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Profiles

Hakeem Belo-Osagie; the rough ride of a Nigerian entrepreneur

Belo-Osagie has remained dogged in business, surmounting challenges every step of the way.

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Hakeem Belo-Osagie became most prominent during his stint as Board Chairman of Etisalat Nigeria, but in truth, he has been a key player in the development of Nigeria’s economy for decades. His interests span the energy sector, the banking sector, the telecommunication industry, and very recently, real estate.

Though he has had quite a bumpy ride as a businessman over the years, Belo-Osagie continues to forge ahead; he was even listed as the 41st richest in Africa with a net worth of $600 million in 2014.

Education

In 1955, Hakeem was born to the family of late Professor Tiamiyu Belo-Osagie, a renowned gynaecologist, and Iyalekitue Bazuaye, a nurse. His father was the proprietor of the Osagie Medical Centre, and rendered medical services to several political and military leaders in the country, including General Ibrahim Babangida and President Shehu Shagari.

He was only three years old when his family relocated to England, where he had his early education. They returned to Nigeria when he was eight, and he completed his primary education before proceeding to King’s College, Lagos for his secondary education. However, they changed location again, so he finished his secondary education at the United World College of the Atlantic, Wales.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie obtained a law degree from the University of Cambridge, an MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and also an MBA from Harvard Business School.

A brief career in the public sector

Shortly after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1980, Belo-Osagie returned to Nigeria to start his career in Nigeria’s energy sector. It is believed that he benefitted from his father’s position as a family gynaecologist to the family of General Ibrahim Babangida.

He started as Special Assistant to the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, late Alhaji Rilwan Lukmon, and was later Secretary of the Oil Policy Review and LNG Committees. He also worked in the Petrochemicals Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In 1986, he left the government service to set up an energy consulting firm, CTIC, signalling his shift into the waters of entrepreneurial uncertainty.

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The dive into business

In 1998, he acquired a controlling stake in the United Bank for Africa and became the Chairman. At the time of this purchase, UBA was on sale for $15 million and many thought buying into the bank was a bad idea.

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Belo-Osagie insisted that it was an undervalued asset despite the refusal of a large South African bank to put in $8m for a 51% stake in UBA, as it considered UBA “too risky” an investment. He went through with his instincts and it proved right because a few years later, the same South African bank made an offer that valued UBA at $300m.

His ingenuity as Chairman must have also been a contributing factor to the bank’s revival. However, he had to resign from the position in March 2004, due to unconfirmed allegations made by the Central Bank of Nigeria that the bank, under his leadership, had engaged in unlicensed foreign exchange trading.

A brush with the law

Even after resigning, the apex bank went ahead to blacklist him. A year after, in 2005, there were reports suggesting that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had launched investigations into Belo-Osagie’s tenure as UBA Board Chairman. There appears to be no incriminating findings from this investigation as no criminal charge was ever filed against him.

After almost six years, on May 24, 2010, the CBN removed his name from its blacklist, acknowledging that its actions had been unduly punitive.

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Business regrets

Belo-Osagie recalls one of his biggest mistakes in business happened when he was part of a group that lost the bid for the first mobile network licences in Nigeria. Available data then had suggested to him and his group that the Nigerian mobile phone market could not exceed 20 million subscribers, so they were advised to peg their bid at US$265 million. They lost the bid to other groups that went as high as $285 million. Looking back, Belo-Osagie reckoned the licences were worth a whole lot more, probably closer to $800 million, given that Nigeria now has over 100 million mobile phone users.

Nuggets

In an interview, he also pointed out that a critical part of his business success could be attributed to setting up the right teams with differing talents and expertise. It is always important to appoint someone with “a spirit of adventure, a hunger for new things” in business as “that eagerness and desire to experience something new, is more important than functional intelligence.”

Belo-Osagie also founded the First Securities Discount House (FSDH), one of Nigeria’s leading money markets trading firm, and served as the first Chairman. FSDH holding company now includes among its holdings the FSDH Merchant Bank, FSDH Asset management, PAL pensions and FSDH securities trading company.

He has remained dogged in business, surmounting challenges every step of the way.

Other interests and positions

Hakeem Belo-Osagie served as Chairman Board of Directors of Etisalat Nigeria, where he has significant stakes, until 2017 when he stepped aside. He served as Chairman of the Abuja Investment Company (2007-2011) and a director of Timbuktu Media.

He is Chairman of Metis Capital Partners, an organisation focused on brokering and delivering attractive, large-ticket transactions in Africa to select blue-chip international investment partners.

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Belo-Osagie is the Chairman and main shareholder in Duval Properties Limited, a real estate company currently engaged in developing a major new residential and commercial district at Jabi Lake, Abuja. He also chairs the board of Vitol Nigeria, which is a subsidiary of the Swiss-based Vitol Group, a multinational energy and commodity trading firm.

He sits on the board of Andela where he invested recently. He chairs Chocolate City Music Group, a leading Nigerian entertainment company. He also serves on the board of Alfanar, and chairs the Nigerian National Committee for the United World Colleges.

Belo-Osagie is a member of Harvard University’s Global Advisory Council, and sits on the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution and the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves on the Yale University President’s Council on International Activities and the New York University President’s Global Council.

Philanthropy

Together with his wife, Belo-Osagie donates to the African Leadership Academy, a residential secondary school in Johannesburg that works to educate Africa’s brightest students. He has an endowment fund for the promotion of Africa at Yale University. They are supporters of Harvard University’s Center for African Studies, and have established a scholarship to support African students studying at Balliol College, Oxford.

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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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    Profiles

    Meet Adebayo Ogunlesi, Nigeria’s investment banker shaking up Wall Street

    Though his name does not ring a bell like Aliko Dangote, Otedola and Mike Adenuga, Ogunlesi is equally a “billionaire” in his own right.

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    Some refer to him as a “silent billionaire”, and this is not a wrong statement about the man who has stakes in a number of airports around the world, including Gatwick Airport, the second-busiest airport by total passenger traffic in the UK and the ninth-busiest in Europe.

    Adebayo Ogunlesi, a Nigerian who started out as a lawyer and later an investment banker, has spread his wings around the globe and is now currently the Chairman and Managing Partner at the private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). Though his name does not ring a bell like Aliko Dangote, Otedola and Mike Adenuga, Ogunlesi is equally a billionaire in his own right.

    Early years

    Adebayo hails from Makun, Sagamu, Ogun State, and was born on the 20th of December 1953 to the family of Dr Theophilus O. Ogunlesi, who later became Nigeria’s first Professor of Medicine in Ibadan.

    He had his primary education there in Sagamu and then attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos before travelling to England where he bagged a B.A. with first-class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University.

    He went on to pursue two degrees concurrently at Harvard, and in 1979, received a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

    He worked as a law clerk to Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court from 1980 to 1981, and as an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore – a law firm in New York City till 1983.

    Armed with his MBA, Adebayo made the switch to investment banking when he joined First Boston Investment Bank as an advisor on a Nigerian gas project in 1983. He also worked with the Project Finance Group, as a financial advisor to several clients on the transactions of North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

    Other places Adebayo worked include the Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) (earlier known as Global Energy Group) where he advised clients on strategic transactions and financing for some years, before becoming the Global Head of CSFB’s Investment Banking Division. He was appointed member of the Credit Suisse Executive Board and Management Committee in 2002, and became the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of CSFB between 2004 and 2006.

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    While at the CSFB, he was also lecturing at Harvard Law School and Yale School of Management.

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    He was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs in October 2012 and became Lead Director on the 24th of July, 2014.

    Ogunlesi, the investor

    In July 2006, he founded a private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in New York City, with CSFB and General Electric as the first investors; and assumed the role of Chairman and Managing Partner. In the same year, GIP bought London City Airport an international airport located in the Royal Docks in the London Borough of Newham in the City of London. GIP later sold off the airport after a decade.

    Three years later in 2009, GIP invested £1.455 billion to acquire the majority share in London Gatwick Airport, a major international airport near Crawley, Sussex, England. Another three years after in 2012, GIP bought Edinburgh Airport, said to be the busiest airport in Scotland in 2019, handling over 14.7 million passengers.

    GIP also bought Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori in February 2018.

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    Some other GIP Investments In the Transport Sector include Terminal Investment Limited, Port of Melbourne; Pacific National; Italo; Access Midstream Partners; Biffa Group Limited; Port of Brisbane; Great Yarmouth Port Company.

    GIP also had stakes in infrastructure assets around the world, with selected equity and debt investments in several sectors. The company manages a portfolio of combined annual revenue greater than $46 billion, and investments of over $51 billion for its investors.

    The company is an infrastructure investment fund that makes both equity and selected debt investments. It has investments in high-quality infrastructure assets in the energy, transport, water and waste sectors.

    In the energy sector, Gip has investments in Guacolda Energia, Freeport LNG, CPV, Saeta Yield/Bow Power, Hess Infrastructure Partners, Vena Energy, Naturgy Energy Group and several others.

    Other interests

    Ogunlesi is now a Member, Board of Dean’s Advisors at the Harvard Business School; Member, Leadership Council of New York at Harvard Law School; and Member, Global Advisory Council at Harvard University.

    He is also a Member, Board of Directors of the Partnership for New York City Fund; National Board of Directors NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Board of Trustees NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; and the King’s College Old Boys Association.

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    He is a member of the District of Columbia Bar Association. He taught a course on transnational investment projects in emerging countries, as a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the Yale School of Management, while also working at Credit Suisse First Boston.

    In October 2012, Ogunlesi was appointed to the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs and became Lead Director in 2014. There is no confirmed source of his net worth, but Wallmine estimates that Ogunlesi is worth at least $22.5 million dollars and owns at least 66,677 units of Goldman Sachs stock as of 7 May 2020.

    In December 2016, Ogunlesi was named among business leaders that would be part of Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, but the forum was disbanded 8 months later.

    Ogunlesi was given The Award of Excellence by The International Center in New York, and in 2019 was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine. He is still actively engaged in several volunteer works across Africa.

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    Atsu Davoh is building ways for Africans to easily acquire and spend cryptocurrency

    Atsu Davoh has gone from failed projects to running one of Ghana’s most innovative startups.

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    In recent times, the tech space in Africa has experienced immense growth, with the introduction of several key players and disruptors across various sectors. One sector that is also rising is the cryptocurrency space with Africa experiencing greater crypto ownership and trade volume.

    The number of Bitcoins processed on a single day reached its highest value at the beginning of 2021, as more people displayed interest in the cryptocurrency. Due to its fast adoption, more fintech players have created platforms that have made trading with cryptocurrency easier. One of such players is Atsu Davoh who calls himself the “product guy.”

    Atsu Davoh dropped out of college (Carleton College) in the United States and moved back to Ghana to help innovate on Africa’s financial infrastructure. Atsu first discovered Bitcoin in 2017 during the first boom when it became mainstream. Before then, he and his co-founder Samuel Baohen had been involved in many failed projects.

    He developed a USSD system where people could buy bitcoin through their phone numbers, like tying crypto to phone numbers in a native way. This was one of the first iterations of Bitsika.

    Atsu was invited to Join Binance Labs Incubator by Yele Bademosi where he got $150,000 after graduating from the incubator. Bitsika went on to raise around $900,000 from investors. This brought the total seed raised to $1,050,000.

    This USSD system worked in Ghana but didn’t work in Nigeria. Atsu and his team then pivoted the platform to a donation crowdfunding platform, which allowed people living in other countries to send donations to African nationals in need of the funds before finally building it into a cross-border crypto remittance platform.

    Bitsika users can deposit and remit money across multiple currencies using the app, with all monies deposited in Bitsika stored in USD credits or stable-coin.

    Bitsika has over 50,000+ downloads on Playstore and processed nearly $40 million in 2020 with $18,872,474 in deposits, $17,890,807 in payouts (withdrawals), and $3,189,834 in internal peer-to-peer transfers.

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    Despite a few unfavourable regulations surrounding cryptocurrency in Africa, the market has shown no signs of slowing down as more people are building products that will make trading seamless.

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