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Profiles

Meet Biola Alabi, a crusader changing the African narrative through entertainment

After several interactions via e-mail, Nairametrics secured a phone interview with Biola Alabi.

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Biola Alabi

On Nairametrics‘ Founder’s Profile this week, we bring you one of Nigeria’s finest, changing the narratives about Africa to the world. After several interactions via e-mail, Nairametrics was able to secure an interview with her. From her smiling pictures that abound on the internet, one could mistake her for an ex-beauty queen. The tall, beautiful and brainy Biola Alabi can be remembered by many  as the Managing Director of M-Net Africa, but she has since moved on and is now a media entrepreneur-founder and Managing Partner of Biola Alabi Media.

While waiting for her to start the conversation, I was quite unsure what to expect from her besides the information contained in feeds online about this successful woman. Throughout the short conversation, her Western upbringing was reflective in her voice and mannerism as she eloquently provided answers to our questions.

 Her Early Days

Biola was born in the US to Nigerian parents. The eldest among four children, her dad is from Akure in Ondo State, while her mother is from Ilesa, a town in Osun State. After some time in the US, her parents moved back to Nigeria, where the young Biola spent some years before they eventually returned to the US. While growing up, Biola’s parents wanted her to become either a doctor or an engineer but fate had other plans.

 Education and Work experience

Because of her parents’ back and forth movement, Biola had her early education in Nigeria and the US. She attended the University of Cincinnati for her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Public Health and graduated in 1996. She later proceeded to the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government for a Certificate in Global Leadership and Public Policy.

She kick-started her career at Bigwords.com as a Regional Marketing Manager and later moved to Sesame Workshop as the Regional Director, International Strategies Group Sub-Saharan Africa. She was at Sesame Workshop for seven years and later joined MNET Africa in 2008 as the Managing Director Africa, where she oversaw 4 editions of Big brother Africa and African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in 2013.

Experience at Sesame Workshop and MNET appointment 

During her stay at Sesame Workshop, formerly Children’s Television Workshop, a non-profit organisation that provides educational learning resources for children through TV, she was saddled with the responsibility of looking into international markets and local productions of their flagship program, Sesame Streets. Biola was in charge of the Africa markets, this required that she travel to different countries on the continent, and also work with different broadcasters and producers to set up a local production of Sesame Street. During the course of her work at Sesame, travelling around Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania) like the goldfish that has no hiding place, Biola was spotted by M-Net and the rest is history today.

The Biola Alabi Media (BAM)

Biola left M-Net to start her media outfit, Biola Alabi Media (BAM), a fast-growing media company dedicated to telling authentic African stories to the rest of the world. BAM, a content creation and consulting company, is based in Lagos while working across the world in broadcasting, telecommunication, and digital industries. Since its establishment in 2014 the media outfit hit the ground running with its first film, Banana Island Ghost, and its first TV show, Bukas and Joints which is regarded as the most watched TV food show across the country.

According to Biola, creating a positive narrative about Africa spurred her to establish her media outfit.

“One of the things that have really been core and important to me from a very early stage in my career has been how can we constantly add and create positive narratives about Africa about the continent and how we can make sure that we have enough positive images locally, that we can see of ourselves and globally, that we can share. And I think doing that you have to believe that there is a story that you are not seeing out there. That’s how we started the company.”

How BAM has been able to manage challenges 

According to Biola, some challenges facing the media include funding, distribution, and right partnerships. So far, her media group has been able to manage these challenges by working with the right partners.

“working with the right partners has helped us and as an entrepreneur, you have to constantly find ways to get your product out there, which is a constant process. I don’t want to give the impression that we just scale through all these problems.

“We’re constantly working through these challenges and problems using innovative solution tools.”

She advised entrepreneurs to always see challenges as opportunities and also continue leveraging on their network for growth.

Her Grooming for Greatness Project

Apart from the BAM, Biola also has a mentoring and grooming academy named Grooming for Greatness. The Academy equips selected participants with tools and skills that they need on their journeys as professionals and entrepreneurs.

According to Biola, the flagship has rolled out and accommodated 2 sets, with a call for new applications opening in January.

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“We’re very excited about the advancements we’ve made there and the opportunities we’re creating and the dialogue that we’re having with the next generation of Nigerian leaders.”

 Her Personal Life

 Biola is happily married. She describes her husband as a wonderful man, and a beautiful person all around. She also loves to invest in early-stage companies with the potential to scale and make huge impacts on people’s lives. She describes travelling and reading as her relaxation techniques. Biola also sits on the board of Unilever Nigeria Plc as a Non-Executive Director.

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Awards

Biola is the recipient of several awards by A-list organisations around the world among which are:

  • Listed among top 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa by Forbes in 2013.
  • West African Business Woman of the Year in 2013 by CNBC Africa.
  • Financial Times 100 Global Female Executives list 2018.

Additional Information provided by Ibukunoluwa Samuel.

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Fikayo has a degree in computer science with economics from Obafemi Awolowo University. ITIL v3 in IT service management. An alumnus of Daystar Leadership Academy. Prior to joining Nairametrics had stinct in Project management, Telecommunications among others. Also training in Consulting and Investment banking from Edubridge Academy. He has very keen interest in Politics, Agri-business, private equity and global economics. He loves travelling and watching football. You can contact him via [email protected]

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Profiles

Meet the new EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa

The new anti-graft boss has spent about 16 years working with the EFCC as a detective.

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Before the news of the confirmation of his appointment broke, observers were optimistic that Abdulrasheed Bawa will be the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Their reasons were not far from the countenances of the Senators that screened him and the type of questions they asked. Most of them praised his confidence and diligence.

Below is the short profile of the youngest EFCC boss: 

  • Abdulrasheed Bawa, who graduated from the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics (Second Class Upper) in 2001, joined the EFCC as an Assistant Detective Superintendent (ADS) in 2004.
  • He also holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy which he obtained from the same university in 2012.
  • According to his resume, the new anti-graft boss has spent about 16 years working with the EFCC as a detective, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of London.
  • He was part of the pioneer EFCC Cadet Officers, course one, 2005, as he rose through the ranks to become a Deputy Chief Detective Superindent (DCDS), a position he has been holding since 2016 up till the time of his nomination as the anti-graft agency’s substantive chairman.
  • He has vast investigation experience and has been part of the prosecution of advance fee fraud, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering, and other economic and financial crimes related offences.

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Profiles

Meet Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Africa’s woman of the moment

A look at NOI’s enviable profile that has made her the most preferred candidate for the position of the 7th DG of the WTO.

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Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will go down history lane for several reasons, and her signature head-tie is not one of them. The most recent reason for her dominating the news is her achievement as the First Nigerian, First African and first female ever to be confirmed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, effective from March 1, 2021.

Since the confirmation was made public via a tweet from WTO, congratulatory messages and encomiums have dominated the media space from the political and the economic space. However, this would not be the first of her firsts.

She definitely has a reputation as not being one to shirk a challenge of competency on the basis of her gender, and this can easily be seen in the trail of firsts which litters her profile. She was the first woman to head Nigeria’s finance ministry (twice), paving the way for Kemi Adeosun and Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, who held the position after her. She was also Nigeria’s first female Minister for Foreign Affairs.

It is necessary to remember some of the things which build an enviable profile for Okonjo-Iweala and made her the most preferred candidate as the 7th DG of the WTO despite earlier oppositions.

READ: What Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala plans to do as DG of WTO

Education

Ngozi was born on 13 June 1954 in Ogwashi-uku (now part of Delta state), to Professor Chukwuka Okonjo who was the Obi and a member of the Obahai Royal Family of Ogwashi-uku. She later added the surname, Iweala, when she married Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon from Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria.

She had her early schooling at Queen’s School, Enugu, before moving to Ibadan where she attended St. Anne’s School, Molete, and the International School Ibadan. As a teenager, she travelled to the USA in 1973 to study Economics at Harvard University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with an AB in 1976.

Five years later, she bagged a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

READ: How FG makes N1 trillion from reforms, anti-graft operations

Career

Okonjo-Iweala started out at the World Bank as an intern and returned as a Development Economist after graduation. She worked there for a total of 25 years, spearheading several initiatives to assist low-income countries through financial and food crisis. She held the positions of Corporate Secretary, Vice President and Managing Director Operations at different times.

She was first appointed into the Nigerian federal cabinet under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as Finance Minister and also Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first female to hold both positions. She was later appointed Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy under President Goodluck Jonathan.

Her efforts to reduce macroeconomic volatility by creating “The Excess Crude Account” to save revenues accruing above a reference benchmark oil price is still considered one of her most notable achievements as Minister. She also built an electronic financial management platform—the Government Integrated Financial Management and Information System (GIFMIS), including the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), to help check corruption in the system.

READ: Berger Paints announces the appointment of new Independent Non-Executive Directors

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Okonjo-Iweala was instrumental in helping Nigeria obtain its first ever sovereign credit rating (of BB minus) from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s in 2006, and her tenure saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa.

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Afterwards, she joined Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm as Senior Advisor. Okonjo-Iweala served as a member of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (2015–2016), chaired by Gordon Brown, and the Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, which was established by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (2017–2018). She has also served and still sits on several boards and organisations.

She founded NOI-Polls, Nigeria’s first indigenous opinion-research organization, as well as the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (C-SEA) a development research think tank based in Abuja.

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She has delivered and published several speeches and write-ups on sustainable debt strategy, promoting Trade as against Aid in low-income countries. In 2018, she published the book Fighting Corruption is Dangerous : The story behind the headlines – A frontline account from Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of how to fight corruption and lessons learned for governance and development, and many still consider this her most controversial work.

READ: WTO: What Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence means for international energy trade 

Serving Boards

Okonjo-Iweala serves on several boards including Twitter’s board of directors, a special envoy for the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 fight, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) alliance which she chairs since 2016.

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She sits on the boards of Standard Chartered Bank Non-executive member since 2017, the International Advisory Board of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), (since 2017); the International Advisory Panel of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), since 2016; Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Governors of African Development Bank (AfDB), (2003–2006, 2011–2015), and she is a Member of the International Monetary and Finance Committee, International Monetary Fund (IMF), (2003–2006, 2011–2015).

She is also part of several non-profit organisations including Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Member of the Board of Trustees (since 2019), Bloomberg New Economy Forum, Member of the Advisory Board (since 2018), Member of the Board of Directors of Results for Development (R4D) (since 2014); Member of the Advisory Board of Global Business Coalition for Education; Board Chairman of the African Risk Capacity (ARC), Women’s World Banking, Member of the Africa Advisory Council (since 2014), Chair of the Board of Nelson Mandela Institution, and several others.

The WTO DG race

In June 2020, Okonjo-Iweala along with several other candidates indicated their interest to run for the position of Director-General of the Switzerland-based WTO, and the race began. The race is usually one of consensus so when she started to receive the nod from several member-nations, clinching the position seemed like a sealed deal.

The major opposition as at 2020 was South Korea’s Minister for trade, Yoo Myung-hee who had the backing of Donald Trump-led administration of the USA, and this halted what would have been a consensus decision.

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Following Joe Biden’s election into the US presidency and predictions that he would declare support for Okonjo-Iweala, Myung Hee withdrew from the race on 5 February. Soon after, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office issued a statement endorsing Okonjo-Iweala and describing her wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy as a critical addition to the office.

Expectedly, Okonjo-Iweala was confirmed into the position on February 15, and is set to succeed Roberto Azevêdo, effective March 1.

Recognitions

It would be near impossible to compute all Okonjo-Iweala’s hundreds of awards and honors in a single article without boring the readers.

However, some interesting awards include the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal, by Pia Manzu Centre 2011; Global Leadership Award 2011, by Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Finance Minister of the Year 2005 for Africa and the Middle East, by The Banker; Global Finance Minister of the Year 2005, by Euromoney; Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award 2010; and TIME’s European Heroes Award 2004.

In 2017, she received the Madeleine K. Albright Global Development Award, from Aspen Institute; 2017 Vanguard Award, from Howard University. In December 2020, she was named the Forbes African of the Year, 2020, an award previously won by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina of the AfDB, Muhammad Sanusi II and Aliko Dangote.

She has received honorary degrees from about 14 universities, including the Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, Northern Caribbean University, Jamaica, Brown University, Tel Aviv University and Trinity College, Dublin.

She was listed as one of the 50 Greatest World Leaders (Fortune, 2015), the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in the World (Forbes, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014), the Top 3 Most Powerful Women in Africa (Forbes, 2012), the Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2014), the Top 100 Global Thinkers (Foreign Policy, 2011 and 2012), among others.

Okonjo-Iweala was conferred High National Honours from the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia, and also holds the honors of Nigeria’s Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR).

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