Drawing from statistics of Nigeria’s rebased GDP figures, information and communication technologies (ICT) and its sub-sectors are key drivers of Nigeria’s impressive economic growth. And more interestingly, the major players in this tech-shift aren’t foreigners; Nigerians, and Africans at large, have taken the bulls by the horns, cashing in on the fortunes of IT driven businesses, and contributing immensely to economic and infrastructural development, job creation and youth empowerment.
In Nigeria, the IT sector currently contributes 8.7 percent to GDP, according to figures from the country’s ICT Ministry, an equivalent of N6.97 trillion ($44.3 billion) out of the total rebased Gross Domestic product (GDP) of N80.22 trillion ($510 billion). With these innovative ventures seeing largely positive returns, with regards profit taking, rapid market expansion and overall development, the figures above are expected to hit double digits within the next decade, and this in no small part owes to the administrative competence and dexterity of their CEOs.
Poised to live their dream and impact the society, most of these outstanding individuals have left well-paying jobs to face a seemingly uncertain future, pioneering entreprise in IT sub-sectors. Our top 10 tech CEOs were selected based on the impact their companies have had on business in Nigeria and their overall contribution to economic growth. In no respective order, meet the top 10 Nigerian tech CEOs:
Jason Njoku (iROKO Partners) – Jason is the cofounder of iROKO Partners, an African focused media streaming platform that has drawn significant attention since inception for its innovative thinking in exploiting an untapped million dollar opportunity. A chemistry graduate from the University of Manchester, Jason identified a huge gap in the delivery of local content online and founded iROKO Partners with partner Bastian Gotter in 2010. Together, they have built the business to prominence; today iROKO is the largest Youtube partner in Africa, with over 500,000 movie licenses purchased. It has over 14 million hours of media content on its license rights and more than 800,000 registered users, making it the largest distributor of Nollywood content globally. It recently acquired an $8 million investment from hedge fund, Tiger Global.
Sim Shagaya (Konga) – Serial entrepreneur, Sim Shagaya, along with 10 employees began what is now arguably the largest ecommerce business in the country. A vastly experienced tech professional, following stints at Google, Microstrategy and RealNetworks, Sim left the employee phase to begin his entrepreneurial venture, with his first major break the 2012 launched Konga.com, which has maintained the heights of a promising start and has received series of investment amounting to $35 million from keen profit seekers including South African-based Naspers and Kinnivik.
Asides Konga, Sim has also launched ecommerce platform DealDey, a locally coined name that implies a deal offering platform, sourcing the best discount offers from product and service providers across the country.
Abasiama Idaresit (Wild Fusion) – London School of Economics graduate had one – and only one – thing in mind when he returned to Nigeria, “to see how the Internet could help transform the business landscape in Nigeria.” That though drove the launch of Wild Fusion, a digital marketing firm, in 2008. His company is famous for turning a $250 initial deal into a million dollar venture.
It later went on to become the first company in Nigeria to earn the Google Adwords Partner certification, and provides internet marketing services for international brands such as Pespi and Vodacom. Its operation extends across the African space, reaching countries like Ghana and Kenya.
Mike Adenuga (Globacom) – One of Nigeria’s richest men, Mike Adenuga is the founder of Globacom, the country’s second largest telecom operator, only behind MTN. Registered as the fourth mobile operator in 2003, Glo swiftly raised competition amongst local operators, moving to battle with MTN at the time. It has been credited for championing the significant drop in cost of telecommunication services, with prices of sim cards falling from a high of N40,000 ($250) to as low as N200 ($1.2) in less than a half-decade.
Glo is also the first company to roll a submarine fibre optic cable from the UK, a project that gulped more than $800 million.
Tayo Oviosu (Paga) – A Stanford-trained professional, Tayo is the founder of Paga, a Nigerian money transfer service firm. It was established after Tayo, a former business development manager at CISCO, noticed that while Nigeria had an abundance of mobile devices, off-the-counter banking services remained relatively scarce. Paga would provide the solution for this underserviced space.
Today, Paga has over a million subscribers utilizing its mobile money services for daily transactions and has received funding from institutional investors including Acumen fund, Adievo Capital and much more. The most recent endorsement of its business progress was the news that renowned economist and coiner of the BRICS and MINTS acronyms, Jim O’Neil, recently invested in the indigenous platform.
Valentine Obi (etranzact) – A vastly experienced IT professional, Valentine is the founder and CEO of etranzact, a local multi-application and multi-channel electronic transaction switching and payment processing platform. Launched in 2003, it has evolved into a multinational brand, rolling out products such as ATM, Internet, POS, and Mobile in 6 other countries including South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cote d’voire and United Kingdom.
Following the award of a mobile money license, etranzact moved swiftly to exploit this emerging space, launching a subsidiary business, PocketMoni.
Florence Seriki (Omatek) – She went from being a computer tutor to a saleswoman after the opportunity to sell computers to her high-end clients surfaced. Although she has a chemical engineering background, today, she can boast of several IT awards and her company, Omatek made history in Nigeria by becoming the first IT firm to be listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange. It currently sells at N0.50 per share on the Nigerian bourse and has a market capitalization of N1.47 billion ($90 million).
Omatek is currently pushing an initiative tagged “e-xpress” aimed at helping Nigerians realize their dreams of owning personal computers in an easy and convenient form by offering a flexible acquisition and payment method.
Leonard “Leo” Stanley Nnamdi Ekeh (Zinox Technologies) – A trail blazer in Nigeria’s IT industry, Stanley Ekeh set up Zinox Technologies Limited in 2001 determined to fill the gap of manufacturing computers locally. To achieve this, Zinox Computers was launched – Nigeria’s First Internationally Certified Branded Computers which came with a Naira sign and a power supply designed to country’s unstable power.
With Task Systems Limited, his first company, he computerized 95 percent of the Print Media, Publishing Houses and Advertising Agencies in Nigeria, winning several outstanding industry Awards. He also pioneered IT Solutions and Distribution in West Africa through ITEC Solutions Limited and Technology Distributions Limited, TD respectively, both award-winning companies. He has also been involved with ICT Brokers, Buyright AFRICA Dotcom and ICT Connect. Eke’s Zinox last year launched its Zipad tablet, another pioneering feat by the indigenous company.
Funke Opeke (Mainstreet Technologies) – Opeke is the CEO of MainOne Cable Company. She founded Mainstreet Technologies, developer of MainOne Cable, a submarine communications cable stretching from Portugal to South Africa with landings along the route in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria.
The system which will be extended to 10 other cities in its second phase is expected to increase open access to telecom operators and Internet service providers in sub-Saharan Africa. Opeke ensured that the network operational center (NOC) for the entire system was located in Nigeria in order to encourage local content development through transfer of critical networking technologies skills.
Her giant strides caught the eye of international investors like the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) and the Africa Finance Corporation. Some Nigerian banks have also invested in the MainOne Cable project.
Mitchell Elegbe (Interswitch) – An idea ran through Mitchell Elegbe’s ingenious mind while still heading the Group Marketing and Business Solution at Telnet Nigeria in 2001. It was to build a system that would enable electronic transaction of money. A year later, Elechi had founded Interswitch.
Today, Interswitch not only has the infrastructure for online, real-time transaction switching and payment processing, its shared infrastructure has been adopted by banks, government agencies and corporate organizations to accelerate growth while reducing cost of operations.
The growth of the company and the future such growth holds encouraged investors to join Elegbe’s Interswitch success story. Helios Investment Partners, International Finance Corporation and Adlevo Capital acquired over 60 percent of the company’s shares in 2010, retaining the goal-getter, Mitchell as CEO and driver of the Interswitch train to the great future they see ahead.