Folorunso Muyiwa is the Chief Executive Officer of Divergent Enterprise, the parent company of Porkmoney. In this interview, he outlined the opportunities and importance of investing in the non-oil sectors for economic growth. Excerpts:
What did you set out to achieve when you established pig business?
Porkmoney was birthed in 2018 with an objective to create wealth for our financial partners through pig farming.
Federal Government maintains its determination to diversify the economy. Do you think that is achievable?
It is definitely achievable. The diversification of the economy is probably the only option left for development and growth. This is because the economy continues to be over-reliant on oil, the numbers speak for themselves. Oil accounts for 80% of government’s revenue and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. No country can totally depend on only one economic sector, especially one that is blessed with a lot of natural resources like Nigeria.
I believe that there are great opportunities for non-oil sectors to grow and this growth has been visible since 2001. Of course, the changes cannot be that quick and the transformation will not happen overnight. However, the federal government can develop different sectors by taking the important steps necessary for growth to take place. We can no longer be a mono-economic country.
What would you consider as the most limiting factor to entrepreneurship, especially for youths?
Lack of capital has to be one of them. Aside from the fact that the Nigerian environment is not too conducive and encouraging for budding entrepreneurs, raising capital and access to funds, has to be one of the biggest challenges for youth in business. Another is the unfavourable tax policies, poor management, corruption, lack of training and experience, poor infrastructure, and a lack of specialised skills to scale one’s enterprise, none of which is insurmountable for the determined person.
How would you rate Nigeria’s scale of Small Medium Enterprises, compared to Malaysia and other countries?
The SME sector is the backbone of major developed economies, as well as important contributors to employment, economic and export growth. Malaysia is doing remarkably well when it comes to the business scene. About 98.5% of Business establishments In Malaysia are SME’s which contributes to 36.5% of their GDP and 65% of the country’s employment. This is impressive. But despite the significant contribution of SMEs to the Nigerian economy(48%), challenges still persist that hinder the growth and development of the sector. Some of the overriding issues are access to funding, lack of skilled manpower, the multiplicity of taxes, high cost of doing business, among others. This proves that there is still much to be done.
What challenges did you encounter?
Every business comes with a few challenges. One of the challenges we constantly face is the need to micro-manage casual workers. From farm handlers, managers, production managers to other workers. Many of them compromise on set standards by cutting corners, especially in meat processing and livestock welfare. Another challenge is the religious sentiments in this part of the world towards pigs and pork products. However, this was a more pronounced problem at inception and it is gradually dissipating with time.
Knowing the religious sensibilities of the country, did aversion to pork cross your mind?
Not at all. In as much as there’s a religious proscription to the consumption of pork, we cannot ignore its usefulness and benefits to our health and nourishment and just how lucrative the pig farming industry is. I mean, Nigeria is a major consumer of pork and 80% of it is imported. This means that a lot of people enjoy this animal protein, all we are doing is localising its production.
Could that explain why you ventured into pig farming?
The idea for Porkmoney grew out of the desire to tap into an over neglected sector of livestock farming (Pigs) that has the potential to create value and change the agricultural ecosystem for good. Long ago before Porkmoney was launched in 2018, I had visited a pig farm in Ogun State. One of the biggest in the country and realised how fast the pigs grew and the viability of the pig farming system in general. I knew this was something I needed to be a part of and I’m glad for the decision that I made. We are currently the leading Pig farming enterprise in West Africa and our results speak for itself.
Did you derive the idea of establishing PorkMoney from that enterprise?
My visit to that farm was definitely a turning point for me. Before then, I was oblivious of the untapped goldmine that is pig farming.
Vaccines and disease surveillance have always been the bane of animal husbandry, how do you react to that observation?
Livestock is very prone to diseases, hence the need to constantly take precautionary measures such as the administration of vaccines and disease surveillance activities across the farm to prevent disease outbreaks. Very recently China witnessed it’s the biggest animal disease that claimed the lives of the livestock and cost the country to lose billions of dollars because of its flawed surveillance.
So, it’s important for other pork producing countries to take adequate disease surveillance and testing programs in order for these diseases could be detected early enough and prevent a fast spread. And so far our farm partners under our management have taken adequate measures that have seen us not witness any outbreak since our launch in 2018, we expect that with our measures this would continue to be the case.
Is it possible to alter negative public perceptions about pig farming?
Yes, one of our key responsibilities is to enlighten and educate the general public about the great side to pig farming and inform them of the many benefits of pork consumption. Somehow our environment and the kind of information we were exposed to as a people, have influenced our idea of certain things. There are a lot of things we might need to unlearn as time goes on. So by using all our platforms, from our social media, our website and even our adverts, we have ensured that we always show the good side to pig farming because they’re a lot.
Did you think about the possible health challenges in pork breeding?
Of course, we do. However, we ensure that we take the appropriate steps to mitigate any possibility. We also take proper hygienic measures like vaccination, quarantine, and biosecurity which keeps our weaners very healthy.
Are you saying there are no associated diseases?
Livestock farming comes with a risk of an outburst of diseases but if managed properly, can be prevented. And the great thing about pigs is just how resilient they are as compared to any other livestock for farming. They are simply incredibly disease resilient.
As an entrepreneur, how did you overcome initial apprehensions, especially funding, and what areas have you exerted your ideas so far?
When i was starting out in business, I had no capital, training or resources to start my journey. The brilliant ideas were there, all that was needed to execute them was finance. This was lacking but I had to start small and grow multiple businesses over the years till I was able to afford the capital needed to start my current pursuit.