Category Archives: Business


​AFSSCo96 will be holding its first ever business summit. SHM caught up with the President of the association Mr. Rotimi Bankole and had a brief chat with him.

SHM: The AFSSCo96 is a gathering of classmates and you recently had your reunion party last December. That is understandable, but a Business Summit?

Bankole: We are more than a group of nostalgic pilgrims who are lost in the world of business, family and the vicissitudes of life. AFSSCo96 is a group of unique people. A special breed of enigmatic personalities who are change makers in their respective calls of life. This is the more reason we are using this opportunity to create a convergence of likeminds, a group of people who are more than former school mates but changemakers and inspiring leaders.

SHM: Sir, what are the expected outcomes of this Business Summit?

Bankole: A business summit sells itself and it is different from a reunion. It is an opportunity for former classmates to meet and see areas where they can connect to do business. Many of us have become professionals and giants in various industries across the globe. Please use this opportunity to network, support each other and make a difference within the community.

The AFSSCo96 Business Summit is scheduled to hold on the 2nd of April, 2018. 


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Bilikiss Adebiyi Abiola was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1983. She got her secondary education at the Supreme Education Foundation secondary school. She proceeded to the University of Lagos and left the University of Lagos after a year to complete her studies in the United States of America. She graduated from Fisk University and went further to Vanderbilt University where she earned a master’s degree. She worked for IBM for five years before deciding to study further. 

She was accepted to study for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While at her second year at the MIT, where she was studying waste as her specialist subject, she came up with the idea for a recycling business. Her initial idea was to increase the quantity of waste she could collect from households by offering them raffle tickets in exchange. When she discussed this in Nigeria on a vacation she was surprised at the enthusiasm that was offered for her ideas. Waste is a particular nuisance in Lagos as only a small percentage is collected regularly. Abiola took the idea back to MIT where she was able to gather support by entering her idea in competitions. Abiola’s husband had always been based in Nigeria so there was a good reason for her to return to Lagos, Nigeria after her 2012 graduation. Whilst her children were at school she commuted each day to establish her new recycling business that she called Wecyclers . When the business started Adebiyi would take out a tricycle to do collections to find out more about her new business.

​In 2012 she co-founded a company called Wecyclers which collects recyclable rubbish from households in Lagos. Once the rubbish is sorted then her company sends back SMS messages to the person who supplied the rubbish. The SMS message tells that person about points they have earned from the rubbish they donated. The company works in partnership with the Lagos Waste Management Authority. Lagos produces 9,000 tonnes of waste per day and the authority was trying to almost double the proportion that was recycled from the 18% figure in 2011. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy but the disorganisation in Lagos means that rubbish cannot always be collected. Wecyclers use modified tricycles which enables rubbish to be collected where normal vehicles can not go. Wecyclers collects from thousands of households. The company estimated in October 2015 that it has collected over 500 tons of rubbish, it has created value from that rubbish and it has employed 80 people.

Abiola currently has an arrangement with Coca-Cola and GlaxoSmithKline to subsidise their operation. Wecyclers found that a significant proportion of the rubbish came from these companies and they were willing to assist with the recycling effort.

Abiola’s efforts have been reported in Nigeria, the UK, US and Germany in 2014 and 2016. Coverage included CNN, Huffington Post , “Die Zeit”, The Independent, Marie Claire Magazine, The Economist , NDaniTV and D+C. She has been awarded grants from MIT and she has won a number of awards including the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.

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Anna Phosa is one of Africa’s most successful business women. The pig farmer is often referred to as a ‘celebrity pig farmer. In a continent where doing business is very challenging, her business journey was not rosy and she struggled to raise capital to start and grow the business. In 2004, Anna started her first pig farm in Soweto with $100 which was from her personal savings and started with only 4 small pigs.

She struggled for four years after which she was contracted by Pick ‘n Pay, the South African supermarket chain, to supply its stores with 10 pigs per week. This was a first breakthrough and the request grew quickly to 20 pigs per week. By 2010, she signed a – five – year contract with Pick ‘n Pay to supply 100 pigs per week for just under R25 million – that’s nearly $1.9 million today.

With this contract, Anna was able to raise capital from ABSA Bank and USAID to buy a 350-hectare farm property.  Currently, her farm houses over 4,000 pigs at a time and employs several staff.

Most entrepreneurs who want to start a business often turn to banks and end up disappointed. And that is because banks tend to focus on growth and mature businesses that have healthy cash flows and collateral that can be used to secure the loan. If you do not have any of these, you could be wasting your time chasing a bank loan. Many entrepreneurs do not know this but banks are just one out of several different options for raising capital.

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Jason Njoku is the co-founder of IrokoTV, a mobile entertainment and internet TV platform that’s particularly popular for its impressive catalogue of African movies, particularly Nollywood. As glamorous as the business may seem today, the early days were not. The struggle was intense.

After failed attempts at previous businesses in the UK, Jason returned to Nigeria in 2010 to build relationships with local movie producers and purchase content rights for his new startup, IrokoTV. The kind of money required was not available to him. Undeterred, he made several efforts to raise money. Fortunately, a friend and business partner of his known as Sebastian did the impossible by investing £90,000 in Jason’s Iroko TV. Since then, the growth of IrokoTV has been remarkable.

The business has attracted about $40 million in investment funding from foreign venture capital investors. Its investors include Tiger Global, a New York-based private equity firm, and Investment AB Kinnevik, a Swedish venture capital investor. In January 2016, IrokoTV raised $19 million in additional funding to expand its business into Francophone countries in Africa.

Venture capital firms invest more than $140 billion every year in startups and growth businesses across the world. In Africa, venture capital is only just starting to surface and they’re very interested in funding highly-scalable businesses that have significant profit potential.

Jason Njoku has been able to successfully raise significant amounts of capital to grow a company that was described by Forbes Magazine as “the Netflix of Africa” by using a combination of business partnerships and venture capital.


As a young child, growing up in the Kaptembwa Slums in Kenya, Lorna Rutto experienced more than her fair share of poverty, unemployment, garbage and rotting waste in the streets, and clogged, overflowing sewers encroaching people’s homes. As a young schoolgirl, her eco-consciousness came to the fore, when she noticed the huge amounts of plastic waste littering the environment. She decided to start making a small difference to addressing the situation, recycling this plastic litter and making creative pieces of jewellery and small ornaments by melting the plastic, reshaping and decorating it into new objects. She sold her creative work at school to other pupils and friends for small amounts of money, but it was a small step to becoming more environmentally aware.

After school, she went to college, graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting, and went into a career in banking, a solid career choice given the tough employment market in Kenya at the time. However, she felt unfulfilled and longed to work with people and in the field of science, instead of working on financial systems and structures.  Her passion for the environment, and her desire to do something to address the increasing waste problem in the country, led her to take the entrepreneurial plunge, leaving the banking sector, and starting up in business.  Together with her co-founder, Charles Kalama, a biochemical engineering graduate from University College in London, they founded EcoPost in 2009, a green business manufacturing aesthetically pleasing, durable and environmentally friendly fencing posts utilising plastic wastes.


Lorna 1

Today, EcoPost is an entrepreneurial and an environmental corporate success story.  The venture not only provides an effective solution to the management of the huge amounts of plastic waste created in Kenya each day, but also converts this waste into usable fencing products that in turn conserve forests that are under threat from logging.  EcoPost is also directly providing a solution to the terrible unemployment situation in the country, creating over 300 jobs for young people and women who were previously marginalised in the society.  The EcoPost business model is looking to create 100,000 jobs over the next 15 years. Its eco-footprint is no less impressive with the company removing over 1 million kilos of plastic waste from Kenya’s urban slums, and saving around 250 acres of precious forest in the country.

Lorna Rutto is a Kenyan eco-preneur, and the inspiring founder of EcoPost, a social enterprise. She has not only provided Kenya with a commercial alternative to timber, but has in the process created over 300 jobs, generated much needed revenues and taken over 1 million kilogrammes of plastic waste out of the environment.  As Lorna puts it:

“Our vision is To Transform Africa’s Waste into Wealth”. We use waste plastic as a resource to manufacture aesthetic, durable, easy to use and environmentally friendly plastic lumber. Our aim is to create a sustainable solution to the growing plastic waste menace, provide a suitable alternative material so that we reduce the cutting down of trees and create job opportunities to reduce poverty.” She also added:

“By providing an alternative to timber we conserve our forests & maintaining them as water catchments areas. Forests act as carbon sinks by removing CO2 from the atmosphere hence mitigating climate change”. 

Her efforts have won her numerous plaudits and awards, both at home and abroad. In 2011, Lorna was recognised by the prestigious Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards as their laureate for sub-Saharan Africa. Lorna and her eco-business, EcoPosts, are truly inspirational and demonstrate how it is possible to create a viable and sustainable business in Africa, whilst at the same time positively impacting on local communities and the environment.

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Starting a business in Nigeria

By Jereaghogho Efeturi – Ukusare

Doing business in all parts of the world is tantamount to waging a war, only difference is in this case, it is not against the enemy, hence, the term “healthy competition”.  Starting a business is a herculean task. In most climes, there are special private funds that are available for start ups. These funds are referred to as Venture Capital. This is common in Europe, America and more recently, China. And this has been the culture for several decades. It should therefore not be surprising to find start-ups in countries with Venture Capital Funds doing very well and being employers of a huge amount of labor. One should also not be bewildered that the economy of these countries record steady growth on a yearly basis. However, in other climes like Africa, the reverse is the case.

Start-ups in Africa face a myriad of challenges ranging from the lack of funds to grow the business and all that is in between, to lack of skilled manpower to drive the business. Most African countries especially the Sub-Saharan countries face similar issues and these issues affect businesses and the start-ups are worst hit. Most of these challenges are infrastructural in nature. A few of these are highlighted here.

One of the challenges faced by start-ups in Africa is lack of power supply. The supply of electricity in most African countries especially Sub-Saharan countries is epileptic. So, starting out a business in these countries would certainly prove to be very tough. An elderly friend of mine who has travelled extensively to almost all parts of the globe doing business once mentioned to me that life in Africa is very hard, especially if you are trying to do your own business. And the first thing he mentioned, which is certainly known to any startup in Africa is the lack of power supply. Even in cases where you are very prepared to mitigate this challenge in your business, the rising cost of production or cost of service, which leads to higher market prices of your goods and services, will definitely be a major source of concern. Most especially if you have foreign products in the market or foreign competitors in the service you render. This is the most common business killer in Africa.

Weak telecommunications infrastructure is another major challenge for start-ups. Imagine a scenario where a start-up service provider promises to call a prospective client at an agreed time and at that time, the start-up puts the call through and gets no connection. He or she tries repeatedly and is still unsuccessful; meanwhile his/ her prospective client is waiting patiently or impatiently as the case may be and never gets this call. What happens to this start-up? He loses a customer who would possibly have brought him/her other customers. This also applies to start-up manufacturers as most rely on putting calls through when they require supplies. This is most common in Nigeria as the situation in many African countries is better than that of Nigeria. In case you are a Nigerian would- be start-up, please brace for impact.

Whereas banks and other private non-bank financial institutions in Europe and America have funds for start-ups, Africa lacks this key component. The African economy is not as robust yet in providing such funds to businesses that are just starting. Banks in Africa would always require collaterals that are equivalent to the sum you want to borrow from them. In addition, African banks have very discouraging interest rates that are always double digits and usually ranking among the highest in the world.  These stifling conditions make it very difficult for the start-up to have access to finance to grow his/her business. This leads me to my next point.

Lack of enabling laws and government policies is yet another challenge facing the new business in Africa. In the words of Richard Branson: “Nigerian Governments are dream killers”. As much as this is true to Nigeria it also applies to many African countries. From the National governments to the local or municipal governments, you find a dearth of enabling laws and policies that create the right atmosphere for business to thrive. In cases where these laws and or policies are in existence, they reflect lack of a process leading to the making of the law and or policy. Consequently, you find laws and policies that are incomplete or that make worse an already bad situation. Again, this leads me to the next challenge.

The challenge of inconsistent government policies in Africa makes an already murky business environment turbulent. As administrations change from one to another so also do the policies of the governments change, thereby creating an atmosphere of constant change in policies. This takes its toll on big businesses as well. In addition, corruption in government is another factor that kills start-ups in Africa. Most government offices you go into expect you to “grease” their palm for them to do the job they are paid to do for you. Worse still, it is your money that is used in paying them still they want you to bribe them.

The last thing I would like to talk about is the lack of the minimum level of business management knowledge and skills. Most start-ups have the problem of poor management. With many years of experience in skills and brilliant ideas to start a great business, no business can grow without proper management skills in place. In addition to this, most of those recruited to work in these new enterprises lack the requisite qualification – technical or otherwise – for the jobs they are employed to handle. This is also as a result of overall inability to effectively manage an enterprise; precisely, inability to recruit qualified persons and maintain a great team.

In conclusion, the first I recommend on one hand is an upgrade or formal acquisition of entrepreneurship training. Business leaders need adequate business management knowledge and skills to stay ahead of the pack or to be able to put their enterprises in positions of favorable competition.  On the other hand African governments at all levels should acquire and upgrade the infrastructure as well as make laws and policies that are based on proper research so as to create and sustain conducive business environments. The second is that the African private sector should evolve a robust system that supports start-ups. The system in view here is Venture Capital funds. Once these are in place, start-ups in Africa would no longer have to go through the daily harrowing experiences that they go through today.


Jere Efeturi is the Publisher & Editor In Chief, St. Hilary’s Magazine and an Entrepreneurship Training Facilitator.