, BUA’s audacious moves into trading in sugar broke an eight-year monopoly in the Nigerian sugar industry by commissioning the second largest sugar refinery in sub-saharan Africa. The company went on the acquire a controlling stake in a publicly listed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria in 2009 and commenced the construction of a $900 million cement plant in Edo State commissioned early 2015.
AbdulSamad Rabiu is not all about business. His penchant for philanthropy is equally legendary. Through his BUA Foundation, he has engaged in several charity donations across the country. These include the construction of a 7,000 Square meter paediatric ward at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano State as well as the construction of the Centre for Islamic Studies at the Bayero University Kano amongst several others. Rabiu is reputed to be the only Nigerian to challenge his Kano brethren, multi-billionaire Aliko Dangote and still standing tall.
Leo Stan Ekeh: Konga is it!
Leo Stan Ekeh as Chairman of Zinox Group pulled off one of the biggest deals of the year, not just in Nigeria but across the continent, when his ICT solutions conglomerate, which is Nigeria’s first internationally certified computer system, acquired e-commerce giant, Konga earlier this year.
The acquisition was hailed by industry watchers as a major development which will help propel e-commerce in Nigeria and finally unlock the massive revenue potential in the global multi-billion-dollar industry.
The move – another attestation to Leo Stan’s business acumen – has helped Zinox make a bold return to an industry it pioneered in Nigeria with the launch of BuyRight Africa.com, which was challenged by the absence of credit card and e-payment infrastructure, when it was launched over 12 years ago.
Tony Elumelu: Building Africa’s Future Entrepreneurs
It is difficult keeping up with Tony Elumelu and his innovative business ideas. His large footprints, which cut across key sectors of the Nigerian economy from banking to real estate and oil and gas, attest to his entrepreneurial dexterity. As impressive as his business excellence is, his desire is to help build and nurture Africa’s next entrepreneurs.
The Chairman of Heirs Holdings is not just a successful economist and entrepreneur; he’s also a philanthropist of note. The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship.
His origination of the Africapitalism concept, driven through foundation, is changing lives and creating businesses across the African continent.
A few days ago in Cairo, Egypt, the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) supported his desire to facilitate growth of intra-Africa trade and the development of African businesses, by granting financing totalling US$600 million to the Heirs Holdings Group.
Iyinola Aboyeji: Tech Wiz Making Waves
It says a lot about Iyinoluwa Aboyeji that at just 27 years of age, he has co-founded two of the most successful start-ups out of Africa, but has stepped down from both of them to in his words, give back to the startup community he owes so much of his success to.
A recipient of the Forbes 30 under 30 awards, Aboyeji’s most famous startup is Andela, which gained attention, when the venture received $24 million in funding from Mark Zuckerberg.
Two years ago, Aboyeji left Andela, a software developers’ company he co-founded in 2013. He then co-founded Flutterwave in a move to capture payments solution across Africa.
With $15.7 million in funding, the payments company is empowering Pan-African merchants to execute business on a global scale, processing $1.2 billion in transactions so far. However, he stepped down from Flutterwave in October.
Industry insiders are wondering what his next move will be, considering the serial entrepreneur started his first company Bookneto.com, when he was just 19.
Eric Idiahi with DanladiVerheijen: Partners in private equity.
The duo of Danladi Michel Verheijen and Eric Idiahi are the drivers of Verod Capital Management Limited, a private equity firm, which specialises in providing equity and equity-linked capital in growth capital and buyout transactions. It is one firm that has stood itself out in its chosen field.
Verheijen and Idiahi, both co-partners and founders have consciously raised a firm, which prefers to invest in financial services, business services, education, healthcare, agri-business, consumer products, manufacturing, services, civil engineering, media and technology, real estate, and energy sectors, thus making a huge impact in such a short time of taking their chances in that critical sector.
With a commitment to invest in West Africa, using Nigeria as its launch pad, the firm has already invested between $3 million and $15 million in private equity. But as an ambitious entity, it also seeks to acquire a majority or significant minority equity stake with minority protection rights in the portfolio companies, while holding assets for between four and seven years. It has made an incredible impact in 2018 and certainly a game changer than cannot be glossed over.
David Adeleke: Conquering His World
Since his debut in 2011 with singles, “Back When” and “Dami Duro” which were well-received across Nigeria and beyond, David Adedeji Adeleke otherwise known by his stage name, Davido, has continued to conquer his world, releasing song after song, collaborating with local and international artistes as well as signing artistes on his new label, Davido Music Worldwide (DMW).
The singer, songwriter and record producer said after his record-breaking show last December, that 2017 would be child’s play compared to what 2018 had in stock for him.
True to his predictions, if there was any Nigerian artiste, who has conquered his world this year and held it down musically, Davido stands tall amongst his peers.
In fact, he has left quite a few of his contemporaries behind through hard work, commitment, determination and tenacity, despite his privileged background.
From his debut album, Omo Baba Olowo, to singles like “Back When” featuring Naeto C, “Dami Duro”, “All of You”, “Overseas” featuring Sina Rambo, “Ekuro”, “Gbon Gbon”, “Feel Alright” featuring Ice Prince, “Gobe”, “One of a Kind”, “Skelewu”, “Aye”, “Tchelete (Goodlife)” featuring Mafikizolo, “Naughty” featuring DJ Arafat, “Owo Ni Koko”, “The Sound” and “The Money” featuring Olamide, Davido has refused to take a break but continued to see the music world as one for the taking. He definitely changed the music game in 2018.
Aminat Ayinde (with Kenneth Ize): Leading a new generation of Fashion Revolution
Both Aminat Ayinde and Kenneth Ize took the fashion scene by storm this year in different ways but with a common denominator, the ARISE Fashion Week.
Ize, a Lagos-born designer, launched his label in 2013, after returning from the University of Vienna where he studied Applied Arts.
His bold collections drew rave reviews at various fashion shows in 2018, with his collection at the ARISE Fashion Week 2018 especially appreciated by fashionistas.
Ayinde is an international model known for her strong bold looks which has gotten her major deals with prestigious brands globally.
She is recognised for being the second runner up in the Cycle 12 of “America’s Next Top Model”, and is currently associated with “Twenty Model Management” located in Cape Town, South Africa.
Tokini Peterside: Innovation through Art
Entrepreneur and businesswoman Tokini Peterside founded ART X Lagos, the first international art fair in West Africa, two years ago. Since its debut, ART X Lagos has attracted over 15,000 local and international visitors to see the works of 120 artists drawn from 15 countries across Africa and the Diaspora.
The fair has been described as “West Africa’s calling card for contemporary African art fairs” and has featured numerous exhibiting artists and speakers.
In July this year, Peterside led the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron through a special exhibition by ART X Lagos, of contemporary Nigerian art, as part of the ‘Celebration of African Culture’ hosted at the New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, to launch the African Cultural Season scheduled to hold in France in 2020.
Peterside wasn’t always in the art world. Initially after graduating from university, she embarked on a career in marketing, and subsequently became head of marketing at Moët Hennessy, part of the LVMH Group, in Nigeria.
She later founded TP-Collective in 2012, providing strategy, business planning and marketing consulting to luxury and culture businesses in Nigeria, such as ALARA, Maki Oh, a luxury fashion designer; and the Executive Producers of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, the film based on Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, which starred Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Boyega.