Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, has described Anambra as a state with global capacity to influence and positively alter Nigeria’s destiny. Ekeh affirmed that the state has all it takes to make this a reality. Further, he noted that the wealth, energy and knowledge per square meter in Anambra does not exist in any other part of Africa.
Nevertheless, the Zinox boss urged the state government to open its eyes to the immense opportunities lying within the state with which it can re-configure the narrative for good.
Ekeh made this call at the 2019 Anambra Business and Investment Roundtable on Monday, November 25th, 2019. He spoke on the topic: Doing Business in the 21st Century.
The summit, with the theme – Beyond Infrastructure: Rethinking the Future – was held at the Anambra Governor’s Lodge, Amawbia, Awka.
In attendance at the event was the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano; the Deputy Governor, Nkem Okeke; Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly, Uche Okafor; the Obi of Onitsha, Nnayelugo Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe; former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and other members of the Anambra state political set-up. Also in attendance were corporate egg-heads and entrepreneurs drawn from various spheres of the economy.
‘I am an Igbo man from Imo State but here I am in Anambra and delighted to be here as well. Why? Anambra state has the global capacity to alter Nigeria’s destiny. You have it all in Anambra State but you have to certify it in the 21st century for it to be rewarding. You have credible human capital, brilliant minds and the right investment climate to make it happen,’ Ekeh noted.
Nevertheless, Ekeh who was the keynote speaker at the event, sounded a note of caution.
The serial digital entrepreneur warned that the state must wake up to the fast-evolving dynamics of the technology-mediated 21st Century. Urging the Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano to invest in education and upgrade human capital in the state, Ekeh disclosed that this is the surest route to helping Anambra achieve its considerable potential.
‘I must commend the governor for what he is doing in the state. However, the 21st Century requires us to anticipate the future. If you look at the current Zinox Future Visions emblem of a man in deep thought, you will see it speaks to our mindset as a corporate with an eye on the future. This has been my story throughout the over 30 years I have spent in business.
‘You must invest in the next generation, especially the children of the poor because these are the ones with a mindset of disruption.
‘There is analogue knowledge and there is digital knowledge. Our generation relied on 80 per cent common sense and 20 per cent knowledge. But our children have global exposure and the benefit of better education, so they mainly use 80 per cent knowledge and 20 per cent common sense.’
Continuing, Ekeh noted that: ‘The Anambra state government must launch a Knowledge or Digital city in Awka with smart facilities and certified knowledge workers to re-train teachers across platforms and equip them to prepare our children for the digital age. In addition, the government should consider setting up and attaching a finishing school to the knowledge capital so that candidates are prepared as global citizens.
‘There is a fundamental problem with the quality of graduates we are currently churning out. Many of them are not fit for the 21st Century work-place. You must invest in these kids to make them relevant in the global marketplace and the multiplier effect will transform the fortunes of Anambra state for good.
‘You must build and equip many young graduates with skills in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing and Big Data, among others.
‘I embarked on a similar intervention in Imo State after encountering the child of a widow who aced WAEC with straight A’s but regularly fell short in JAMB. It turned out that many of these students had never seen a computer in their lives but had to use a computer in sitting for the JAMB examinations. So, I spoke with the Commissioner of Technology in Imo State and set up a digital training centre where over 5,400 students are currently being exposed to computer appreciation and other digital skills. I am also paying these students to attend the classes. A week to the exam, there will also be a refresher session to ensure they are brought up to speed ahead of the examination.’
According to Ekeh, the second quarter of the 21st Century will delete many of the known names in business if they fail to rise up to the evolving era of change.
‘Our children will achieve within a few years what many of us struggled to build in 30 years. That is the age we are in. It is an era of miracle wealth. An age in which you do not need a Godfather to succeed. An E-commerce business like Konga, for instance, which is managed by my son and his colleagues has over 187,000 merchants trading on its platform. It can reach customers nationwide and deliver to them without stress. Even on Sundays when some of you are in church, business is on-going on the platform,’ he enthused.
Urging the Anambra state government to rally well-meaning sons and daughters of the state as well as the private sector to partner with it in its mission to transform the state, Ekeh counselled that this move is paramount in view of its long-reaching implications for the state.
‘The state government will never have enough money to handle everything alone. Therefore, you must reach out to Anambra indigenes and other investors to come to the aid of the state. If you invest N5bn in a digital centre, the returns will be massive.
‘But you must set a system to ensure it is properly managed. That way, investors such as myself will be encouraged to come in and invest and then reap some profit from their investment. However, politicians must not be allowed to hijack the system. Every beneficiary nominated must be screened and passed through the process to ensure they are selected on merit,’ he counselled.
Furthermore, Ekeh advised Anambra parents to leverage on their assets and empower their children. He disclosed that it is a reasonable risk to invest in one’s children while stating that human beings have been classified into three in this century – employers, employees and fools.
‘Don’t allow you kids to be rated as fools while you have billions siting in different asset classes,’ Ekeh warned.
Also speaking at the event, Gov. Obiano expressed delight and confidence that the summit will yield immense benefits for the state.
‘…The insights from today’s deliberations will set us firmly on the path to building a more socially prosperous state not only from the riches that lie beneath the soil, but essentially from the infinite possibilities that lie between our ears.’
The well-attended event featured panel sessions on Education and Health, ICT and the Creative Industry, Tourism and Hospitality as well as Housing and Infrastructure.