Chairman, Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, has boldly declared that technology will disrupt several spheres of the Nigerian economy in the next 10 years, claiming that no one has the capacity to stop the coming wave of positive technological disruption. Consequently, he has urged Nigerians and mostly the youths to take advantage of this positive digital disruption and add impetus to the brand Nigeria on the global map.
‘It is now between our competence, our commitment and God to lead other nations of the world. This is a century of quality wealth driven with knowledge and conscience and powered by technology. We have no reason not to scale with over 200m ambitious people from birth,’ he declared.
Ekeh gave this charge in a world-class tech speech delivered at the 2019 Annual Lecture Series of foremost advisory and corporate commercial entity, Alliance Law Firm.
The classy event with the theme – Leveraging Technology to develop and rebrand Nigeria – was held at the prestigious Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos on Tuesday, November 26th 2019.
In attendance was Chairman of MTN Nigeria, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, who chaired the occasion. Also in attendance was foremost blogger and media entrepreneur, Linda Ikeji; MD/CEO, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwutan; former DG/CEO, NOTAP, Engr. Umar Bindir; GMD, Mojec International Holdings, Chantelle Abdul; Deputy CEO, Payment Tokens, Interswitch, Mike Ogbalu, and many CEOs and Senior Management executives from the financial, shipping, technology, legal, entertainment and educational sector, to mention a few.
Ekeh, arguably Africa’s most renowned technology guru, was the Lead Speaker. He described the event as one of the best ever organised in Nigeria in recent times because of the quality and content of the event.
Continuing Ekeh said, already every sector of our economy is experiencing the impact of technology, be it the electoral system, health care delivery, agriculture, banking, transport, education, hospitality, governance, entertainment, housing and including the way businesses are run in Nigeria.
‘Today, Nigeria is moving closer to e-voting. Also, you will observe that post-election litigations have dropped considerably. In fact, we are down by about 41 per cent today. Once we migrate to e-voting fully, anyone who loses an election will have no need to go and contest it in court. This is the power of technology. Technology does not lie. This is why I chose to go into it as a profession, he disclosed.
The serial digital entrepreneur, who spoke extempore, drew extensively from his personal experiences in a speech which attracted a standing ovation. He argued that rebranding Nigeria must begin with critical investments in the nation’s human capital. Ekeh urged Nigeria to borrow a leaf from a country like India which presently accounts for some of the leading brains driving the world’s major tech conglomerates.
‘When I studied for my first degree in India many years ago, I had written a paper titled – India: An economy waiting to happen. I have been proved right today. Although the country experienced serious economic hardship, it did not prevent them from investing in education. You will find that the average Indian holds a Ph.D. in about three different disciplines and maybe a Master’s degree in four disciplines. So, when you employ him, you are getting maybe a Medical Doctor who is sound in Engineering, Agric-Economics, Business Management and more.
‘While they were incubating, they kept on upgrading their citizens knowledge base by reducing school fees affordable even to the poorest citizens, waiting for an opportunity. When the ICT opportunity emerged, they took it. If the Indian President recalls all Indian nationals today for a two-week break, the entire world will feel the pain. Indians are at the helms of affairs of the world’s most valuable companies including Microsoft, Google, Apple and many others today.’
Ekeh, himself a global advisor to Microsoft, went on to encourage the audience not to lose faith in Nigeria. He affirmed that things are changing for good.
‘Today, we have a Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy,’ he noted.
Further, he counselled the federal and state governments to take that decision now to invest about $10bn to provide quality digital infrastructure in Nigerian schools at all levels and finance school fees for indigent students nationwide.
‘When I encounter people who say things are worse today, I just laugh. You must remain positive. Entrepreneurs are known to be positive people. I am an example of the Nigerian miracle but I disciplined myself from day one as someone born in a trust economy. When I returned to this country over 30 years ago, I was worth less than $10,000. Within three months of returning to Nigeria, I was privileged to have met people like General Theophilus Danjuma, the Awolowo family and others who patronised me and in the first six months, I hit over $4.5m balance sheet size.
‘I wouldn’t have achieved this if I had decided to remain in the UK, as I was being advised then by those who saw no future for Nigeria in technology. It is important to note that though my customers did not really understand what they were buying, I did not betray them. This century is a century of trust and those that can not be trusted have no financial capacity to scale.
‘Things are even better today. The current generation of kids are knowledge-driven and technology-powered. They will delete many of the so-called billionaires in Nigeria today within the next few years. That is the era we are currently in.
‘A very good example of this is Konga which is run by my son and his colleagues. A few months after we acquired Konga, Naspers – the previous owners – which invested $32m in TenCent sold off two per cent of its stake for $9.8bn. Today, Naspers’ remaining 28 per cent stake in TenCent is worth $133bn. If the whizkids at Konga choose to put Konga up for sale today, we have an idea how much it will attract. Nigeria with our growing quality population is headed for greatness,’ he submitted.
Ekeh, who disclosed that Nigeria’s wealthy class must re-distribute their wealth or stand the risk of using it to destroy their children, also called for the empowerment of indigent children. According to him, children of poor parents are imbued with a mindset of disruption and greater discipline and fear of God, even as he affirmed that these are the ones that will place Nigeria on the map of globally recognised nations in the very near future.
‘We can not continue to manipulate them for too long,’ he concluded.
The event also witnessed the launch of the Doing Business in Nigeria manual.
Chief Host of the event and Managing Partner, Alliance Law Firm, Uche Val Obi (SAN) affirmed that the publication drew on the firm’s vast advisory experience and their status as notable contributors in the IMF/World Bank Doing Business publications.