Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Saturday, September 3, 2016 Under: Our Headline Articles
On the 24th of July 2016; The Nigerian Voice Newspaper had an exclusive Interview with 28 years old Obinwanne Okeke one of two Nigerians whose name made the list of Forbes 2016- 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa to watch out for in the future. We spoke with him extensively on his upbring, educational background and schooling days in South Africa, his business, Nigeria, the Nigerian image in the Diaspora and a whole lot of other issues.
Obinwanne George Okeke is a young Nigerian entrepreneur born and raised in Ukpor village in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State in South-East Nigeria. Obinwanne’s education is in Politics; He holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Forensic Criminology and International Relations and a Master’s degree (MA) in International Relations and Counter Terrorism (Cum Laude) from Monash University, South Africa campus and his masters in Australia.
During the interview, we drew his attention to his article of Sunday 10th of October 2015 where he had written about his admiration for the business acumen of Nigerian foremost billionaire and the richest African, Alhaji Aliko Dangote having made the front cover of the October 2015 Forbes Africa publication. “I have always admired his business acumen, and I still believe in Africa business-wise just because of success stories like his. It will be an honor to get Forbes to do an article/cover on me someday” he wrote.
Few months after the article, his dream came true when Forbes Africa named him as one of 2016’s 30 most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa to watch out for in future, and his photograph made the front cover of the June 2016 Edition of the publication. The Nigerian Voice Newspaper sought to know how he felt about this and what impact it had on him and his business. “I have so much admiration for Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s business acumen and it is not a hidden fact that he is the biggest investor in “risky” African economies” he said.
Although Obinwanne’s academic background is mainly in politics, he had always had an eye and passion for business, so he started a business in pursuit of his passion. He is the founder of Invictus Group of Companies Ltd with subsidiaries in Real Estate, Construction, Investments, Energy, Agriculture, Oil & Gas and Telecoms. He has also been extensively involved in sourcing, structuring, implementing and monitoring various private equity investments in the African and Australian markets and has over 10 years of investment experience. Prior to founding Invictus Group of Companies, he assisted with founding and running other entrepreneurial establishments. He seized the opportunity of the interview with The Nigerian Voice Newspaper to explain the idea behind the name of his company.
“As you know, all my companies have the word “INVICTUS” on them, this is due to my exposure to the Invictus Poem written by William Ernest Henley about the undefeated and unconquerable soul of a hard worker from an impoverished background, but will not give up because of the obstacles before and around him, which portrays my story”
According to Obinwanne; he stated that he was born and brought up in the village but lived in many parts of the country with one family relation to another. He is the 17th child of a polygamous father and 4th of his mother who was a village primary school teacher but education was priority for his mother. He didn’t have the luxury of life growing up as a child, but he recalled that he was definitely living with a super woman and someone who instilled discipline in him and made it clear that education was the only key.
It was a humble upbringing, the type that has contributed immensely to the man he has become. He had to go to boarding school at the age of 10 years and losing his father when he was barely 16 years. He immediately took his life into his own hands.
Obinawanne said he never really had a lot of role models growing up, but one man he had read extensively about was the late South African Icon, anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and the things he read was what shaped his leadership mentality.
At 13 years old, the young Obinawanne came across a book by Brian Tracy titled “The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires”. That book, he said, launched him into the journey of becoming an entrepreneur.
While at Monash University South Africa he learned discipline and self-growth, this was aside world class quality education which was his initial goal. During the time, Obinwanne had the opportunity of serving in leadership role in a lot of student associations including Monash University South Africa Student Association (MUSASA), which immediately presented him with a real life experience of man-management as well as inter-personal skills.
According to him, in his role as the Social Events Coordinator, it entailed him being responsible for developing and organizing students’ social activities, organizing team building activities, acting as a liaison between students, management and other stakeholders and representing individual students. This was in order to protect and advance student interests and promote unity on campus. To date, he believes that the impact of his leadership is well remembered by the university as well as the alumni network of the great institution.
Obinawanne described himself as having an unconquerable soul which is where his zeal and inspiration for wanting to succeed and forever working hard to stay successful come from. “My inspiration is ironically drawn from my impoverished background. It is one that I am not ashamed of, because I didn’t grow up with much on my plate, but then I had always dreamt of a better life and for this to happen, I had to get up and put in some work to get to where I am today” said Obinwanne.
The young entrepreneur told The Nigerian Voice Newspaper that he is a firm believer in the African continent and the enormous opportunity which abounds on the continent. As a business man, he believes that the gold mine is in Africa and Africa will dominate the world economically. Therefore, each time he travels Africa in search of an opportunity and demands yet to be met he is very excited about the results and how much opportunities there is in Africa to use to make a lot of money as well as improve the lives of Africa's citizens and inhabitants.
He cited the example of the Tech industry; "the Tech industry for example, go to tech hubs in Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg, there are endless opportunities and ideas yet to be harvested. We have the likes of Microsoft and Facebook come from their Silicon Valley to come seek for opportunities right in our backyards, and we are ball watching. This is just one industry that we as Africans need to explore and export to the world. There are many more, but as a business man/woman one have to look further in order to explore the opportunities”.
During the interview two things that Obinwanne was very passionate about where distinctive and stood out. He is an advocate of women and a strong believer in the strength of African women, and he is also very passionate about people and strongly believes in giving back to society.
Concerning women, he said "we must appreciate the immense contributions of African Women. I have noticed their resilient strengths through my mother; she has been a huge source of inspiration for me as I went through life. I have nothing but praises for these women who take care of their families, and still go out there to contribute to the economy of nations as well as that of their family and the society in general".
Over the last decade, Obinawanne has inspired both businesses and individuals in the private sector to invest in the less privileged and the uneducated in countries across the world. He spear headed inter alia the Literacy Africa project which saw 100, 000 (one hundred thousand) books being donated to children across the African continent in underprivileged schools through Invictus Foundation. Every year Obinwanne celebrates his birthday at different orphanage homes with less-privileged children.
Obinwanne is a regular speaker about #AfricaRising which has gotten so much attention internationally that the entire world now knows that Africans cannot be ignored anymore in the business world. Recently, he spoke at the 4th edition of the African Diaspora Youth Forum which took place at the UN headquarters in Vienna, Austria between 1st and 4th of June 2016. He spoke on "Business Solution Forum for Youth: Entrepreneurial Leadership for Decent job creation". His message was on Africa Rising.
His advice for Nigerians and African youths is to go into business and dream big "Start a business now! Do it now! Don’t wait for tomorrow. All you have to do is dream, it’s free” – I have always said this to myself. I say that because I had known this from a very young age that all I needed was to dream and work towards it. Coincidentally, dreaming is free! Dream, believe in yourself and work on it”.
He continued “You have to believe in yourself and your ability to be successful, no matter what. You have to believe in your ability to follow through with your vision and to execute your dream”.
“Perception: Nothing is good or bad, things are only how you perceive them. Your attitude and perception are going to lead you either to success or failure. It’s that simple. You have to master your mind and that starts with choosing how you perceive the events and circumstances of your life”.
“Perseverance: You need to be able to persevere and keep going -- no matter what! Prepare yourself for success by knowing that you're going to persevere. A lot of that comes down to the belief in yourself and your perception of your own life. These three abilities feed each other in a continuous loop that will inevitably lead you to success” he advised.
Rounding up our conversation, we asked Obinwanne to compare the educational standard in Nigeria with that of South Africa and if his studying in South Africa has made him a better person and has contributed to his over-all success. Also we asked him what his over-all impression of Nigeria's image in South Africa is and what ways will he suggest to Nigeria's government in other to change the situation?. Finally, as a tradition of the publication we asked what is his impression of The Nigerian Voice Newspaper South Africa and what advice would he give the publication in other to improve?
About the educational standard, he said "I won’t say it necessarily made me a better person. When choosing to go to university, I had many options, however; I wanted a global university degree. Monash ranked high and excited me, the studying environment and the small size of the campus excited me, so I enrolled, it happened to be in South Africa. But the comparison of both countries’ educational standards is many miles apart".
About the Nigerian reputation in South Africa and the Disapora his opinion was that "the reputation that we have had to deal with as Nigerians living outside the country is bad. This is the reason I mentioned integration and acceptance was my major difficulties, but I believe in the redemption of the Nigerian image. I believe that if we individually try our best to be on our best behavior while abroad, the perception will definitely change, not overnight but gradually and eventually.
He continued, "Just as the small businesses springing up here and there across the globe pioneered by well standing Nigerians and patronized by host nations, the notion that every Nigerian is a drug dealer or fraudster will begin to change. I definitely believe this fight is ours and not necessarily governments’ because we as citizens have to act right first".
Finally, on The Nigerian Voice Newspaper, he had this to say: "I had the opportunity to have come across The Nigerian Voice newspaper in its early days, and when you look at the milestones now, Wow! You have been doing a good job in the cleansing of the Nigerian image in South Africa and beyond. I commend you to continue as you are doing, and shed more lights on more Nigerian owned businesses to expose and promote them to the world" he concluded.
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