Over time, young Nigerian business owners and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) have been pushing the boundaries. They have displayed their courage in building and sustaining phenomenal businesses that are driving the nation’s economy.
These young entrepreneurs, more than anyone, are known for going the extra mile in providing solutions for societal needs and job creation for the Nigerian populace at large. These CEOs are not just making their families proud, they also make the nation proud as they consistently break boundaries in the country’s struggling business environment.
In no particular order, meet the Nigerian under 40 CEOs who have been executing their great visions, and whose excellence in 2019 cannot be questioned.
Dr Olamide Orekunrin
It is no longer news that the Nigerian healthcare system is at the moment in pitiful condition. The healthcare overview is far from stellar, as people who can afford better, ignore local hospitals and healthcare services for the ones abroad.
There have been instances where the lack of emergency healthcare services cost lives, one of whom was Dr Olamide Orekunrin’s sister. This heart-breaking loss spurred her on to improving medical care in the country, especially in the area of devising the fastest ways of getting patients to the best healthcare facilities for their ailments.
With this in mind, Orekunrin founded Flying Doctors, a company adjudged as West Africa’s first and only full air ambulance service. So far, the company has airlifted hundreds of patients, using a fleet of planes and helicopters to rapidly move injured workers and critically ill people from remote areas to hospitals. Ranging from patients with road traffic trauma, to bomb blast injuries, and gunshot wounds, Orekunrin and her team are helping to save lives by moving these patients quickly and safely while providing a high level of medical care en route.
At this stage, it is safe to say that the 33-year old is not just a problem solver but also a lifesaver. She was once quoted to have said that her goal is to continue improving access to medical treatment while focusing on the pre-hospital and in-hospital management of injuries across the continent. She said that whilst much attention and funding is directed toward infectious diseases, Africa is also facing a big problem when it comes to treating physical injuries. Orekunrin’s dream is to see the brand establish its presence in other African countries.
Blogging is a business which someone who is an information enthusiast can suddenly find him or herself in. Linda Ikeji’s transformation from a ‘gossip blogger’ to a ‘media mogul’, has since sent shock waves through the public space and trained media professionals at large.
The 38-year old started blogging at a time when the internet was less relevant. After completing her first degree from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Ikeji found herself blogging, a ‘hobby’ which she did with consistency and passion till it became a multi-million naira generating business.
Having started active blogging in 2007, Ikeji was pushed into the spotlight as she took risks which a lot of people would not dare take. She became more popular for creating controversies and her fearlessness. Ikeji became the nightmare of celebrities and socialites. Millions of people around the world, not just Nigerians jump on her blog to read fresh gist and gossips, while she smiles to her bank to cash out money gotten from heavy traffic, paid banners and sponsored posts.
Going by Ikeji’s known assets and properties, it may not be erroneous to say that she’s worth a billion. In 2015, she bought a house in Banana Island for over N500 million, a property which would have increased value by now.
Years after establishing her media company, Ikeji has proved her competence in the struggling and highly competitive industry as her relevance in the media world is an admirable one among her peers.
The advent of the internet has, no doubt, revolutionised how movie lovers consume content. In recent times, there has been an increase in the number of Video-on-Demand (VoD) platforms in the country. The relatively affordable cost of data has further contributed to the increasing number of these platforms in Nigeria.
With nearly $4 billion in revenue and almost 2,000 productions every year, Nollywood is the second largest movie industry by volume. In the past, Nollywood movies were mostly sold on the streets and to idling motorists caught in traffic as pirated copies. However, things seem to have changed in the last few years.
Presently, movie lovers can have multiple VoD apps installed on their devices. All one has to worry about is the cost of data, as well as a monthly subscription charge. These platforms serve Nigerians with local and foreign video content.
Meet Jason Njoku, CEO of IROKOtv, one of the early video-on-demand platforms for Nigerian movies. The IROKOtv brand has grown to become one of the largest platforms for Nollywood movies and TV series. Iroko TV platform currently has customers spread across the continent, with customers from Africa representing 67% of the platform’s total subscriber base (Nigeria accounts for 41.9%, French-speaking African countries account for 18.3% and other English-speaking Africa countries accounts for 6.6%).
On the off-chance that you are wondering how IROKOtv was birthed, the idea to start IROKOtv came after Njoku’s mother sent him to buy some Nollywood movies in London and after several attempts, he could not find any movie to either buy or stream online. He saw a huge gap and opportunity – a global desire for content, but no easy means of accessing it. This later prompted Jason to move back to Lagos and start research on the industry. He started acquiring hundreds of online licenses for Nollywood movies, to upload onto YouTube.
According to him, “What informed my decision to move into the digitisation of Nollywood was the fact that there was a global desire for content. Everything was super informal and based on geography. Bringing the content online erased those borders in an instant.”
Just like the aforementioned, Makanjuola’s successful professional attainments cannot be swept under the carpet. He is a co-founder of Caverton Helicopters, an integral part of Caverton Group which generates a lot of revenue and profit.
While the success of the business has received praise in the Nigerian business environment, not a lot of people are in the know that the company is the brainchild of Makanjuola. Following his return to Nigeria upon the completion of his studies in the United Kingdom, he identified a major gap in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector and set about solving it.
While the 38-year old was still a student in the United Kingdom (UK), he learnt how to fly helicopters, and took rotary wing flight training and other aviation industry courses. This experience availed him of an understanding of the aviation industry, even as he came to the realisation that he could disrupt the oil and gas sector in Nigeria using the new skill he had acquired. Note that at this time, the oil and gas industry had no active helicopter services provider.
Today, Caverton Helicopters has successfully leveraged the status of its parent company to become one of the biggest players in the sector. The company currently has the largest fleet of ultramodern helicopters operating in Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa.
Lately, Nigerian fintech companies are gaining momentum. Thus, Piggybank.ng, since its establishment, has grown rapidly compared to the way financial institutions like commercial banks grow. Piggybank.ng is a fintech company that works directly with financial institutions to enable individuals to save little amounts of money periodically (daily, weekly or monthly) and restricts withdrawals until set dates.
The company was founded by Somto Ifezue, Joshua Chibueze and Odunayo Eweniyi in April 2016.
25-year-old Eweniyi is a first-class graduate of Computer Engineering from Covenant University. Upon graduation, after a series of fruitless interviews, she joined Sharphire Global Limited, where she co-founded PushCV. Soon after, she also co-founded Piggybank which was born out of a need to help the people who had gotten jobs on PushCV save their salaries.
In view of her career attainments so far, it is unarguable that Eweniyi’s career objective is to be at the forefront of the digital revolution in Nigeria and Africa at large — particularly in the financial, education and labour sectors. Eweniyi’s commitment and focus have helped Piggybank save close to N1 billion in 2017, a whopping increase from the N21 million in savings it began with, in the same year. The number of users on the platform also grew by 3000% in 2017, with minimal marketing. Piggy Bank also launched its apps on the Google Play and Apple app stores.
Last year was a blast for Piggybank, as the fintech company secured Seed Funding of $1.1 million from High Net Worth Individuals led by Olumide Soyombo, Founder of LeadPath Nigeria, and with participation from International and Pan-African investors, Village Capital and Ventures Platform.