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Visionaries - May 24, 2022

5 Most Successful Nigerian Entrepreneurs You Hardly Hear About

The most successful Nigerian entrepreneurs that easily come to mind immediately are Dangote, Adenuga, Elemelu and Otedola.

However, there are so many other successful Nigerian entrepreneurs that are hardly in the public eye. 

They’ve come a long way because of the choices they’ve made. Likewise, their daily efforts to achieve their business goals through determination, commitment, and perseverance.

Here are five successful Nigerian entrepreneurs you hardly hear about.

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1. Jim Ovia

Jim Ovia is dubbed the “Godfather of Banking.” Jim launched Zenith Bank in Nigeria during a period of tension between military and civilian regimes, enormous economic instability, and deteriorating infrastructure. 

What began with $4 million in shareholder capital under Jim’s guidance has grown into one of Africa’s largest banks, a globally known institution with over $16 billion in assets.

During his two decades as CEO, he helped the bank become one of Africa’s largest and most lucrative.

Ovia is also the founder and chairman of both the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and the National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). 

He is a member of the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) and the Honorary International Investor Council (HIIC). Cyberspace Network Limited (CNL) is his company.

At the University of Lagos’ 50th convocation ceremony, he received an honorary doctorate degree.

2. Theophilus Danjuma

Former Nigerian defence minister Theophilus Danjuma is the founder of South Atlantic Petroleum, an oil exploration company with upstream holdings in Nigeria, Benin, the Central African Republic, and Madagascar. 

He is the company’s chairman, while Daisy is the vice-chairman. He also owns real estate, as well as shares in Notore Chemical Industries, a urea fertilizer plant, and NALComet, one of Nigeria’s largest shipping businesses. 

3. Mitchell Elegbe 

Mitchell Elegbe is the Group Managing Director, Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Interswitch board of directors. He founded and has  directed the firm since its inception in 2002. 

Under his leadership, Interswitch has remarkably diversified its business, broadened distribution channels, and expanded into new markets across Africa. 

This has helped to drive revolutionary payment innovation and social impact while delivering strong revenue and profit growth.

Interswitch was named Africa’s fastest-growing technology business’ by Deloitte in 2014.

Elegbe is a consummate people-centric leader who believes in inspiring his Interswitch colleagues to believe in their own worth as individuals, the worth of the job they do, and their worth as team members, all while relentlessly pursuing long-term value for stakeholders.

4. Innocent Chukwuma 

Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma, a Nigerian business magnate and investor. He was the founder and CEO of Nigeria’s first indigenous automotive manufacturer, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing.

Innocent started his automotive journey by trading in spare parts in 1981, after finishing his studies. 

He then established the Innoson Group, which includes companies Innoson Manufacturing and Innoson Tech. & Industries Co. Ltd.

In 2013, he was named Deputy Chairman of the National Coalition for Jonathan and Sambo Presidency’s Board of Trustees, a group formed to advocate the candidacy of former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

5. Funke Opeke

Ms. Funke Opeke is the founder and CEO of MainOne, which was previously known as Main One Cable Company. 

MainOne is West Africa’s top communications services and network solutions provider. 

The company completed the world’s first privately owned, open access 7,000-kilometer undersea high-capacity cable submarine in 2010. It was a $240 million project that was finished on time and on budget. 

After a twenty-year career in the United States, Ms. Opeke returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN.

She was the Executive Director of Verizon Communications Wholesale Division prior to her return. 

Following MTN, Ms. Opeke advised Transcorp on the acquisition of NITEL and served as interim Chief Operating Officer after the acquisition. 

She graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University in New York.

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