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Rising Africa Series

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 Thought Leaders Nigeria: a celebration of thought leaders, innovators, thinkers, problem solvers, and drivers of growth and development.

The Thought Leaders series is dedicated to promoting excellence in global leadership development. The series is aimed at young people that aspire for leadership and entrepreneurship roles in all sectors of the economy and the public sector.Through one on one interviews with leaders around the world, aspiring leaders can learn valuable insights and advice from those who have walked the path they want to take. We are currently focused on entrepreneurs and creatives who continue to forge ahead in spite of challenges to continually inspire us to forge ahead.

The Game Changer

Ugo Udezue was a successful NBA agent working for BDA Sports in the United States with a roster that included players such as Andre Roberson, Nenê and Festus Ezeli. However, he dreamt of creating and promoting a professional basketball league for talented players. That dream brought him back to his homeland of Nigeria where he created the Continental Basketball League (CBL). 

The CBL presented Udezue with another opportunity in the form of AFA Sports, one of the fastest-growing sports merchandising companies in Africa. AFA Sports, which means “Africa for Africa” has proven effective in creating a wide range of sports apparel and shoes tailored for sports and athleisure from an African context and terrain. Udezue serves as the company’s  CEO.

Ugo Udezue, CEO, AFA Sports. Picture: Supplied

What is the vision of AFA Sports?

We want to position the AFA brand to be the premiere sports brand company in Africa. Not only do we want to attract indigenous sport institutions, but foreign brands and investors to holistically develop the African and global sports industry.

Our goal moving forward is to develop a global audience by targeting mainstream sporting institutions in Europe and also developing a fast growing African conscious market.

AFA Sports is focused on empowerment. How so?

We have proven successful in creating a new industry and market in Africa which has in a relatively short period of time aided in creating employment, business, and investment opportunities for Africa and its people. We have poured our energies into providing talented African basketball players an arena to showcase their talents, and we have given sports teams a distinct and unique brand identity recognized by their growing fan base. 

One of AFA Sports most recent achievements towards enhancing sports development in Africa was the sponsorship of the Nigeria Women’s Basketball team – D’Tigress. D’Tigress broke the record by being the first African team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the just concluded FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup and this had a turnaround on the AFA Sports brand,expanding our foothold globally.

Beyond becoming a recognized continental brand name, whatare AFA Sports plans?

AFA Sports currently has a flagship store in Victoria Island, Lagos, with plans of expanding to Abuja and Accra.

Beyond continuing to expand our sports merchandise offerings, we hope to prove instrumental in continuing to encourage and develop more sports programs across Africa. We are particularly focused on countries hat have suffered from a lack of investment in the past as we see the most opportunities to affect positive change for not just athletes but supporting businesses within those countries.

An AFA product. Picture: Supplied

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A Nation Ready For Equitable and Sustainable Take-Off

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 “Commitment to the national constructive dialogue has enabled meaningful progress towards the settlement of differences and building an effective, lasting and sustainable peace which provides the necessary environment for the strengthening of national unity, reconciliation and resumption of the country’s economic growth.” President Filipe Nyusi

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Mozambique’s economy is on the rebound; within the first half of 2018, it grew at the rate of 3.2%, inducing declines in interest rates and the stabilisation of its currency. “The  medium-and long-term prospects for the Mozambican economy are excellent,” states Dr Rogério Zandamela, Governor of the Bank of Mozambique. “We have already calibrated our instruments to ensure macroeconomic and financial system stability to provide greater predictability to economic agents in their decisions to save and invest.” The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also stated that in 2019, the Mozambican economy could grow between 4% and 4.7% (higher than the 3.5% forecast for 2018). The main reasons for this are the government’s focus on peace, as well as its relaxation of monetary policy and fiscal consolidation resulting in improved ease of doing business.

Hydrocarbon research and production underway in the north of Mozambique are also key to the nation’s transformation and growth. The recent discovery of enormous reserves of hydrocarbons is set to position Mozambique as one of the world’s leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporters. The Mozambique LNG Project is Mozambique’s first ever onshore LNG development and, according to Omar Mithá, Chairman and CEO of ENH, “is an integrated project: upstream and mainstream, two trains, with a 5.6 million capacity each to produce 12 million tonnes per annum.” The Project will also initially supply volumes of approximately 100 million cubic feet per day of natural gas for domestic use in Mozambique, and is expected to have a future expansion of up to 50 million tonnes per annum. “Our major goal is then to construct both the offshore developments and the two onshore LNG processing trains and associated facilities safely, on time and on budget,” explains Steve Wilson, Anadarko’s Vice President & Country Manager. The South Coral Project and the Rovuma LNG Project is the first project in the development of the (approximately) 450 billion cubic metres of gas in Rovuma Basin’s Area 4. The Plan of Development foresees the drilling and completion of six subsea wells and the construction of the FLNG.  It is also the first Project Finance ever arranged in the world for a liquefaction floater. Alessandro Nanotti, General Manager Upstream of Mozambique Rovuma Venture S.p.A., explains; “The insurance on the project is the largest ever done on the whole value of the vessel, in which partners will invest seven billion dollars. The project-financing is the largest ever ensured in Africa and we believe that we will contribute to the economic recovery of the country.”

Abundant natural resource wealth and the nation’s fertile, arable land, has placed Mozambique on the foreign direct investment (FDI) map. “Mozambique has vast unexploited mineral resources, large areas of arable land with ample ground water, 2400 kilometres of coastline with underexploited marine resources and pristine beaches as potential leisure destinations,” explains Jose Parayanken, President of Mozambique Holdings Limited. Mozambique’s Economic and Social Plan (PES) 2019, reveals that the nation’s commitment to diversification and inclusive growth will ensure strong performances in mining, fisheries and agricultural sectors. Its potential in energy generation though renewables and EDM’s introduction of new technologies aims to electrify the whole nation by 2025, while improved exchange control, local content law and Nacala Logistics Corridor are encouraging domestic production, generating jobs and enhancing income potential. MD Ramesh, President and Head of Olam in south and east Africa, states: “We are trying to ensure that farming communities do well and create wealth for themselves so that they can decide how they can use that wealth.”

With a favourable trading environment and current investment in infrastructure, Mozambique is ready to live up to its full potential at last. “Mozambique has competitive advantages in terms of position, resources and our people are very determined and work hard,” declares Samuel Samo Gudo, President of Escopil. “We are now building strong government institutions which is making Mozambique more sustainable in the long-run.”

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Thought Leaders in Ghana

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Q&A with Julian Kingsley Opuni, Deputy MD, Fidelity Bank


You are known for  excellence in creating  international partnerships, joint ventures and synergies within the international business community, how has this process evolved over the years?

Our vision is to create a world-class bank in Africa. In 10 years, we have become the largest Ghanaian, private sector bank in Ghana. This journey has not been achieved on our own. We are built on partnerships. When we needed technology as our operations expanded, we partnered with IBM, a global leader in technology, to stabilize our technology platform. We also bought Pro Credit in 2014 in our quest to expand our branch network and to strengthen our SME business.

Our core mission is how we impact the people and communities around us, and so we have partnered with several developmental organisations such as USAID, Financial Sector Deepening Africa, GIZ, Solidaridad and SNV to impact many lives in remote rural locations with financial services. As we advance into the digital era, we will continue to lead that charge through partnerships with various fintech and telcos. Products such our Yello Save,which is a partnership with MTN, will help us provide financial services quicker and faster to more people.

Looking back on the first decade or so with your firm, what have been the most significant developments in your bank?

Fidelity Bank’s strength in an arguably challenged banking environment is grounded firmly in the quality of our balance sheet and the adequacy of our capital. We were ranked 2nd among the top 10 banks (by balance sheet size) in terms of capital adequacy ratio in 2018. 

Over 75% of our balance sheet was in liquid and near liquid investments. We understand the trade-off between liquidity, risk and return,and our tactical strategy has been to make the necessary re-balancing adjustments to remain profitable and strong.

Fidelity Bank has embraced the digital landscape, offering a myriad of products and services for both Corporate and Personal Banking customers. Our most popular digital solutions for individual customers, is the Fidelity Mobile App which was built with the customer’s most important needs in mind. It is super easy to use, fast and very secure. You can generate eStatements, perform FX sale, make card limit requests, QR code to merchants,make internal transfer or transfer money to any mobile money wallet. 


 Julian Kingsley Opuni, Deputy MD, Fidelity Bank. Picture: Supplied

In our quest to make the society and the world at large a more sustainable place to live, we were awarded the Best CSR Bank for the second time at the 2015 Ghana Banking Awards. In 2016, we also won the best CSR Bank in the Sixth Ghana CSR Excellence Awards (GHACEA).

Ghana has one of the poorest sanitation records in Africa. To provide supply side solutions to sanitation, Fidelity Bank partnered with the Embassy for the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN) and SNV Netherlands Development Organization to improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). With the support of USAID, the SMART Agri finance project was actively implemented with our field partners, SNV. 

This was primarily to raise the awareness of a savings culture through the use of digitized payment systems among small holder farmers(especially women). We provided over 2,600 farmers financial education, about 65% of them were women.

How do you impart knowledge to the younger generation?

We believe that the best way in which we can support the younger generation is through financial empowerment. 

We do that by developing innovative financial products that allow younger people to access easily finance.  

Our Smart Account and Agency banking proposition has enabled many young people to receive their first bank accounts. These accounts go with financial education materials that allow them to understand how to use their accounts. 

Cocoa is the mainstay of our economy, yet the average age of a cocoa farmer is over 55 yrs. We are working with Solidaridad with support from the MasterCard Foundation to deliver financial education to many young people to encourage them to take up cocoa farming.

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Q&A with Uche Okafor, Country Manager, Taxify Nigeria

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What is your vision for  Taxify in Nigeria?  

By improving the user experience and creating social value, Taxify has been able to build an open, efficient and sustainable transportation ecosystem. 

With hundreds of thousands of riders using the platform and the best arrival times in the cities within which we operate, we’re fast becoming the most efficient ride-hailing platform in the country and the preferred way to move around the city. 

We want to build the future of transportation in Nigeria and lead the vision to transform the country into a mega-nation. This doesn’t happen overnight, but we believe in the power of technology to transform the way that we think about moving. 

Uche Okafor, Country Manager, Taxify Nigeria. Picture: Supplied

Taxify is very focused on meeting the demands of its customers.  To that end, what strategies has Taxify put in place to attract customers and ensure their satisfaction?

A key selling point for Taxify is our availability. Nigerians have a go-getter spirit and are always on the move. 

This means that time and convenience are key factors in becoming a preferred brand.It is important to provide efficient support and service recovery for both our riders and driver-partners. 

Additionally, we are always working to build value-added partnerships that ensure that everyone that chooses Taxify gets the best out of our platform. 

Taxify also offers high quality, safe and comfortable rides. All of these things add value and ensure our riders enjoy superior experiences on every trip.

How does Taxify Nigeria’s dynamic team contribute to its success?  

We all come from different backgrounds and cultures and are as a result, able to bring different perspectives to the table. 

We all believe in a bigger vision and that our task is not just to build the future of transportation but to change the way that people move in cities across Nigeria and Africa.  

A huge part of our jobs is to create an environment where flexibility and diversity are not only encouraged but celebrated.  That has contributed to our innovative and forward-thinking approach that has led to our success.

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