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Nigerian Businesses Making Global Impact

Nigerian Businesses Making Global Impact

Nigerian Businesses Making Global Impact

By David Adeyemi

Monday, 24 August, 2015

Of the 16 firms recognized by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as Global Growth Companies (GCC) in Africa during the 2014 WEF Africa in Abuja, six were Nigerian firms– Nagode Group, UAC of Nigeria Plc, Computer Warehouse Group, Interswitch Limited, Notore Chemical Industries Ltd and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc. These firms, according to WEF’s experts, were “at the forefront of driving responsible economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurism in Africa ” and had “clear potential to become global economic leaders” based on their business models, growth record, leadership and their respective markets.

It therefore comes as no surprise that across the globe, a good number of Nigeria linked companies are creating positive and significant impact in various sectors and economies, especially in the last five years. Whether they originate in Nigeria and fan out to the wider world or they are rooted overseas and owned or led by Nigerians   or associated with Nigeria, the story is the same. It is the story of success amidst daunting odds, often figurative of the Nigerian story itself– steady economic growth despite a myriad of challenges.

A good example is Andela, a Nigerian backed company based in New York City, which was only recently listed among BPlan’s ’“6 Forward thinking Businesses that are making the world a better place”, alongside Warby Parker, Norvo Nordisk, Khan Academy, Theranos and Haier. Andela, which describes itself as “a new kind of technology partner for Fortune 500s and startups”, was cofounded by a Nigerian, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, who is also its Director of Recruitment, and has another Nigerian, Mustapha Abokede, as Director of Operations (Lagos). Aboyeji, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper in 2012, has the reputation of being a serial entrepreneur. He ran one of Canada’s largest student owned publishing houses – Imprint Publications–as President of the board; he also helped found and run Bookneto Inc, a social learning platform for university professors to teach online courses.

Quoting Wired, Angelique O’ Rourke, copywriter at Palo Alto Software, writes that Andela has a fantastic approach to filling the ever growing worldwide need for programmers: they pay people to learn the skills, and then set them up with jobs. “Andela refers to their concept as talent accelerators where applicants are screened during a two week long boot camp, and the most talented, highest performing people are selected to become a part of the paid fellowship. After training for one thousand hours as a fellow, participants are considered employable developers, and are connected with job opportunities through Andela’s longtime mission to transform the global technology landscape by connecting top employers with untapped talent around the world, ”says O ’Rourke.

In February 2010, a Nigerian born investment banker and fund manager, Adebayo Ogunlesi, came into global spotlight when he led Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York based independent private equity fund where he is Chairman and Managing Partner, to acquire London’s Gatwick Airport from the British Airports Authority In a record £1.51billion deal.

Besides the purchase of Gatwick Airport, GIP, a fund focused primarily on infrastructural investments with over $5.6billion under management, also has some other noteworthy assets in portfolio, including a 75percent stake in London City Airport, and Biffa limited, a UK based waste management company.

Prior to its acquisition by GIP, Gatwick suffered deep losses over the years. For instance, in the first nine months of 2009, the airport reportedly recorded a pre-tax loss of over £780million, prompting the British government to actively shop for buyers. BAA also reportedly lost €225million on Gatwick after it was compelled to sell the airport by the Competition Commission.

But Ogunlesi was so optimistic about the future of the ailing airport that he was reported to have invested some of his own personal funds into the acquisition, with a promise to make Gatwick a truly first class international airport and substantially improve the customer experience.

Ogunlesi had in 2006 also led the acquisition of London City Airport and, following the acquisition, spearheaded a series of operational improvements such that the airport’s passenger numbers grew by 22 percent in its first full year of ownership, according to information available on GIP’s corporate website. This move was a further proof of the fact that private individuals can progressively and successfully turnaround businesses including government and public infrastructure.

Back home in Nigeria, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), which commenced operations in September1992 as Computer Warehouse Limited with only four staff, has expanded beyond borders and gone on to establish regional offices in West, East and Central Africa in pursuits of its Pan African vision. These are CWG Ghana Limited (2003), CWG Uganda Limited (2010) and CWG Cameroon Limited (2012). In 2012, following a merger with its three subsidiaries (CWL Systems, Expert Edge Software and DCC Networks),CWG, which has a vision “to be Africa’ s number one IT platform service provider by 2020”, evolved into an IT powerhouse with a focus on enabling businesses through strategic partnerships with world class organizations.

In February 2013, it became a public company and in November of the same year, CWG Plc listed its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. The listing boosted the market capitalization of the NSE by about N14billion, making CWG Plc the highest capitalized security in the ICT sector.

In the oil and gas logistics and supply chain business, TSL Logistics Limited (TSL), another Nigerian led company, is also creating positive impact beyond Nigeria’s borders; described as Africa’s largest independent oil and gas Terminal Management Company, with over 1,500,000MT of oil and gas storage under management, in 10 locations across Nigeria and Ghana. This feat began with managing a single aviation storage terminal in 2005, but with dedication to International Terminal Management standards and practices, TSL has propelled itself to the enviable position of the largest independent player in the oil and gas terminal management business in Africa, with an annual throughput in the excess of 2 billion litres.

Whilst TSL continues to make its mark, it recorded further success in 2014, with a project akin to that of the GIP turnaround of the London City Airport by entering into an agreement with the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST) of Ghana, an equivalent of our Nigerian Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC).

Prior to the contract with TSL, BOST like most public sector managed enterprise, saw its fortune decline over the years due to poor management and product theft, running into millions of dollars, prompting various stakeholders to call for the privatization of the company. However, not until TSL’s entry in April 2014, under an Operate, Maintain and Management Agreement as well as a capital injection to the upgrade of BOST infrastructure, did BOST slowly begin to experience a turnaround in its fortunes. These series of transformative initiatives by TSL put a stop to its perennial losses and turned it into a profit making public enterprise and ultimately serving as a platform for the successful deregulation of petroleum products in Ghana on 16th of June, 2015

In the manufacturing sector, The Dangote Group, which began in 1981 as a trading business with an initial focus on cement, has over time transited into a fully-fledged manufacturing operation with interests spanning a range of sectors in Nigeria and across Africa. It is currently one of the most diversified and fully integrated business conglomerates in Africa.

Following an inspirational visit to Brazil in 1999 to study the emerging manufacturing sector, the Group embarked on an ambitious construction programme, initially focused on the construction of flourmills, a sugar refinery and a pasta factory. In 2000, the Dangote Group acquired the Benue Cement Company Plc from Nigerian government and in 2003 commissioned the Obajana Cement Plant, adjudged the largest cement plant in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Group’s current interests include cement, fertilizer, real estate, telecommunication, steel, oil and gas, poly products, haulage, port operations, food and beverages, haulage services, and packaging.

In telecommunications, Globacom Limited, a 100 per cent Nigerian owned company that started operations in Nigeria in August 2003, has expanded its operations in other countries in West Africa, namely, Republic of Benin, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. It has also built an $800million high capacity fibre optic cable known as Glo1, a submarine cable from the United Kingdom to Nigeria, which is said to have the potential to provide high speed internet services, faster, more reliable, and cheaper telecom services for the public as well as improve teleconferencing, distance learning, disaster recovery and telemedicine, among several other benefits for Nigerians and the people of West Africa. Immediately after its launch in Nigeria, Glo Mobile, the mobile network unit of Globacom, introduced lower tariffs, per second billing and other value added services.

In its first year of operation, it had one million subscribers in over 87 towns in Nigeria and over N120 billion in revenues and within seven years of the company’s operation, its subscriber base had grown to over 25 million. As at the end of June 2014, Glo had nearly 28 million subscribers representing 21 percent share of the Nigerian telecoms market, giving it the number two spot in terms of active subscription. It also emerged as the network with the second largest internet subscription with 14.3 million active subscriptions.

Other strategic business units of GLO include GLO Gateway, GLO’s International Wholesale Voice and Data Exchange Trading Business Unit, which now covers 140 countries under its roaming services, and is currently connected to 235 networks. In 2008, GLO’s data roaming for mobile phones, laptops and BlackBerry handsets grew tremendously. By 2009, it had spread to 72 networks in 29 countries, giving GLO the largest roaming coverage for voices and data in Africa.

The list is by no means exhaustive as there are numerous other Nigerian private businesses making significant impact in different sectors of the world economy. A number of them, as exemplified by TSL Logistics and GIP, have exhibited the capability in turning around a seemingly decaying and unprofitable government owned infrastructure in other countries. There is therefore no room for doubt that, given the opportunity, Nigerian private sector players are capable of replicating these successes either in Nigeria or other climes for more sustainable economic growth.


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