While speaking at the 2018 Commonwealth Business Forum, President Muhammadu Buhari had implied that most Nigerian youths are lazy and want everything on a platter of gold.
Coincidentally, on the same day he made this controversial comment, Forbes published its list of “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa 2018”. Something interesting about this year’s publication is the fact that out of the thirty young African entrepreneurs profiled, nine are Nigerians. In the light of this, therefore, one wonders how young Nigerians could possibly be regarded as “lazy” even though they are struggling against all odds to change the country for better.
Without a doubt, the nine Nigerians on this year’s Forbes’ list are truly representative of today’s Nigerian youths. They are resourceful, resilient, and full of ideas. Most importantly, these youths have decided to stop waiting for jobs, even as they have taken center-stage in the job creation process. It is therefore on the backdrop of these developments that we have decided to feature these promising entrepreneurs as our business executives of the week. Get to know them.
1. Nasir Yammama: Founder/CEO of Verdant agriTech
Nasir was born in 1990 in a Northern Nigerian village called Yammama, where his father owned a large farm. Growing up as the son of a farmer, Nasir witnessed firsthand how extremely difficult farming can be in Nigeria. This made him resolve to someday do something that would facilitate the farming process.
In the years that followed, Nasir completed his primary and secondary education in Nigeria then proceeded to Middlesex University in the United Kingdom where he studied Creative Technology between 2013 and 2015. It was here that his interest in technology became fully developed.
He founded Verdant AgriTech in 2014 when he was just 24. The company supports rural crop farmers, providing them credit facilities, weather information, access to market, and agricultural extension services. All these, they do with the use of mobile phones.
Nasir’s entrepreneurial talent has opened doors for him and he has gained much recognition. In 2017, he met Queen Elizabeth of England who bestowed him with the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. Today, he has another honour to his name as one of Forbes’ 2018 young African entrepreneurs.
2. Harold Okwa: Co-Founder/ Managing Director of Jetseta
Harold Okwa is a 30 years old Nigerian entrepreneur who grew up mostly in the United Kingdom. He studied there as well, graduating from the University of Bristol with a BSc degree in Economics and Management in 2009. Between 2015 and 2017, Harold studied for his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Cass Business School.
Harold worked as an Area Sales Manager at Oando Plc from 2011 to 2014. This was a few years after Harold returned to Nigeria for his NYSC and decided against going back to the UK. In 2014, he founded Vestates Limited, a real estate company based in Abuja where he is still the Managing Director.
Currently, Harold is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Jetseta, an aviation start-up established in 2016 that helps people access affordable air travel (helicopter and shutter services) from their phones.
3. Ronke Bamisedun: Founder of BWL Agency
Ronke Bamisedun was born in 1987 into an upper-middle-class household in Lagos. She studied for her primary and secondary education here in Nigeria before moving to the United Kingdom for her university education.
There, she studied Media, Mass Communication and Public Relations at Birmingham City University between 2009 and 2011. In 2013, she acquired a Public Affairs and Political Communication Diploma (Merit) from CIPR Qualification.
Ronke has worked in many establishments. From July 2010 to May 2011, she was an Assistant Client Executive at Grayling. She was the Public Relations Manager at InterContinental Hotels and Resorts for one and a half years between April 2014 and September 2015. She later returned to Grayling as a Senior Account Director between January 2016 and December 2016.
She has consulted for different global brands, including Pandora, Moet Hennessy, and Pernod Ricard. She also consulted for Kaizo for about one and a half years.
In 2015, she founded BWL Agency, a Lagos-based “strategic brand development and communications company”.
She is the only Nigerian female on this year’s list.
4. Gossy Ukanwoke: Founder of Edutech and BAU Executive Education
This is not the first time that Gossy would be featured on Forbes. Back in 2011, the global media outlet called him “Nigeria’s Budding Mark Zuckerberg” while writing about his first startup, Student Circle, which he founded in 2010.
Between then and now, Gossy has founded several other companies, including the Beni American University (which he founded in 2012), and most recently, EduTech ABS, which was founded in 2017.
The company helps to automate students’ activities on campus. Gossy’s BAU Executive Education also offers many professional programmes to the working business executives and students alike. He is dedicated to providing the technological backbone necessary to ensure that Nigerian schools operate more efficiently.
Gossy holds stakes in two traditional Nigerian universities, including Rhema University in Aba.
He studied Management Information Systems at Girne American University and emerged as the best graduating student in 2013. He is 30 years old.
5. Obinna Okwodu: CEO/Founder of Fibre
27 years old Obinna Okwodu is the co-founder and CEO of Fibre. He was born in the United States of America and returned to Nigeria for his primary and secondary education at Grange School and Olashore International School respectively in Lagos.
He eventually concurrently studied Civil Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Engineering and bagged a degree in Management Science from the Sloan School of Management. Both programmes were concluded between 2010 and 2014.
Obinna has worked in a couple of reputable international companies. He was an investment banking summer analyst at Morgan Stanley from June 2011 to September 2013.
Before that, he worked as a construction management intern at Mecmond Nigeria Limited. In 2011, he also co-founded Exposure Robotics Academy, then in 2014, he returned to Morgan Stanley to work full time as an investment banking analyst.
He left the company a year later to co-found Fibre, a real estate start-up based in Lagos which is targeted at middle-income tenants, helping them to rent and pay rent monthly.
6. Etop Ikpe: Founder, Cars45
Etop is an under-thirty Nigerian entrepreneur who founded the car dealership company Cars45. The company raised $5 million from Frontier Cars Group in 2017. Despite the fact that the company is relatively new (having just been established in 2016), it has already grown to become the preferred car dealer for many Nigerians.
Before founding his business, Etop worked at several notable Nigerian companies. He was the Commercial Director at Konga from April to July 2016. Before then, he was the Vice President Operations (2012-2014) and later the Co-MD of DealDey, a leading Nigerian online shop.
He studied for his Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Science at the University of Lagos.
7. Oluwatobi Ajayi: Co-Founder, Jetvan automobiles Ltd
30 years old Oluwatobi Ajayi is a Nigerian businessman who deals in cars. He had his secondary school education in Abeokuta at the Nigerian Navy Secondary School, after which he proceeded to the Olabisi Onabanjo University (also in Abeokuta) where he studied Soil Science and Farm Mechanisation between 2004 and 2010.
He is currently studying for his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at the Lagos Business School.
Prior to co-founding Jetvan Automobiles Limited in 2015, Oluwatobi worked as a Sales and Marketing Executive (commercial vehicles) at Weststars Associates Limited, a Mercedes Benz subsidiary.
The experience he gained working there has proved helpful to him at Jetvan where he is currently the CEO. Barely four years since its foundation, Jetvan is already being adjudged the biggest authorised Mercedes-Benz Sprinter dealer in Nigeria.
8. Temitope Ogunsemo: Founder, Krystal Digital Networks
33 years old Temitope is on this years’ Forbes list mainly due to his valuable contributions to the Nigerian entrepreneurship space. He is an IT consultant, reputed for establishing the best school management software developed in Nigeria.
Temitope studied mostly in Nigeria, first at King’s College in Lagos (1995 – 2001) for his O-Levels, and later, the University of Ibadan where he graduated in 2008 with a degree in Chemistry. From 2013 to 2014, he studied for an MSc. in Information Technology at the University of Salford.
He founded Krystal Digital Networks in 2011. The company generates about ₦1.83bn in annual revenue by developing and deploying customized software applications for Nigerian schools. The company also provides schools with the storage platform for important data.
9. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu: Founder, Falgates
27 years old Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu’s Falgates Rice is a 15 tons per day capacity mill. The company also has a rice farm which employs nearly two hundred people. As at 2017, the Kaduna-based company had an annual revenue of ₦1.4 million.
Nigerian youths are not lazy. They are simply disadvantaged. But despite the many challenges they face on a daily basis, they are forging ahead, trying hard to emancipate themselves economically. Nigeria will become a more economically-vibrant place if the older generation make efforts to invest in the younger generations.