Per information obtainable from Nigeria’s rebased GDP figures, information and communication technologies (ICT), as well as its sub-sectors, are potent drivers of the most populous black nation’s economic growth. While many believe that tech is being brought into the West African country by foreigners, the key players are interestingly mostly Nigerian and Africans.
These tech-savvy individuals have bitten the bullet and forged through limitations to understand innovation and contrive tech-driven companies that are today significantly driving economic and infrastructural development.
Asides raising humongous rounds and looking to expand, these CEOs/founders are creating jobs and empowering youths in the country, which currently battles unemployment on a large scale. From the miracle workers to the dollar millionaires, here are 5 of the major tech CEOs in Nigeria.
Paga’s Tayo Oviosu
One of the not-so-many-people who trained at Stanford, the professional known as Tayo Oviosu is the brain behind Paga, a Nigerian money transfer service company that is today serving millions of people in the country. Tayo, who is a former business development manager at CISCO, took cognizance of the fact that Nigeria had a plethora of mobile devices, but suffered from a relatively limited off-the-counter banking service.
Paga came as the panacea to the unserviced space, today boasting of oceans of subscribers who use the mobile money service for daily transactions. Paga has received funding from institutional investors such as Adlevo Capital, Acumen Fund, Omidyar Network, Unreasonable Capital and Goodwell. According to CrunchBase, the startup has raised USD 34.7 Mn across four rounds and going by common beliefs; the indigenous platform is going to raise much more in the coming years.
Hotel.ng’s Mark Essien
Essien’s narrative falls under the zero-to-hero category, having started from the bottom in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State to amass a fortune no less than USD 10 Mn from Hotels.ng. Having studied Computer Engineering at the Beuth University in Berlin, Germany and completing an MSc in Computer Science at the Freie University Berlin, he created a file-sharing software called Gnumm, which was later bought by Snoopster.com.
He joined the same company that bought his software and garnered more tech knowledge, after which he returned to Nigeria to found Hotels.ng. He first created a trial version, did intensive research about the market and launched the company in 2013. Sparks.ng was his earliest investor, who pumped in USD 75 K, few months after which he roped in another USD 150 K. an online travel agency specializing in hotel bookings within Nigeria, Hotels.ng has raised USD 1.5 Mn in funding over two rounds. Today, the company is said to be worth over 3 billion (NGN) and servicing more than 7,000 hotels.
Mainstreet Technologies’ Funke Opeke
First off, Funke Opeke is the CEO and founder of the MainOne Cable Company, a provider of wholesale telecommunication-bandwidth services and land cables for telecom operators and internet service providers that has raised USD 100 Mn in two rounds. She is also a former executive director at Verizon Communications Wholesale Division based in the United States.
After moving to Nigeria to work as CTO at MTN Nigeria, she became a prominent figure in the country’s tech scene, especially as she played a major role for Transport on the acquisition of NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited) and briefly serving as the interim COO post-acquisition. Her own company is, a submarine communications cable stretching from Portugal to South Africa with landings along the route in Lagos and Accra. The company also delivers and sells technological solutions to large companies and medical industries.
Wakanow’s Obinna Ekezie
After playing as a basketballer with the NBA (for eight seasons) and other leagues, Obinna Ekezie launched Wakanow.com during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Wakanow is Africa’s one-stop-shop for cheap flights, hotel reservations, and airport pickups. As the largest Nigerian travel portal, Wakanow.com continually helps travelers research, plan, and purchase trips. Wakanow.com is 100% devoted to ensuring that all transactions are safe and secure.
Having become one of the fastest growing and largest internet travel sites in Africa, the travel agency saw the needs to raise USD 40 Mn from the Carlyle Group December last year, which is the company’s first known funding till date. After constantly traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada as an NBA player, as well as traveling from the U.S. to his native home in Nigeria in the offseason, Ekezie was exposed to the positives and negatives of the travel industry. Convinced there were opportunities to improve travel between Africa, the U.S. and other parts of the world; he went on to take risks, all of which have amounted to Wakanow.com.
Interswitch’s Mitchell Elegbe
While he was still the rein-holder at the Group Marketing and Business Solution at Telnet Nigeria in 2001, Mitchell chanced upon an idea to create a system that will make the electronic transfer of money quick and easy. A little over a year later, Interswitch was founded by this male techie to change the payment landscape of Nigeria. As of now, his contrivance does not only dominate the infrastructure for online, real-time transaction and payment processing but also has a shared infrastructure that is being adopted by banks, government agencies, public institutions, academic citadels, and corporate organizations to accelerate growth while beating the cost of operations to the barest minimum.
Due to the company’s rapid growth and promising future, investors have taken their chances to join the success story of Interswitch. Today, it is an Africa-focused integrated digital payments and commerce company that facilitates the electronic circulation of money as well as the exchange of value between individuals and organizations on a timely and consistent basis. Interswitch has raised USD 10.5 Mn across two rounds and has acquired VANSO for USD 50 Mn.
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