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Stella Okoli: The woman who built a pharmaceutical giant from a small store

From a chemist store, Stella Okoli has built Emzor pharmaceuticals to become a well-known brand.

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A significant percentage of Nigerians have at some point or the other, had a need for and possibly consumed the Emzor paracetamol, a flagship product of the Emzor brand which stands high above several other pharmaceuticals.

The woman behind the brand, Stella Okoli is the focus of Nairametrics’ Founders profile this week.

A native of Nnewi in present-day Anambra State, Stella Okoli was born on the 30th of July, 1944 in Kano State, to the family of Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu.

READ: Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc laments over poor infrastructure, demands solution

She completed her primary education at All Saints Primary School, Onitsha in 1959, and attended Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi for the next 5 years. She proceeded to Federal Science School, Lagos where she spent a couple of years.

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She travelled to the United Kingdom where she got her Bachelor in Pharmacy from Bradford University, UK in 1969. A few years later in 1971, she bagged a Masters in Biopharmaceuticals from the University of London, Chelsea College.

Over the years, Stella has also undergone Executive management programmes from notable institutions like the I.E.S.E Business school, Spain; Harvard Business school, USA; and Lagos Business school.

READ: FG loses billions over illegal importation of steel and iron

After her education in the UK, Stella started working as a Ward/Clinical Pharmacist at Middlesex Hospital in London and later had a brief stint as a Pharmacist at Boots Chemist UK.

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Upon returning to Nigeria, she worked briefly with Massey Children Hospital, Lagos, before she joined Park Davies Nigeria Limited (now Pharma-Deko Plc).

The journey of a thousand miles

In 1977, Stella decided to set up a small drugstore – Emzor Chemist – in Shomolu where she lived at the time. It was a pharmacy retail shop where she put her pharmaceutical knowledge to use, in administering and dispensing drugs to her customers.

She started importing the drugs to be sold locally by the turn of the 80s, but it only took a short while before Stella came to the realisation that a lot of the drugs being imported could be produced locally as the raw materials were available.

READ: COVID-19 lockdown significantly impact Guinness Nigeria profits

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“We have no business allowing importation of drugs that we can produce here because all we are doing is importing poverty. There has to be industry where the young pharmacists can fit into after graduation,” she later said in an interview.

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In 1984, Emzor Chemists was incorporated as Emzor Pharmaceuticals to manufacture high-quality drugs locally. Stella, of course, did not have the money to carry out large scale productions, and she approached her father for support.

Talking about some of the resistance to her entrepreneurial move, Stella said “Business is business. There is no special business for man or for woman.”

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Using his house as collateral, she secured a loan of N100,000 from First Bank of Nigeria Plc, and pilot productions started in 1985 with the popular Emzor Paracetamol. The company has now grown to become one of the leading indigenous pharmaceutical brands with well over 50 products to its name, including vitamins, anti-malaria, antibiotics, antacid, analgesics, and anti-histamine.

From that single chemist store, Emzor now has offices in Mali, India, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Subsidiaries

Emzor Group has a number of subsidiaries, such as Zolon Healthcare Limited, a specialty healthcare organisation targeted at providing intelligent solution to the healthcare needs of people. The company’s specialties include oncology, gynecology, biotechnology, cardiology and others.

Emzor Hesco Limited is a total healthcare solution provider, with a B2B business model to provide solutions for hospital equipment and services in conjunction with reputable brands and manufacturers from Europe, America and Asia. The company procures, consults, supplies medical equipment, carries out trainings on best practices, and supplies medical consumables among others.

Emzor Pharmacy and Stores is the retail arm for distributing Emzor Pharmaceutical products to Nigerians, while Life Gate Medicals Limited provides training for healthcare workers and medical tourism.

Philanthropy

In memory of her late son, Stella Okoli started Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) in 2006, to promote healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youth.

As part of its activities, the foundation has trained thousands of youths on owning and running their businesses. In 2011, COF built Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, to provide entrepreneurial research, training and education for youths.

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The foundation also gives free healthcare services and lecture people worldwide on effect of heart disease and stroke.

Services and awards

Stella Okoli has served in several capacities including as a member of the Economic Summit of Nigeria and the Health Matters Advisory Boards of Nigeria, as Vice President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

She was once the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Group and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. In 2010, she became a non-Executive Director of Guaranty Trust Bank.

Stella Okoli is a member of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.

Her contributions to the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry have not gone unnoticed as she has received due recognitions. She was conferred a Honorary Doctor of Business Administration by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in 2011, Women of Distinction and Lifetime Achievers at ThisDay Annual Awards in 2012, and Business Person of the Year at the Sun Newspaper Awards in 2016.

In 2017, she received the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, and also the Silverbird Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Now in her 70’s, Stella continues to drive her pharmaceutical business in addition to other interests. In an interview, she said, “everything I did not achieve before 70, now is the time to get started”.

She is believed to be one of Nigeria’s richest women.

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career.As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Mo’ Abudu: From recruitment consultant to queen of modern-day media

From a talk show host to a media giant and to one of Africa’s most successful filmmakers, Mo’ Abudu’s name always rings a bell in the society.

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Mo Abudu activates Netflix deal, requests followers to cast actors into roles

Mo Abudu, the founder of EbonyLife TV, has become quite a sensation for her outstanding media productions and several entertainment deals secured with international partners.

Described by CNN as “Africa’s Queen of Media who conquered the continent,” practically all her film productions have been major cinema hits, holding down records years after their production.

READ: Nigerian cinemas count loses in Q1 2020, amid COVID-19 lockdown

She oversees all five divisions of EbonyLife Media – EbonyLife TV, EbonyLife Films, EbonyLife ON, EbonyLife Studios, and EbonyLife Productions Limited (UK); and has been described by Forbes as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman.”

This week’s Founders Profile focuses on Mosunmola Abudu, the woman who has successfully turned the tables and provided a platform to tell African stories to the world

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Early years, early stardom

Mosunmola was born on 11 September 1964 in London, the first of three girls born to her parents, and had much of her early years and education in London, even though her family roots are in Ondo town, Nigeria.

After losing her father at age 11, she worked her way through college. The situation got her off to an early career start and at age 19, she had already become the brand ambassador of AVON Cosmetics for the African market.

She later bagged an MA in Human Resources Development from the University of Westminster in London.

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READ: Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame beats Titanic’s $2.12bn box office record

Bold move into uncertainty

Abudu worked as a Recruitment Consultant in 1987, but left the United Kingdom for Nigeria in 1992. She took up a prestigious job as the Head of Human Resources and Training at the Starform Group, ExxonMobil.

After almost a decade on the job, she quit to become an Entrepreneur, a move that her family frowned at.

“Scary thought at the time, but I knew instinctively that I wanted to do more. On reflection now, I understand why some friends and family were worried about my decision. I had a great job, was paid well, the sky was the limit and I walked away from it all,” Abudu recalled.

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She joined the train of full-time entrepreneurs. In 2000, she started Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited (VLA), a privately-owned specialist HR development company, and shortly after, she developed an executive training centre at Protea Hotel Oakwood Park.

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‘Mo’ moments

Four years into this, she started Moments with Mo, and broke her way into the media industry, without any prior experience as a Presenter.

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The syndicated daily talk show covered topical issues from lifestyle, politics, culture, health, entertainment, tradition, music to inter-racial marriages, and it was an instant success.

The show attracted frontline personalities like former First lady and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg; Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka; President of Rwanda, Dr Paul Kagame.

READ: Lion King now highest grossing animation movie at $1.3 billion

Also, others like former Managing Director of IMF, Christine Lagarde; former Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and General Ibrahim Babangida; African business mogul and philanthropist, Mr Mo Ibrahim, amongst others, graced the show.

“When I first approached DSTV with the proposition that Africa was ripe for its own Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres show, I had already planned for a global TV channel opportunity.

“I explored channel possibilities with SKY in the UK and knew that I needed a big platform to project Africa in a different, more positive light. This was what incited me to start thinking of establishing Ebonylife TV and take African Stories to the world,” she explained.

READ: Spain to invest in Nollywood to strengthen ties with Nigeria   

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Into the murky waters of film production

In 2013, Abudu took a step that would later earn her Forbes recognition as the “First African woman to launch a pan-African TV channel.”

She plunged all her investments and savings to launch Ebonylife Television, the first fully Nigerian-owned entertainment channel to be carried on the South African Pay TV platform – DSTV.

In several interviews, she said it was all about creating a more positive narrative around Africa and Ebonylife became the platform to achieve this.

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Ebonylife TV acquired the rights to “Dynasty” and “Melrose Place” from CBS International and airs in more than 49 countries across Africa, as well as in the UK and the Caribbean. It has also been ranked among the top 25% of the most-watched channels on the DSTV platform.

“There are so many African stories that are yet to be told… Let’s take these stories to the world now, that’s the journey we’re on,” says Mo Abudu.

Achievements like a movie

From being Africa’s first global black entertainment and lifestyle network, Ebonylife went on to become a class act in film production.

Abudu has launched a string of series over the years including The Governor (about Nigeria’s first female State governor); Desperate Housewives Africa (based on Disney’s original series); Sons of the Caliphate (about the rivalry between rich and powerful families in Northern Nigeria); and Castle & Castle, Africa’s first premium legal series, amongst others.

In 2014, Mo Abudu took a deep-dive into filmmaking with Ebonylife Films, with several record-breaking movies.

One of her productions, Fifty, was acquired by Netflix in 2015. It starred Nse Ikpe-Etim, Ireti Doyle, Omoni Oboli, and Dakore Akande, and was Nigeria’s highest-grossing drama and number 1 film in 2015. It was also the only Nigerian film selected to screen at the 59th BFI London Film Festival.

In 2016, she was co-Executive Producer of The Wedding Party, a blockbuster movie directed by Kemi Adetiba, which broke the box office record of 2016. After it was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, it became the highest-grossing title of all time at the Nigerian box office, before it was acquired by Netflix in 2017.

The sequel came in 2017, when Abudu was also co-Executive Producer of The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai, directed by Niyi Akinmolayan and featuring the original movie’s main cast. The sequel broke the records of the original movie in terms of domestic and international revenues, and became the highest-grossing Nollywood film of all time.

The Royal Hibiscus Hotel was produced in 2017, directed by Ishaya Bako and featured many A-list actors. The movie made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017, the only Nigerian selection and one of only three African features in the Contemporary World Cinema category.

Since the Toronto International Film Festival only beams its light on 48 of the best new films worldwide, it was an ace in the hole when the film festival described The Royal Hibiscus Hotel as a “Hidden Gem.” It was licensed by Amazon Prime in 2018 for audiences outside Africa.

Other productions by her include Chief Daddy, a star-studded film directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, which became the “Official Number 1 Nollywood film of 2018” and the third-highest grossing Nigerian film. It was acquired by Netflix in early 2019 after some weeks in the cinema.

Her most recent production, Oloture, is a feature film to expose the shady business of human trafficking in Nigeria, and the movie is set to create a whole new record at the box office by the end of the year.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Gyang and features Sharon Ooja, Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Omowunmi Dada, Kemi “Lala” Akindoju, Wofai Fada, Bukola Oladipupo, Pearl Okorie, Ikechukwu Onanaku, David Jones David, Sambasa Nzeribe, and Omawumi Megbele.

Speaking about her interest in African stories, Abudu said, “I have said it time and time again, the continent (Africa) has remained creatively silent for centuries, our stories are never told. Meanwhile, there is too much of the same in global storytelling.

“The world wants more, and because we are now able to provide a variety of stories told against a backdrop never seen before, we now have a seat at the table. Our stories are being accepted because they are authentic and relevant. Of course, most recent is the clarion call for Black Lives Matter and Black Stories Matter.”

Recognitions

Abudu’s knowledge of Africa’s creative and entertainment industry makes her a highly sought-after resource and she has spoken at the Wharton School of Business, Cambridge University Judge School of Business, and Harvard University.

She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) from Babcock University in 2014. In recognition of her outstanding services to broadcasting and enterprise in Nigeria, the University of Westminster also awarded Mo an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts in 2018.

Her name has made it into several recognition lists including the Hollywood Reporter’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television in 2013 and 2017; and The Powerlist 2018, an annual list of the UK’s top 100 most influential people of African and Caribbean heritage.

She was appointed a Director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for staging the world-famous International Emmy Awards. She was also nominated in 2018 to serve as a member of the Advisory Group on Technology and Creativity for Nigeria.

Abudu was one of four recipients awarded the 2019 Médailles d’Honneur in Cannes at the Marche International des Programmes de Television (MIPTV) in April 2019.

Ebonylife Sisterhood Awards

In September 2014, Abudu launched the Ebonylife Sisterhood Awards on her 50th birthday to “empower women to work together to accomplish great things, and seek to celebrate women who have excelled in laudable achievements.”

The event was themed – “Mo @ 50, Celebrating sisterhood,” with awardees recognized based on their demonstration of excellence, commitment, innovativeness, integrity, and national impact.

Deals and partnerships

In 2018, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) announced a three-year deal with EbonyLife TV, that would include co-production of The Dahomey Warriors, a series about the legendary Amazons who took on French colonialists in a 19th-century West African kingdom.

This deal marked a first-time collaboration between an American TV production studio and a Nigerian production company – a milestone in Nigeria’s film production.

A similar partnership came in January 2020, when American entertainment company, AMC Networks announced its partnership with EbonyLife to produce Nigeria 2099, an Afrofuturistic crime-drama.

In the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, Ebonylife signed a multi-title deal with Netflix to create two original series – a film adaptation of “Death and the King’s Horseman,” a play by Nobel Prize winner, Wole Soyinka; and a series based on Lola Shoneyin’s best-selling debut novel, “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives,” along with multiple branded films.

It all started as a gamble

Ebonylife TV has taken another step towards independence after leaving the DSTV channel 165 in July 2020 for its own Ebonylife ON app platform. This will provide subscribers with unlimited access to contents and series on the app.

In December 2019, Abudu launched EbonyLife Place, a luxurious lifestyle and entertainment resort, with a boutique hotel, restaurants, 5 luxury cinema screens, an event hall and meeting rooms, in the heart of Victoria Island, Lagos.

“It all started as a gamble,” Mo says about her achievements. “I took a gamble, but I heard God whispering to me, ‘Mosunmola, go out there and live your dreams,’ and so I did.”

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Ibukun Awosika: The journey from chemistry lab to board meetings of First Bank of Nigeria

This week’s Founder’s Profile features an amazing woman whose achievements and career has been dominated by many firsts.

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Ibukun Awosika

Ibukun Awosika is widely known as the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria – a remarkable feat for a woman in the corporate world, even by 21st century standards.

A versatile woman, she is different things to different people – Businesswoman, Author, Founder, Corporate executive, Actor, amongst others, but became popular to the millennials during the Dragon’s Den programme in 2008 and recently in her stellar role in the 2020 movie Citation.

READ: Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc to raise N4.8 billion through private placement

She was the only woman amongst five Nigerian entrepreneurs to feature in the first African version of Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas in the hope of getting investment finance. She also hosts a T.V programme called Business His Way.

Nairametrics Founder’s Profile beams its searchlight on this brilliant woman with an eye for opportunities, which she says can spot an opportunity 10 miles away.

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Early years and career dilemma

Bilkisu Abiodun Motunrayo Omobolanle Adekola was born on December 24, 1962, to a Nigerian father from Ibadan and a Cameroonian mother – Mr Abdulmashood Adekola and Hannah Aduke Adekola.

She attended St. Pauls African Church Primary School, Lagos and Methodist Girls’ High School, Yaba, and later bagged her first degree in Chemistry from the University of Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

READ: CBN latest policy on diaspora remittance kicks off tomorrow

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Ibukun said she was unsure what career path to pursue. She went from wanting to be an Architect as a child to choosing Accountancy and later Law. While studying Chemistry at Obafemi Awolowo University, she desperately tried everything to get into Law.

“Did I enjoy my university days? No, because I didn’t even like Chemistry. In-between that, I wanted to be a lawyer. I put in a lot of effort to make the Dean of Law to accept me into the Faculty of Law.

READ: How a Yoruba-Hausa clash propelled me on a path to Cowrywise – Co-founder, Razaq Ahmed

“But I have to fail chemistry for Chemistry department to release me to Law, and Law wanted me to pass with the best result in order to accept me into Law. It was all confusing. By the end of that year, I changed my mind about wanting to become a Lawyer.

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“I decided to be an Accountant. So, I started taking a lot of electives in the department of Accounting from Part Two to Part Four,” she recounted.

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After graduation, she served out the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps service at Akintola Williams & Co. (now Deloitte) as an Audit Trainee, in the hopes of taking an accounting examination later and going to work in a bank.

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However, this one year was enough to show Ibukun that though she loved figures, she hated the idea of moving from one company to the other going through old dusty files.

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She said, “I didn’t need anybody to tell me this. I was too restless to just keep following certain procedures that are laid down. I was so restless and I needed to be able to express myself, as there was no room in the Auditing process to do that.

“At the end of my service year, even though they offered me permanent employment, I turned it down.”

READ: COVID-19: Moderna says it will produce 500 million vaccines by 2021

She then returned home and took up a job as Showroom Manager with Alibert Nigeria Ltd, a Lebanese-owned furniture company. Ibukun only lasted three and a half months with the company.

In that short time, she rediscovered her love for architecture, and came up with amazing ideas of how she could design and create furniture to play around with space.

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READ: Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals Plc appoints new MD/CEO

Founding Quebees

Still in her 20s, Ibukun took a brave leap to establish a furniture manufacturing company called Quebees Limited, to give her room for expression.

The company evolved into The Chair Centre Limited and later SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, following a venture merger with SOKOA S.A and Guaranty Trust Bank in 2004, after 15 years of its existence.

The merger became necessary to facilitate successful local production, after the federal government banned importation of furniture.

READ: Conventional insurance firms can now set up their Microinsurance department – NAICOM

Awosika is the CEO of The Chair Centre Group, an umbrella for several companies – The Chair Centre Limited, SOKOA Chair Centre Limited, Furniture Manufacturers Mart, TCC Security Systems, and Cubes and Boxes Limited. All of which firms have earned a space in the competitive global industry.

Quebees is a company Ibukun is particularly proud of, especially for the quality of products the company provides its customers.

READ: The economy may end up weaker if inflation rate is not controlled – CBN report

“I love to walk into your home and say, ‘I sold this chair to you 10 years ago’ and my clients affirm that it is still functional. The CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holding Company, Sola David-Borha, once told me that a sofa I made for her in my first two years in business was still in her possession.

“The sofa is about 26 years old. So, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary, we went to shoot the sofa in her home, because we were documenting some of our products.”

The Challenging early days

Ibukun recalls that as a young girl in her twenties and with no business experience, no bank was willing to loan her money, and she got frustrated because of inadequate machinery to meet the needs of clients.

With some support from her parents and others who believed in what she was doing, she raised sufficient money to buy used machines from some furniture companies, which were shutting down at the time.

From scratch, Awosika built the company around her personal values and virtues, refusing to cut corners to make quick money because she wanted to create a business that would outlive her.

“I am consumed by the fact that I want my business to survive when I am gone, otherwise I would have wasted my life. I started business in my twenties, so why would I work so hard for so many years and not build a legacy?” she asks.

While delivering an address as a Guest Lecturer at the Second Convocation Ceremony of the Entrepreneurship Development Centre, Lagos, she recalled the challenging early days when Quebees had to prove its worth to the market.

The company had made a set of furniture for one of its early clients – Texaco Nigeria, and two weeks after delivering the goods, they were broken due to a failed warranty from a Lebanese company, where the base of the chairs was purchased.

“For a company of our size, it was a big loss. We could abandon the customer and move on. But my name is more important than even money. I chose to maintain our integrity and retain our credibility.

“We replaced them. It was a killer. But I realised that we stood to benefit more if we do the right things at all times. That job produced many other jobs,” she said.

Mrs Awosika gets most of her business ideas when she is on a flight, as this is the time she re-evaluates and takes a lot of critical decisions. “I know my strength and I can see or smell an opportunity 10 miles ahead. I am innately proactive and also an ideas machine,” she said.

Other interests, awards, and recognition

She is the author of The “Girl” Entrepreneurs and Business His Way. Both books are part of her efforts to build an army of strong-minded moguls, particularly in Africa.

She is a regular speaker at the After School Graduate Development Centre, a career centre she co-founded in 2011 to check the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria.

Recently, she received the Forbes Woman Africa Chairperson Award in the Africa Forbes Woman Awards 2020. But she is not new to awards and recognition.

In 2006, she won the FATE Model Entrepreneur Award of The Year, organized by the FATE Foundation. She was also awarded the 2007 Golden Heart Award from the International Women Society Award and the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge Award in 2008.

She has also been nominated for several recognitions over the years including the 2005 This Day Entrepreneur of The Year award, Success Digests Female Entrepreneur of the Year category of the Annual Enterprise Award, and the Best Female Entrepreneur of The Year 2006 in the Financial Standard and Pan-African Organisation for Women Recognition.

In 2000, when she had already become a successful entrepreneur, Ibukun returned to do a Chief Executive programme at the Lagos Business School, and later to Barcelona, Spain to do MBA Global Executive programme at the IESE Business School – University of Navarra.

She is a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative and Aspen Global Leadership Network, a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, member of the board of Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and co-founder and former Chairperson, Board of Trustees of Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ).

She is also a member of IESE’s International Advisory Board and sits on the board of Digital Jewel Limited and Cadbury Nig. Plc, Convention on Business Integrity and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority.

She was Chairman, FBN Life Assurance Limited, FBN Capital Limited, and Kakawa Discount House Limited. She also served on the board of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, as well as the National Job Creation Committee (NJCC).

On September 7, 2015, Ibukun became the first woman to be appointed Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, following the resignation of Prince Ajibola Afonja.

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Mike Adenuga: The journey from petty trade to Conoil and Glo

From a humble start, Mike Adenuga has become one of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs whose impact is being felt across the continent.

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2 Telecommunication firms worst hit by vandalism

The axiom goes that “life begins at 40”, but for Mike Adenuga, the CEO of Globacom, who became a millionaire at the young age of 26, life began in his 20s. Today, he is one of Africa’s richest and holds business interests across several sectors of the economy and in various countries on the continent.

Early life

Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga was born on the 29th of April, 1953 to the family of Oloye Michael Agbolade Adenuga Snr. and Omoba Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga.

He schooled at Ibadan Grammar School and obtained his Higher School Certificate from the Comprehensive High School Aiyetoro, before travelling out for his higher education.

He got his first degree in Business Administration from North Western Oklahoma State University and his MBA from Pace University, New York.

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Notwithstanding, Adenuga fondly attributes his business sense to his mother, who was also a businesswoman. Even as a student, the young Adenuga did not have things easy, and even had to hustle as a taxi driver in New York to pay for his university tuition. He also sold drinks and lace materials at one time, doing whatever business he could to raise money.

Fate smiled on him, and thanks to his numerous hustles, he made his first million in 1979 at the age of 26, and has not stopped since then. He went on to start and invest in several businesses over the years, growing his wealth to become one of the richest men in Africa.

Conoil

Adenuga saw the potentials of the booming oil industry in Nigeria and started applying for a license in the late ’80s.

However, he did not get one until a new policy was made by Professor Jubril Aminu, the Oil Minister during General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, allowing individuals to venture into oil exploitation and exploration.

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He obtained the drilling license in 1990 and started exploration with his new company, Consolidated Oil, in Ondo state.

Globacom

By the end of the 90s, as the nation returned to the democratic dispensation, Adenuga saw another potential in the telecommunication industry and acquired a conditional GSM license from the Federal Government in 1999.

After it was revoked, he obtained a second one in 2004, when the government held another auction. He used this license to found Globacom in Nigeria, which has now grown into other African countries like Benin republic, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire, with millions of subscribers.

The telecom company is considered a major competitor to the giant MTN group, and is still prospecting licenses in other West African countries.

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In May 2015, Mike Adenuga made a takeover bid and acquired the Ivorian mobile telecoms operator “Comium” in Cote d’Ivoire for $600m.

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Debts and scandals

In 2006, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission raided the head offices of Globacom, Equitorial Trust Bank (ETB), and Conoil, and invited Mike Adenuga for questioning about a case of money laundering. Subsequently, he was implicated and detained for money laundering.

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He later left the country and went to live in London for a while until late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s regime granted him a pardon, making it possible for him to return home to Nigeria.

In June 2016, it came to the limelight that Mike Adenuga was being pursued for a combined debt of over $140.5 million by two foreign and one local company. It was reported in the news that his company Conoil had failed to pay debts owed to multiple creditors including the French oil giant, Total.

Another company owned by Adenuga, Bellbop, had an interim injunction placed on it by the High Court in Lagos, after it also failed to pay the $9.4 million owed to the US oil and gas firm, Baker Hughes. It was reported that some of the creditors had been hit so hard by the huge debts, that they had to shut down some of their operations.

A local oil servicing company, Depthwize, for instance, had been forced to lay off workers and shut down services on two of Conoil’s rigs, saying the debt of $40 million had incapacitated the company to the point that it could no longer afford the day to day running cost of working on the rigs.

Coming a short while after the business mogul increased his net worth by almost $5 billion, the scandal of course attracted a lot of criticisms.

Recognitions

Mike Adenuga carries out his philanthropic activities through the Mike Adenuga Foundation, helping people in Nigeria and other African countries.

He has received several recognitions including the African Entrepreneur of The Year at ATA in August 2007, Grand Commander Of The Order of Niger (GCON) in 2012, Companion of the Star of Ghana (CSG) in 2018, and was listed among the 100 distinguished and Eminent Nigerians Centenary Awards in 2018, amongst others.

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In 2018, he was decorated with the insignia of a Commander of the Legion of Honor by President Emmanuel Macron of France.

He also holds a Yoruba Chieftaincy as the Otunba Apesin of the Ijebu clan. He owns stakes in different companies in Nigeria including Stanbic IBTC Bank and Sterling Bank.

According to Forbes recent rating, Mike Adenuga is currently worth $ 6.2billion.

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