2013 has sure been a fabulous year with many business rising and conglomerates recording huge profits in Nigeria’s enterprising market. Over the year, we have read and heard about innovations and change in management, investments gone sour or profitable and market share expansions on the homefront and beyond.
However, the fabulous commentaries and news have not come out of the blue, rather they have been the result of continuous improvement at the front line- which is maintained by the CEOs of these companies.
On this list, Ventures Africa reviews 13 outstanding Nigerian CEOs. These CEOs have been credited because they have been able to make a difference in highly competitive markets. They have demonstrated effective management capabilities through hardwork, resilience, research, an understanding of the Nigeria business climate, as they moved their companies forward. In no respective order, here goes
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria plc
Industry: Drug & Pharmaceutical
Chidi Okoro became the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria plc in 2012. He is the first Nigerian managing Director of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria plc since inception in 1971. Prior to that time, he has served as the general Manager and Director of the company. He is credited for being a member of the team that helped the company achieved a turnover of N9.9 billion in 2007 which was driven to an all-time high of N15 billion as at 3rd December, 2009 while he worked as the company’s Sales Director. Chidi’s leadership has help transform the fortunes of GSK immensely by elevating it to remain on the cutting edge as a sector and market leader. He was recently awarded the prestigious Most Outstanding CEO of the Year Award at the recently held 2013 PEARL Awards Nigeria while his company won the Sectoral Leadership Award in the Health Care (pharmaceutical) category at the event. PEARL Awards recognises individuals and quoted companies on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange who have contributed significantly to the growth of the exchange and the Nigerian business environment in general. Under his leadership, GSK Nigeria bagged the first Best Workplace in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) company’s category on the Great Place to Work Trust Index (large companies) for Nigeria for year 2013. The company was also ranked fourth Best Workplace on the overall in Nigeria on the index.
Industry: Information and Communication Technology
Michael Ikpoki achieved a landmark this year when he was appointed the CEO of MTN Nigeria, the first Nigerian to achieve this feat in MTN Group – the country’s largest mobile operator by subscriber. Ikpoki has been described as “A seasoned business executive, with an academic profile that includes General Management Programme at Harvard Business School; Sales, from INSEAD Business School; Finance and Analytics, from Lagos Business School and LLB from Rivers State University of Science and Technology.”
A pioneer staff of the company, Ikpoki joined the group as a Regulatory Advisor in 2001 after a six-year stint in the Legal Department of the Nigeria Communications Commisssion (NCC). He has formerly served as the company’s Director and CEO in Ghana after successfully running MTN Nigeria’s Sales and Distribution channel as its Executive from 2006.
According to US-based technology market research consultancy, International Data Corporation (IDC), in November, MTN Nigeria hold competitive edges to further unlock market potentials to remain profitable for its South African parent company, MTN Group – going by tariff innovation and other initiatives underway by the mobile phone network. With over 55 million active connections, MTN Nigeria under Ikpoki’s leadership continue to deliver a satisfactory performance, maintaining market share, even in the face of stiffer competition and regulations.
Industry: Information and Communication Technology
Ms Funke Opeke is the founder and CEO of Main One Cable Company, a Nigerian cable and communications service provider that built West Africa’s first privately owned high capacity cable submarine. An Electrical Engineering graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria, Ms Opeke has served as the Executive Director of Verizon Communications Wholesale Division.
Armed with a twenty-year career in the United States as a telecommunication executive, Opeke returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN. She also served as an adviser to Transcorp on the acquisition of NITEL and briefly served as the interim Chief Operating Officer, NITEL after which she created Main One as a result of the dearth of infrastructure which forms a huge information and knowledge gap between Africa and the rest of the world. She creatively built Main One as a result of the non-existent internet services in the country at that time. She built Main One over a 2-year period, from inception with a total investment of $240 million financed entirely from African investors (The founding shareholders are called Main Street Technologies) plus $28 million contingency. Since her company began operations in 2010, Main One has transformed Nigerian and African broadband landscape.
Recently, her company began the building of a $25 million Tier III + data centre in Lagos which would be the largest of its kind in West Africa at 1,500 square metres with a 600 rack capacity as part of its growth strategy and vision to enhance infrastructure in its primary market – West Africa. Her efforts have been recognised over the years. Last year, she won the 2012 CNBC All Africa Businesswoman of the Year Award (AABLA) in Midrand, South Africa.
Young, passionate and an enthusiast – that is what describes Micheal Arumemi-Ikhide best. The Nigerian-born University of Edinburgh Chemical Engineering graduate joined Arik’s board in October 2006 as one of its founding board members to serve in the capacity of “Executive Director Corporate Strategy” with a broad remit spanning areas such as fleet evaluation, acquisition and financing; strategic, organisational & commercial planning and execution as well as government and bilateral affairs. Today, he serves as the Group CEO and President of Arik Air Ltd, Nigeria and Arik Air international Ltd, UK.
Under his leadership, Arik has grown to be West Africa and Central Africa largest commercial airline. Since he became Arik CEO in 2009, the airline has also become the national carrier of neighboring country, Sierra Leone and there has also been consideration for it to be Nigerian national carrier. The Lagos-based airline company which started with a single Hawker jet aircraft, and later three brand new CRJ 900s now boasts of a fleet of over 26 aircraft with over 5 million passengers a year across 19 domestic destinations, eight West and Central African routes, and three long-haul markets covering South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA. Arumemi-Ikhide is a member of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) UK and a member of the Aviation Club UK. He is also credited to have helped set up and established the airline’s overseas headquarters, Arik Air International Ltd, in London in April, 2007. Arik airline was founded by Michael’s father -Joseph Arumemi-Ikhide in 2002.
Omatek Ventures Plc
Industry: Information and Communication Technology
Engr. (Mrs.) Florence Seriki (MFR) is the Amazon behind Omatek Ventures Plc, a Nigerian computer manufacturing company known for its dedication in promoting, pioneering and manufacturing local content in the ICT sector of the continent. A graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Seriki’s Omatek company has succeeded in penetrating the Nigerian IT market with local manufacture of casing, mouse, key board and speakers. She is also credited with opening the first indigenous Computer Assembly plant in Nigeria and Ghana. Her company also holds a very enviable position as a market leader in the production and assembly of computers and related accessories. Seriki is a Fellow of notable associations both within and outside the shores of the Country, including the Nigerian Chemical Engineering Society and the Nigerian Computer Society. She also holds a master degree in Business Administration from the Lagos Business School.
Guaranty Trust Bank
Now many would wonder what will be the fate of GTBank after its co-founder and former CEO Tayo Aderiokun passed away in 2011. But Olusegun Jimi Agbaje has proved to be a worthy successor by taking the bank to a greater height. Agbaje has successfully improved GT Bank’s standing with its impressive year-on-year market share growth while maintaining the bank’s position as one of the most profitable bank in Nigeria for the last 3 years. Agbaje, GT Bank’s third CEO joined a pioneer staff in 1991, after a stint at Ernst & Young, San Francisco, USA. He subsequently rose through the ranks to become an Executive Director in January 2000 and was later appointed deputy managing director in 2002, a position which he held until April 2011, when he was appointed as Acting Managing Director. With over 21 years of investment and international banking experience, the Harvard Business School alumnus has experience in-most aspects of the bank’s business, including commercial banking, investment banking, treasury, corporate planning and strategy, settlements and operations.
This year, he was awarded the 2013 Banker of the Year – Africa by the World Finance Banking Awards- an award conferred on outstanding bankers who have achieved the most with regards to innovation, profitability and sustainability of their organization. GT Bank was also favored as “2013 Best Banking Group – Nigeria” by the same agency. Also London-based EMEA Finance magazine rated Guaranty Trust Bank Plc as Africa’s ‘Most Innovative Bank’ 2013 while Segun Agbaje was recognised as the 2013 pan-Africa CEO of the Year. Many will also agree that the bank today is one of the most innovative and tech-savvy bank in Nigeria. Agbaje through his leadership redefined mobile banking in Nigeria this year with the introduction of “Social Banking” which made it the first Nigerian bank to allow customers to transfer money and review their account balances on Facebook.
Industry: Information and Communication Technology
Dr. Leonard Stanley Nnamdi Ekeh is the Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian ICT solutions giant, Zinox Group. He is recognized for playing a pivotal role in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development in the continent, but most especially, for his intuitive leadership and capacity to define market trends in the technology terrain. An Economics graduate from the Punjab University, India, the Imo state born industrialist pioneered IT distribution in West Africa through Technology Distributions Limited, TD, which has emerged the Number 1 ICT distribution company and the most decorated ICT Distributor in West Africa. Leo Stan Ekeh has a record of incisive entrepreneurship and his vision to Computerise Nigeria has rewritten the history of Information Technology in Africa. His first company, Task Systems Limited changed the face of media and multimedia houses in West Africa as it helped computerise 95 prcent of the Print Media, Publishing Houses and Advertising Agencies in Nigeria. Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh also pioneered IT Solutions in West Africa through his company ITEC Solutions Limited through which he has delivered the largest IT Solutions ever, from an indigenous firm, to the Nigerian Corporate Market. Through his company, Leo Stan has been able to introduce Nigeria’s First Internationally Certified computers which include innovative features like the Naira sign and a power supply designed to contain the erratic nature of power in Nigeria.
In October 2013, the company announced the production of its computer tablet line named Zipad. Ekeh was recently named Africa’s first Microsoft Global Partner Adviser, a position he said he would use to advance the objectives of the Digital Knowledge Democracy and create technology value for Africans. The Microsoft Global Advisor Committee is a committee of distinguished IT icons around the world who serve as feedback channel to Microsoft for business models and strategy for product rollout and meets two times every year. They also act as an advocacy group for customers and channel partners.
A Fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Ekeh was also honoured as an icon of Hope by (erstwhile) President Olusegun Obasanjo, for his sustained entrepreneurial efforts in Information Technology. He was also recognised as the IT Personality of the Year 2011 among other accolades.
No list will be complete without Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote who is arguably the most popular and successful CEO on the continent. He is unarguably the king of Nigeria manufacturing industry, and perhaps Africa. His company Dangote group, which he started with a business loan from his maternal uncle has grown to be one of the continent’s leading diversified business empires with interests in cement, sugar, flour, salt, pasta, beverages and real estate, and new projects in the oil and Natural gas sector, telecommunications, fertilizer and steel with annual earnings averaging $2 billion. Today, Dangote Group is worth more than $11 billion, comprising a third of Nigeria’s Stock Exchange.
The company cement business (Dangote Cement) which spans about 24 African countries is the company’s greatest asset and it has helped to push Nigeria to the fore-front in cement manufacturing, establishing it as the largest cement manufacturer in sub-Saharan Africa as well as the third-largest cement maker in the broader Middle East. According to Renaissance Capital research, Dangote Cement, owned by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, was the major force behind the country’s cement success story. Also, his company was listed among Africa’s top 10 most valuable brands in 2013 by African Business Magazine. Dangote group was also named the most valuable brand in the consumer goods sector with an African brand value and overall 8th most valuable brand when placed against brands from other sectors.
In the coming year, Dangote Group plan to invest $16 billion in infrastructural projects in the energy, agriculture and construction sectors in what is likely to be the largest private investment ever in the continent. Dangote plans to double its cement output in Africa to 55 million metric tons by 2015 and to double its sugar refining capacity to 2.75 million tons by 2017. Industry watchers have predicted that Dangote Group will grow by about 30 percent next year if the investment goes according to its plan.
Chairwoman and Chief Executive, EbonyLife TV
The queen of talk shows and Nigeria’s Oprah, Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu is a media mogul and self-taught TV host. In 2013, Abudu launched EbonyLife TV, Africa’s first continent-wide black entertainment network, targeting Africa’s growing and aspiring middle class with programming that celebrates style and success while motivating its audiences to dream and dream big. The Nigerian TV personality has arguably revolutionised pay TV in Africa since she launched the continent’s first syndicated talk show, Moments With Mo, in 2006, and with EbonyLife TV, she is definitely one of the CEOs to look out for in the coming year.
A visionary, Mo in a statement announcing her company this year said: “The Western media has sold us the best of the West, even Asia has joined that race; it is time to not only sell Africa to the world but to ourselves. And we are now in a position to take indigenous African brands to the rest of the world, giving everyone the best of both worlds – it doesn’t get any better.” Simply put, Mo is a go-getter and an inspiration to African women the world over.
Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)
Oscar Onyema has been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigeria’s trade stable – the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) since 2011. Since he became the bourse head, he has turned it around for good. A former Chief Administrative Officer of the American Stock Exchange (AMEX), Onyema introduced Market Making and security lending to the NSE in 2012 as part of his move to introduce initiatives that would help to deepen the Nigerian stock market and make it the gateway to Africa capital markets. The introduction of this programme has paid off as the volume and value of trade has lifted the market by 41 per cent or N3.338 rillion in 2013.
Before the introduction of Market Making, the All-Share Index (ASI) posted a growth of 20 percent, rising 21,106.67 to c lose at 25,373.83. Market capitalisation also added N1.346 trillion, growing from N6.731trillion to N8.077 trillion as at September, 2013. Also, at the end of last week, market capitalisation appreciated by 1.88 per cent to close at N12.661 trillion while the NSE All-Share Index increased by 1.88 per cent to close on Friday (Dec 20) at 39,562.75. Onyema has delivered as the exchange is now one of the most respected globally. The NSE was one of the two bourses that made the top 10 best performing Stock Exchange of UK’s Telegraph this year. Under his management, the Nigerian Stock Exchange joined the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, making it the third African nation to join the clique. The SSE initiative is co-organized by UNCTAD, the United Nations Global Compact, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative, and the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.
SO&U Advertising Agency
Ufot Udeme, the co-founder and Group Managing Director of Nigeria’s foremost advertising agency – SO&U is unarguably one of the most respected voice in the Nigerian marketing communications terrain. A graduate of Industrial design at the Ahmadu Bello University, Udeme started his advertising career as an art director with Desmark Advertising but later moved on to Insight Communications where he rose to the post of Deputy creative director after 5 years of working with the organization.
It was after this stint that he took an agency attachment course with German Saatchi and Saatchi affiliate – Scholz and Friends and then came back to Nigeria with a burning desire to establish his company with a vision of making it the most creative agency in Nigeria within two years. That was in 1990. True to his vision, within 18 months, the agency was named the most creative in the country. Several accolades have followed suit over the years. His company won the Fate Model Entrepreneur Award 2012. He has served as the President of both the Advertising Agencies Association of Nigeria and the Lagos Business School Alumni Association. He is also a board member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. He is also the brain behind the popular Nigerian Guinness Advert, “My friend Udeme is a great man.”
Stephen Olabisi Onasanya
First Bank Plc
Stephen Olabisi Onasanya is the powerhouse behind Nigeria’s oldest and biggest financial institutions – First bank Nigeria PLC. A seasoned banker, Onasanya took over First bank’s helm of Affairs from the present Nigeria CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Prior to his appointment, he served as the bank’s Executive Director, Banking Operations & Services. Since he joined First Bank in 1985, Onasanya has held several management and operational positions. Under Onansanya’s management, Great Place To Work Nigeria (GPTWN), an affiliate of Great Place to Work, San Francisco, US, a global research, consulting and training institute which analyses, selects and publishes best workplace lists in the country named the Bank as one of “the best place to work” and the ‘Company with the Best Human Resources Structure in Nigeria’ in 2013. The bank also emerged the winner of the Most Innovative Ai SRI50 Company award for outstanding performance, beating other contenders, such as Mobil, Kenya Airways, BHP Billiton, Nation Media Group, Stanbic and Uganda Sasol. This year, it succeeded in strengthening its operational processes to suit international best practices. This includes its migration to the world class Finacle 10, a core banking software application.
Sola David Borha
Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC
A powerful voice in Nigeria’s corporate corridor Sola joined IBTC as an Executive Director of Investment Banking & Trust Company Plc (IBTC) in 1994. She rose to the post of its Deputy Managing Director and Acting Managing Director, IBTC Chartered Bank PLC (from 2005 to 2007), as well as Executive Director for Corporate and Investment Banking and then Deputy Managing Director, Stanbic IBTC in 2008 before she was officially appointed as the company CEO. With her extensive experience in the corporate and business world, Mrs David-Borha has been able to steer Stanbic IBTC to greater heights.
A woman of many paths, Mrs David-Borha is also a devout Christian and a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). She was recently named the highest paid CEO in Nigeria.
Author: Oluwabusayo Sotunde