Empowering women helps the society

In this exclusive interview, Financial Nigeria Columnist and Executive Director, Samuel Olutuyi Foundation, Olajide Olutuyi, discusses the areas of activities and interventions of the foundation and their broad impacts so far. He spoke to Managing Editor, Financial Nigeria Magazine, Jide Akintunde.

Jide Akintunde (JA): The Samuel Olutuyi Foundation (SOF) appears to be grassroots-focused. How was the life and work of the late Samuel Olutuyi, in whose name and memory SOF is founded, connected to the proverbial “ordinary” Nigerians?

Olajide Olutuyi (OO): I will start by thanking you Jide for having me and making this interview possible. To answer your question, I will say if Samuel Olutuyi Foundation (SOF) were a person, its goals, operations and focus would be similar to the lifestyle of my late father, Samuel Olagoke Olutuyi. As an organisation founded in my father’s name, SOF is inseparable from the ideals he lived by.
This organization could not have come alive without his inspiration. It may interest you to know that for over three decades – from my childhood to adulthood – I watched my father carry out philanthropic deeds. One of his attributes was his association with the downtrodden. As a matter of fact, he identified himself as an ordinary Nigerian.

JA: What are the broad areas of intervention of the Foundation?

OO: The foundation’s major programmes span four major areas. These are: access to quality education with a focus on girl-child education; health and wellness; civic orientation and entrepreneurship development with a focus on “womenpreneur” or women entrepreneurs.
Despite the established programme areas, the foundation has delved into other areas. We are compelled to do so because of the multitude of problems that exist in the environment we operate in. For instance, we have provided intervention for medical-related issues, resulting in the inclusion of a medical grant in our 2020-2022 three-year rolling plan, which we christened Adedeji Owolabi Medical Grant. We are also currently providing interventions under our Covid-19 Palliatives programme.
Generally, our 2020-2022 plan include grants and programmes such as SOF Petty Traders Grant, SOF Womanprenuer Grant, SOF Education Grant, SOF Apprenticeship Grant, SOF Wealth & Wellness Initiative, which includes the medical grant I mentioned momentarily.
And you know there is so much good to be done. So, we cannot be limited to our plans. Sometimes, we must take a different approach. Another practical example is that we are working on a partnership with a foreign organisation to help provide safe drinking water in some communities. The goal is to reduce the stress on the girl-child who is always burdened with fetching water from the stream. As a result, she is denied the opportunity to concentrate on education. On the surface, what we are doing is a water project, but its secondary goal is to promote girl-child education. The foundation aims to continue to use this approach of designing projects with multidimensional outcomes in the years to come to expand its impacts.

From left: A woman entrepreneur grant recipient of the Samuel Olutuyi
Foundation being congratulated by an official of the Foundation

JA: You are an entrepreneur yourself. But why do you think it is important for SOF to promote women entrepreneurship at the grassroots level?

OO: As you may also be aware, my father was an entrepreneur. But there is another entrepreneur in our household that we rarely mention and that is my mum. I grew up knowing her as an entrepreneur even before my father became one. My father had been employed in the private sector for 20 years before he ventured into private business. So, my mum carried the torch as a womanpreneur for a long time, while making invaluable contributions to the family.
At SOF, we believe that empowering women helps the society. Statistics show that six out of ten of the world’s poorest people are women. Women also face more obstacles in accessing credit and receiving training. The Brookings Institute has identified entrepreneurship as a way to empower women living in extreme poverty. Several studies show that when women have their own financial freedom, they don’t only lift themselves out of poverty; their children also live healthier and the overall economy is all the better for it.
At SOF, we cannot agree more with the assertion of the World Bank that “empowering women is smart economics.” We believe that the idea of womenpreneur is an untapped source of job creation and economic growth in a developing country like Nigeria.

JA: It seems SOF has deftly chosen its areas of activities and interventions, which are broadly very critical to Nigeria’s economic growth and development. What message is SOF sending on the Nigerian development imperatives?

OO: You are right, the scope of our interventions is broad. These are areas we believe governments at national and subnational levels have continued to drop the ball on.
Take our civic orientation initiative as an example; we believe that a society will not achieve its full potential without its people being oriented toward civic engagement. This is an area that governments need to take a critical look at, especially for the sake of our youths who are the leaders of tomorrow.  
The SOF civic orientation initiative seeks to create involved citizens instead of demanding customers. We believe that governments can solve some of society’s problems if they partner with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charitable organizations like SOF.
In developed countries, portions of the governments’ budgets are provided as grants to support NGOs and charitable organisations, which are considered community-based organisations (CBOs) because of their proximity to the communities. In effect, the CBOs are invaluable partners of change.

JA: While it is not too early to start collating data on the impacts SOF is making, would you like to start reporting the impacts by identifying a few of them now?

OO: As a matter of fact, yes. One of the courses that prepared me for this role was a certificate course in Social Impact Leadership from the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley, in conjunction with the Philanthropy University. A major component of this course is the measurement of social impact. So, as an organisation, SOF considers measurement of impact very seriously.  
But measuring social impact has become an overly complex task in the philanthropy industry in recent times. Nevertheless, keeping data on the impact of our interventions means a lot to us at SOF. It helps us plan and direct our funds. If you look at the report of our last health and wellness initiative programme held in Delta State, you would be amazed at how many Nigerians are walking around without knowing their blood sugar level.
During the campaign, blood sugar tests were done on site. Over 60 per cent of those who did the tests were doing it for the first time. The results showed that about 15 per cent of the people had high blood sugar at levels that needed immediate medical attention. We considered this outcome a positive impact. If the tests were not conducted, they would not have known their blood sugar conditions.
We have also seen huge impact with our SOF Petty Traders Grant. Sometimes, I am amused at the comments of some Nigerians on the federal government’s TraderMoni programme. They ask what can NGN20,000 do for a person? NGN20,000 means a lot to some traders. Do you know some traders’ whole inventories are worth less than NGN10,000?
Although the SOF Petty Trader Grant is not a loan like the FG’s TraderMoni, grantees are carefully and painstakingly selected. Some of them are even nominated by trustees of SOF.
The impact of this programme has been huge. We have used this programme to not only empower some petty traders, we have also used it to help increase financial inclusion. A requirement for grantees is a bank account. For this reason, over 20 per cent of our grantees opened bank accounts for the first time to receive their grants.

A scene of a medical outreach of the Samuel Olutuyi Foundation

JA: SOF may in the time being be focused on a limited geographical coverage, and that will be understandable because of the challenges of resources and administration. However, in what ways do you think the impacts the Foundation sets out to make can be scaled up or replicated?

OO: This is a very good question. With limited resources and funds, it becomes expedient for us to streamline our activities in terms of geographical spread. In view of this, we are more focused on the south-western states and one state in the south-south where we still have an office.
Indeed, most of our programmes can be replicated, especially the ones that have been measured to have high social impact. Streamlining our activities to a geographical location like south-west makes replication much easier in terms of language similarity and the cultural philosophy among states in the region.
To drive this agenda, we have put in place a machinery to move our head office to Akure, Ondo State

 JA: Foundations are an elite concept. While many of them serve to build or preserve the legacy of elite personalities, many of them are making real development impacts. What roles would you like to canvass for foundations in Nigeria?

OO: First, we do not consider SOF as an elite entity. Having said that, it is true that people have the perception that foundations are an elite concept. However, that perception is changing.
The truth is that foundations have been the most used platforms for the rich and elite to preserve their legacies and continue doing philanthropic works, especially in developed societies. However, there are also public charities that receive donations from the public and have broad public support, unlike private foundations whose benefactors are mostly the founders.
The funding structure of SOF puts it strictly in the category of a private foundation. However, as we move into the future and the need arises to seek funding from other sources, we may become a mix of private and public foundation.  
The philanthropy industry is also evolving in Nigeria as there are now so many non-elite-sponsored foundations.

Posted in Africa, Leadership, Nigeria, Nonprofit, Philantrophy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Covid-19 lays bare Nigeria’s economic and social fabrics

The Covid-19 pandemic has further exposed the fundamental weaknesses in Nigeria’s socio-economic fabric. While it is still too early to determine how much havoc the pandemic would wreak in terms of the actual contraction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and job losses in 2020, the country has already been hit by a double whammy of the coronavirus disease outbreak and oil price crash.
At the end of April, the price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, hovered around the average cost of oil production per barrel in Nigeria. Demand for oil has been effectively crippled by the pandemic, which has affected countries all over the world. In March, Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), acknowledged that as much as 50 cargoes of Nigerian crude had not found buyers. This situation further underscores the long-debated risk of the Nigerian government’s overdependence on oil for most of its foreign exchange earnings.

Every country that has developed learnt from its past woes. Nigeria must learn from its, as well, and be committed to finding solutions to the challenges this pandemic has laid bare. The government’s abysmal responses to the pandemic have also exposed the serious inadequacies in the country’s social protection systems. The poor and most vulnerable in society have been left to suffer the brunt of the economic impact of Covid-19.  

This article would discuss two angles to this dismal situation that demonstrate the reason the government is unprepared and hamstrung. One is the perennial lack of savings by federal and state governments that has now left them without the fiscal capacity to respond swiftly and effectively. The second aspect is the lack of valid social security identification for Nigerian citizens. As a result, there is no measurable and transparent way of channeling even the purported social interventions the federal government says it has rolled out.

The government said it approved a Covid-19 intervention fund to the tune of N500 billion ($1.4 billion) as fiscal stimulus to support healthcare facilities, provide relief for taxpayers, and incentivize employers to retain and recruit staff during the downturn. The government also reduced the price of petrol from N125 to N123.5 per litre. President Muhammadu Buhari also ordered an increase of the social register by one million households to 3.6 million to help cushion the effect of the lockdown.

Many countries have said they would do whatever it takes to protect their economies and vulnerable populations against the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. Governments in those countries are able to make such claims not only because their economies are several times the size of Nigeria’s, but they are also able to respond more aggressively due to their stronger fiscal positions and more diversified and dynamic economies.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19, the United Kingdom doled out 27 billion pounds to support businesses and another seven billion pounds was provided as social safety net for vulnerable people. The government is also deferring value added tax (VAT) payments for the second quarter of 2020 until the end of the financial year. According to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Covid-19 Policy Tracker, the UK government is paying 80 per cent of the earnings of self-employed workers, while also deferring the income tax payments of the self-employed by six months.

The United States fiscal response includes an estimated USD 2.3 trillion (about 11 per cent of GDP), which includes USD 250 billion that is being given as unemployment benefits. Canada responded with a CAD 193 billion (about 8.4 per cent of GDP), out of which the government will pay a taxable benefit of $2,000 each for up to four months to people who are out of work as a result of Covid-19. But Nigeria’s Covid-19 fiscal stimulus is the equivalent of 0.4 per cent of GDP.      

Aid directly targeting individuals and businesses in the US has been made possible and easier to distribute because of a functional national database in the form of the Social Security Number (SSN) for US citizens and the Employer Identification Number (EIN) for US businesses. Almost every legal resident of the United States has an SSN, which was initiated in 1935. In Canada, the Social Insurance Number (SIN), created in 1964, administers several government programmes for individuals, while the Business Number (BN) is assigned to businesses and corporations. These unique identifiers are useful for the purposes of tax payment, pension contributions, obtaining credit, opening a bank account and utilising government benefits.

The Nigerian government said it is disbursing its social intervention to individuals using disparate identifiers. According to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk, the federal government is using Biometric Verification Number (BVN) and mobile phone numbers from which it would identify people that buy airtime in the N100 and N200 threshold.   

In my article published in the July 2019 edition of this publication, I stated that, “Nigeria is faced with the dilemma of providing unique identification (ID) for every Nigerian residing in the country and abroad.” In the article, titled “Promoting Intrapreneurship in Nigeria’s Public sector,” I proposed that this dilemma can be addressed by consolidating the existing databases such as the BVN, the voter registration database, biometric data of mobile phone users, among others. Several attempts by the government to harmonise these databases with the National Identification Number (NIN) managed by the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC) have not yielded the intended results.

I have seen Nigerians with different addresses and dates of birth on their various means of identification. In a recent statement by a leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the BVN is the only thing closer to a credible database for any form of social security administration in the country. Although it was introduced in 2014, there were only 41,729,896 BVN issued as at 26 April, 2020, according to records from the Nigerian Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS).

Considering the fact that so many poor people have no bank accounts, the BVN system will exclude the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Moreover, data from the World Poverty Clock shows there are currently over 95 million people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria. The number of people the president has ordered to be included in the social registry account for less than four per cent of the country’s extreme poor.

Disbursement of aid to the country’s large informal sector, where more than 80 per cent of the people work, will also pose a major impediment due to lack of data on such people, many of whom are petty traders and artisans. Sadly, this is the same sector that contributes 65 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP, according to the IMF.

Post-Covid-19, the government should, as a matter of urgency, put the machinery in motion to establish a social security identification database for the country’s citizens as well as a database for businesses, including those in the informal sector. There is no better time than now.  

To mitigate the severe impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups and to safeguard their livelihoods, the European Union gave a grant of N21 billion ($50 million) to the Nigerian government last month. The IMF has also approved a $3.4 billion loan to the country as emergency financial assistance to tackle the economic shocks of Covid-19. While these funds would be helpful to the country in the absence of savings, this is also another reason the government must ensure better planning to avoid being caught unprepared during future economic shocks.

In a paper tiled, “What’s the Point of Rainy Day Funds?,” Research Professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, Justin Marlowe, discussed how the notion of saving for rainy days helped American state governments plug budget deficits in the aftermath of the Great Recession. “Among the states, rainy day funds have been the best (and in some cases the only) tool available to blunt the Great Recession’s fiscal destruction,” he wrote in the paper published in Governing. Marlowe said most states saved up to 5-10 per cent of annual expenditures during the good years.

In another article I previously wrote in this publication, I made the case for why it was important for Nigerian states to establish sovereign wealth funds. I proposed that it was reasonable for the states to save between 10-20 per cent of their monthly revenues, which come from the federation account and their Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs). This would provide buffers to draw from to implement their budgets in periods of economic stress.

The chickens have come home to roost in 2020. Unfortunately, the hapless masses are suffering the most for the governments’ oversights and incompetence.


Posted in Governance, Nigeria, Public Sector | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

African entrepreneurship is not a “hype”

Sometime in January, former presidential candidate of the now-deregistered Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Tope Fasua, posted an article on his social media page. Fasua, who is my good friend, titled the article, “Africa and the Entrepreneurship Hype.” Upon reading the article, my immediate response to him was, “this is all muddled up.” And it really was, in my opinion.

Fasua is highly erudite and smart. He is also passionate about the Nigerian project. However, we do not see eye to eye on the entrepreneurship debate. I promised I won’t do a rejoinder. However, I couldn’t help but break that promise.

Fasua started the article by recalling a story told by the late Tanzanian millionaire and chairman of Infotech Investment Group, Ali Mufuruki. At a TEDxEuston event back in 2014, Mufuruki had told the anecdote about the explorer, John Williamson, who became one of the world’s richest men from building a mining empire in Tanzania. Williamson had discovered diamonds in an area where the people did not know the value of what they had and he bought the land for cheap. He told the story to illustrate why Africa should not confuse hype with reality.

Fasua used the story to make the point that it is important to know one’s value, acquire knowledge and develop capacity. He said despite the much-hyped entrepreneurship phenomenon in Nigeria and Africa, entrepreneurs in the region are not competitive with those in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Poland, Malaysia, UAE, Sweden, India, Germany, and other countries, which have adequate infrastructure and other conditions that enable businesses to thrive.

He said many businesses in Africa don’t thrive or make much impact due to ineffective public governance. Hence, the entrepreneurship drive in the region is simply a means of survival for many.

My position is that Fasua used all the wrong narratives to discredit entrepreneurship in Africa. I find it even curious that he failed to acknowledge Mufuruki, whom he quoted, as an astute entrepreneur and leader. Apart from heading the investment group, Mufuruki also served as Chairman of Wananchi Group Holdings based in Kenya; Chairman, CEOs Roundtable of Tanzania, and a trustee of the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS).

Let me state clearly that Fasua’s article was a great disservice to millions of hardworking African entrepreneurs who are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, regardless of whether Fasua feels they are contributing to society or not. Entrepreneurship is not easy and many entrepreneurs are adding value to society and changing how we do things. Although the article admitted that government has a role to play in providing an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive, it failed to make the case for entrepreneurs by calling on the government to do its job. In the end, the article was a downbeat.

I also noticed he was confusing every business owner as being an entrepreneur. As a student of entrepreneurship, I know this is not so. In the book, “Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, and Practice,” Donald F. Kuratko argues that small business owners exploit existing opportunities and optimise supply and demands in established markets. However, entrepreneurs aim to exploit innovative venture opportunities and create new markets at home and abroad. The American entrepreneurship scholar and his co-writer also argued that an entrepreneur is considered a social or business innovator or developer who recognizes and seizes opportunities, while also converting those opportunities into workable and marketable ideas.

Quoting Ory Okolloh Mwangi, the Kenyan lawyer and activist, Fasua wrote, “we cannot entrepreneur(sic) our ways out of bad or absent governance.” This is a very subjective comment. While we cannot entrepreneurialize our way out of bad governance, African entrepreneurs and innovators can help change the way we do things currently.

Moreover, there are social entrepreneurs who are contributing to good governance in Nigeria and around the African continent. A good example is Seun Onigbinde whose civic organization, BudgIT, has a mission to simplify public information to drive citizen engagement. The company says it has been able to reach over four million Nigerians via digital and physical spaces. If this is not contributing to governance, I don’t know what else is.

There are also Achenyo Idachaba Founder and Creative Director of MitiMeth, an award-winning social enterprise providing solutions to ecological problems; and Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, CEO of WeCyclers, which promotes environmental sustainability and community health by providing recycling services in densely populated neighbourhoods. There are many others in Nigeria and across Africa.

There are several problems on the continent that entrepreneurs can be well-placed to provide solutions to. Unfortunately, my good friend, Fasua, referred to this sort of narrative in his article as “entrepreneurship rhetoric.” Nevertheless, more awareness needs to be created about entrepreneurship because Nigeria needs more entrepreneurs, not less.  

One would have expected Fasua to use his column and network to advocate government support for both funding and providing the enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. We cannot advocate enough for improved bank lending to entrepreneurs and at lower interest rates.

In poo-pooing what he calls “entrepreneurship hype” in Africa, Fasua said, “Many of those we call entrepreneurs in Nigeria are only one sickness, one misfortune or one downturn or bad business decision away from poverty.” But this argument is so flawed because liquid asset poverty (LAP) is not peculiar to Nigeria or developing countries. In fact, this new poverty definition came from a US report looking at poverty in terms of assets – not income.

Based on this definition, a lot more people in the US are poor. The 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard reports that 40 per cent of people in the US, which Fasua cites as the best country for entrepreneurship, are liquid asset poor. This means they lack the savings to weather just one financial crisis.

In a column in the May 2019 edition of Financial Nigeria, I argued that entrepreneurship education (EE) and government support for start-ups are key factors that have set the United States and China apart as the world’s entrepreneurial powers. I subsequently wrote in September on “Nigerian start-ups need government support.” In the second article, I said Singapore has become a regional powerhouse for technology because it is backed by a supportive government. In India, the Narendra Modi government has come up with several initiatives to support start-ups and foster a culture of innovation. Sweden is home to Europe’s largest tech companies because of the country’s support to start-ups.

Where I agree with Fasua is the need for good governance in Africa. But in addition to this, governments should have strategies to support entrepreneurship development without which the new markets and opportunities that need to be created to foster prosperity would remain elusive.


Posted in Africa, Entrepreneurship, Fintech, Governance, Innovation, Intrapreneur, Intrapreneurship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Insurance can foster social order in Nigeria

I am taking a break this month from my series on “Tasking Nigerian Government Agencies to Improve Performance” to write on something that has plagued my mind for a while.  
On June 28, 2018, a tanker, fully loaded with petrol, had a break failure, collided with other vehicles as a result and exploded on Otedola Bridge, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Never before, or since then, have I read or heard about the level of helplessness expressed by people who witnessed the accident or were caught in the ensuing gridlock. Several lives were lost and about 54 vehicles were burnt. It was a dark day. The atmosphere was clouded with fume, hopelessness and sadness.

In September this year, a three-storey building collapsed in Onitsha, Anambra State. Thankfully, no life was lost. Early last month, two massive blazes engulfed the popular Balogun Market in Lagos Island, gutting surrounding buildings in the market. There have been many more avoidable incidents that have claimed lives and property in Nigeria. Sadly, no matter how many of these accidents occur, we do not learn to be more safety-conscious. Hardly is anyone prosecuted, and compensations are rarely paid. We wail, we shed tears, and we move on until the next incident happens.

We see citizens every now and then using social media and other platforms to raise desperately-needed funds for the medical treatment of ailing family members. While some people are able to raise the required funds, many others aren’t so lucky.  

I am not an insurance expert, but I believe that we can organise and protect our society much better by developing the insurance sector. Insurance has a lot of benefits to society. Unfortunately, a lot of people still consider insurance premiums as avoidable costs. Unbeknownst to them, insurance has a lot of benefits for them and the society in general. It provides financial protection or reimbursement to people against losses. Despite these advantages, it is obvious that insurance is yet to become a culture in Nigeria.

In an article, titled “The Invisible Hand of Insurance,” Hans-Peter Würmli affirms that “the insurance community has failed, in my opinion, to convince the public of the benefits of insurance to society and, equally, legislators have failed to regulate appropriately. The insurers’ skills, knowledge and expertise to design, place and maintain appropriate insurance covers are not recognised adequately by society.”

He is right. In relation to Nigeria, the insurance companies and the industry regulator have not done a good job of promoting the need for insurance. They have also been unable to demystify the misconceptions about insurance.  

The 2019 Nigeria Insurance Industry Report authored by Coronation Merchant Bank (CMB) indicates that Nigeria’s insurance penetration is currently at 0.31 per cent. The report says India, which has a comparable GDP per capita, has an insurance penetration level of 3.69 per cent. Insurance penetration, which indicates the level of development of the insurance sector, is measured as a percentage of premiums in a particular year to the GDP.

The CMB report describes the Nigerian insurance industry as the industry that got left behind. The implication is that the industry has not shared in the growth experienced by other Nigerian financial services.

I do not have any vested interest whatsoever in any insurance company, nor anywhere in the industry. My advocacy is born out a of a great desire to see a more organised and protected society. In a country like Nigeria with its immense needs, insurance has the potential to be of benefit to individuals, organizations and the society at large.

For instance, supposing the petrol truck that was involved in the accident on Otedola Bridge had  a comprehensive vehicle insurance, it would have, perhaps, mitigated the cost of damages. This is because to get such a policy in place would have some due diligence to be taken by the insurance company to make sure the truck was in good shape. It would have been expected that the driver would be competent and have valid driver’s license.

The insurance industry can even take it a step further to ensure that all drivers of vehicles insured would participate in safe driving courses. Moreover, victims in the accident would also have been compensated. Similar evaluation and analysis would have also been undertaken to determine the risks involved in insuring the collapsed building in Onitsha and the buildings that were affected in the blazes in Balogun Market. If adequate due diligence was carried out on the properties, the insurance companies would probably have had their own engineers reassess the properties periodically. In the event of the disasters that occurred, victims and the landlords would have been guaranteed some level of compensation.

The level of chaos in Nigeria is enormous. A major part of this is because adequate safety measures are ignored and statutory provisions are flouted with impunity. Where there is a robust insurance industry, insurance companies could help to reduce the chaos by making sure insured entities adhere to statutory and regulatory requirement.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend called me on the phone to notify me that his poultry farm had been razed by fire. When he told me about the incident, my first question to him was: “Do you have insurance?” “Insurance?” He retorted with a sneer. I realized that, he had a view of insurance companies that is similar among many Nigerians. The low level of insurance penetration in the country is largely due to lack of trust. Many people don’t believe that insurance companies pay compensations for losses.

I agree that there are issues with the industry, chief of which is the trust deficit. However, Nigeria’s insurance industry is growing. New products and innovations are being introduced. We have also seen the entrance of global players like AXA, which bought over erstwhile Mansard Insurance Plc in 2014; and Allianz Group, which acquired Ensure Nigeria Insurance Plc. in 2018. In 2017, Prudential of United Kingdom acquired Zenith Life, Nigeria.

Moreover, a number of reforms are underway to increase the capitalisation of insurance companies in Nigeria. This is expected to increase the underwriting capacity of the insurers.

The insurance industry needs to do more to help citizens understand the benefits of insurance and the need for insurance. Insurance is regarded as an intangible that provides another intangible, in this case peace of mind. Insurance helps reduce social burden. It helps to reduce the burden of uncompensated accident victims.

A Geneva Association paper, “The Social and Economic Value of Insurance,” asserts that “Insurance plays a crucial role in alleviating people’s fear of sudden misfortune by mitigating loss through services and /or financial compensation. By extension, it contributes to the social protection of citizens by enhancing their financial security and peace of mind. It also sends pricing signals that lead to improved risk-resilient behaviour.”

In most developed countries, life insurance has been used to transfer wealth from one generation to the other. In the United States, the life insurance industry is a driver of economic growth and the overall health and financial well-being of U.S. citizens.

Examining the history of insurance, one can deduce that when accidents occurred, there were efforts made to prevent future accidents or reduce the losses due to similar accidents in the future. Property insurance can be traced to 1666, when the great fire of London ravaged more than 13,000 homes. This devastating incident changed property insurance from a matter of convenience to a matter of urgency. In 1681, the first-ever fire insurance company was founded. It is high time property insurance became a matter of urgency in Nigeria.

By the late 19th century, accident insurance had become available. The first company to offer accident insurance was created in 1848 in England in response to the rising number of fatalities on the railway system, according to Wikipedia. The 1911 National Insurance Act gave Britain its first contributory system of insurance against illness and unemployment. This system could be likened to Nigeria’s poorly-run National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Before the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., there was no market for terrorism insurance. The market for it surged after the terror attacks in September of 2001 to protect against potential losses that could arise due to a terror attack. With all these in mind, it is imperative that we look at the different risks we face daily and see how we can mitigate them through insurance.

Getting a vehicle insurance will get you covered against theft or damage to the car, and the liabilities, which arise due to an accident. A home insurance will typically include coverage for damages to the home and the owner’s belongings. It would sometimes include medical insurance for those in the house at the time of the damage.

All you need is to get the right insurance policy with a good company. For example, a third-party vehicle insurance will not fix your car, but it would fix the damages done to the third party’s vehicle. That is, provided you buy the correct third-party policy. However, a comprehensive vehicle insurance will provide the cover to fix both your car and the third party’s vehicle.

In the healthcare sector, insurance can help mitigate the costs of medical treatment. There are so many insurance companies who now have heath maintenance organizations (HMOs), some of which even include coverage for cost of treatment in other countries. Some policies also include coverage for dental, massage and physiotherapist expenses.

Burial insurance will do us some good in Nigeria. It is interesting to note that burial insurance is a very old type of insurance. It has been around for centuries. It was introduced by the Greeks and the Romans as a way of caring for surviving families and to pay funeral expenses for the dead. The protection that such insurance provides helps the society. A business insurance can allow businesses to replace buildings and inventories in the event of a major accident.

Finally, I would like to recap this article on the significant social benefits of insurance with the words of Sean Kevelighan, CEO of the Washington DC-based Insurance Information Institute (III), who said the insurance industry is at the heart of the growth and progress of every modern economy. He noted, “Most people realize that the insurance industry is the financial first responder – providing much needed recompense after a disaster.”


Posted in Africa, Finance, Governance, Innovation, Insurance, Lagos, Nigeria | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Left My Job At Google And Started My Own Business — Here’s The Truth About Entrepreneurship.

Exactly one year ago I resigned from my role at Google.
As much as I loved my time there, my decision came down to this: I was way too deep into my comfort zone.
Life was just too easy — free breakfast and lunch served every single day, seven restaurants to choose from, an entire gym three floors underneath me, a swimming pool, a dentist, a laundry service, a barista brewing your coffee, two kitchens on every single floor.
My role was no longer challenging me either and I wasn’t learning anything new in my day-to-day tasks — I completely lost the thrill.
I figured I needed a change in scenery and some time off to shake things up a bit.
So I did what I thought was right.
I quit.
I said I was done.
And just like that, I handed in my resignation, packed my bags and booked a flight out of Dublin.

I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do after Google, but I knew this: I was approaching my third decade on earth and my heart was itching to finally try and start something of my own.
Something meaningful, impactful.
I wanted to build things and test out my ideas. To learn! And even fail (if I absolutely must) in the process of doing so.
I just wanted to start, and stop talking about starting one day.
And I knew that if there’s any right time to experiment in life, it’s now, in the final years of my twenties.
So after some travelling throughout Central America, and spending lots of time roaming in the beauty of nature and reading up on global issues such as climate change and plastic pollution, I had a moment that made me realize: this is it.
This is what I want to do next in my life.
I’m going to build a brand to raise awareness about plastic pollution and help people replace plastic items in their lives.
And just like that, I had a business idea. There was a problem, and I wanted to offer a solution. So I flew back home and got to work.

Lovers of The Sea has been in business for 8 months now. I’ve been working on it for a total of 11 months.
I have learnt so much in the process of building it and growing it and I want to shed some honest light on what it really means to be a solo entrepreneur in your late twenties building a completely bootstrapped business.
Here are the five realities of the entrepreneurial journey:
1. Entrepreneurship is not Glamorous.
No it is not. It is a lonely gruelling process of just keep going.
We’ve been wired by the media to only see the result.
You only hear about the entrepreneur who went from zero-to-seven-figures in her first year of business or the two-man startup team that just sold their business for $300,000,000.
But when you dig deep into these stories, you realize the sheer number of years of failures, pivot points and “figuring it out” 99.9% of startups must go through before “making it”. You uncover all the personal sacrifices, late nights, long weekends, self-doubts, criticism, financial insecurities and troubles an entrepreneur endures throughout the process of building their business.
We are bombarded with these glamorous headlines that we’ve become fine-tuned to only see — and think of — the result.
But greatness is not in the result. Greatness is in the process.
Reality #1: There will be so many tough days, so many zero-sale days, so many costs incurred without consistent revenue, so many glitches to fix, and much more uncertainty to maneuver. You will be crushed with self-doubt countless times, but you will carry on, and you will keep pushing because you’ll begin to understand that the greatness is in the process, not the result.
2. Entrepreneurship will give you a true taste of what it means to sacrifice.
Building on my previous point, get ready to say goodbye to your old life’s luxuries. You will not have the time (or money) to go out on dinner dates. Or to the movies. Or to festivals. Or to hangout with friends for drinks after work.
Your mind will be consumed with so many problems, dilemmas , worries and questions: How should we price this product? Why is our conversation rate so low? How do we grow our instagram audience? How can we lower our shipping costs? How can we reach more people? What if we try this new approach to our email marketing campaign…
This is all you’re going to think about, religiously for the first few months post launch. There’s so much to learn and to figure out, that you will feel guilty socializing and spending money (which you don’t really have — especially if you don’t have a day job).
For every dollar you spend on social activities, there’s one less dollar to spend on the business. For every hour you spend watching Netflix, that’s one less hour of reading on content marketing strategy.
Realty #2: The sacrifice is necessary. It’s part of the equation.
It was hard for me to accept this sudden change in lifestyle.
At first, I thought it would only be temporary, and that soon things will flourish.
But with time I’ve come to realize that this is the new reality of how things will be because it will take years of commitment to build a thriving sustainable business. And only when I came to accept this perspective that my thinking began to shift. I’ve now learnt to see this sacrifice as an investment in myself, in my growth, in my journey to who I wish to become and where I want to take my life.
Entrepreneurship will teach you that all great things are built by people with three qualities: an unparalleled self-belief, a willpower of commitment, and an ability to really cut-back and sacrifice for a greater ambition.
3. (Solo)Entrepreneurship is lonely.
You are alone in this, and you are in it alone. This is especially true if you’re going at it solo.
You will feel so lonely, because your non-entrepreneur friends are still in their corporate jobs, still with that paycheque of security, traveling, partying, living life. And you can’t join them. They will invite you to chime in the fun and they won’t understand why you keep declining — which you will obviously do for three reasons: (1) you can’t afford it (2) you don’t have the time and (3) you have better things to do and focus on — you eat, sleep, work, repeat trying to build this thing you care so much about.
You’re lonely because you’re marching through the struggles alone.
In the grand scheme of things though, you’re sacrificing so much in your life now, with the dream of succeeding tomorrow. So, in the meantime, you’ll grow and learn to live in companionship with yourself.
Reality #3: You will become your new best friend. Which isn’t so bad, considering how much more you’ll get to learn about yourself in the process.
4. Entrepreneurship isn’t about the “starting”, it’s about the “just keep going”.
Starting is easy.
We live in the easiest era in human history to start a business.
It took me 15 minutes to get started: I registered my company, bought a domain online and signed-up for an e-commerce online store.
Boom. I just got started.
All the tools to get started are online.
Reality #4: Entrepreneurship isn’t about starting, it’s about the just keep going. Just keep pushing. Keep figuring out new ways of doing things and solving the never ending problems that will arise.
Greatness is in the process, not the result. This should be your mantra — a daily reminder that things will take time, so keep showing up today and stop obsessing about the future.
5. Entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster riding straight into the unknown.
There will be more tough times than good times.
Get ready for this.
That first sale will be so joyous. Five-star customer reviews will make you feel as happy as a kid licking an ice-cream on a hot summer day.
Realty #5: For every great day there’s a series of incredibly difficult days you’ve got to deal with.
And more than that, you’re literally swimming into the horizon. There is a massive opportunity ahead of you, but you don’t know if you will reach it. All you can do is believe in yourself and keep trying.
So my advice to deal with these emotions of stress and anxiety would be to focus on learning. Ask yourself everyday: am I still learning?
You will immediately conclude that you are, because you will look back to who you were when you first started this journey and you’ll realize this: I’ve come a long way.

If you’re considering entrepreneurship as your next path in life, I’m not here to discourage you. I’m here to encourage you to take that leap of faith.
But I want you to understand what you’re about to get yourself into — especially if you’re thinking of quitting your job before getting started AND going solo on it.
Entrepreneurship is not easy. So if you’re serious about it, get ready to commit emotionally, psychologically and financially to whatever project you want to build.
Understand that it will take you twice as long to build, and it will cost twice as much as you had forecasted.
It’s a long journey.
But the journey is so rewarding.
I‘ve learnt so much about business and myself so far, and I know that there’s so much more to learn. It’s an adventure with a bunch of roller coasters of emotion. There are highs and there are lows, and in between them, you will grow.
Do I regret leaving Google? No.
Because I feel so alive. Because I’ve learn so much in the process of doing it on my own.
I’ve tasted the thrill, I live it everyday. And that’s what I was missing a year ago.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Omar Itani  Via Medium


Posted in Africa, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Inspirational, Leadership, Personal Development, Startups | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Are you Ready to Start a Business?


Tired of working your regular 9 to 5? Ready to become your own boss? As of 2015, the U.S. was home to more than 25 million entrepreneurs. But make no mistake: the road to entrepreneurship is a winding, labyrinth of a path full of unexpected twists and turns. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 20% of businesses make it past their first year.
Businesswoman and CEO/Founder of Founders of Color, Kelly Burton Ph.D. has become a serial entrepreneur in her own right and is now helping young entrepreneurs succeed in their own businesses. Her organization, known as the fastest-growing community of minority entrepreneurs in the nation, has a key mission to help Black and Latinx-owned companies scale in profit and business.
We spoke with Burton to find out what it really takes to launch, build and maintain a successful business.


ESSENCE: Tell us about ‘Founders Of Color?’
Burton: I’m the CEO of Founders of Color and a serial entrepreneur. Founders of Color is the fastest growing community of minority entrepreneurs in the nation. Our sole mission is to help Black and Latinx-owned businesses to scale. We have about 4,000 entrepreneurs across the country on our platform today. You can learn more at http://www.foundersofcolor.com.
ESSENCE: For those looking to step into the world of entrepreneurship, what advice do you have to determine whether or not someone is ready?
Burton: Starting a business is a highly personal matter and depends on any number of factors including what you need to earn in order to survive, whose relying on you to care for them, how much discomfort and uncertainty you are willing to sustain and whether or not you have a plan for success.
ESSENCE: What are the first steps needed to launch a business?
Burton: First, do an assessment of your lifestyle to determine what you need to generate in income and benefits, in order to survive on your own. Second, complete a one-page business canvas. You can find a template online. Third, make a list of people (think: clients/customers) who will purchase your goods or services out the gate.
ESSENCE: What are three personality traits every business owner should have?
Burton: Risk-taking—Entrepreneurship is highly risky. Like any risky endeavor, there is potential for great gain, but also great loss and you have to be able to manage the risk if you are to be successful.
Resilience—Entrepreneurship requires grit and resilience. If you’re going to last as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be tough and have real staying power to persevere through the hard times.
Capability—You’ve got to be capable. Entrepreneurship is competition and in order to win, you’ve first got to be good at your craft or the execution associated with getting your idea out to the world. Otherwise, chances are you won’t win.
ESSENCE: Can anyone be an entrepreneur?Burton: No, it’s not for everyone. If you are risk-averse, then entrepreneurship is not for you. We often romanticize entrepreneurship, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The average Black female-owned business generates about $12,000 per year. It’s no fairy tale. Any small business owner who is being honest will tell you it’s harder than they ever imagined. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. Despite the difficulty of the journey, it’s one of the few paths that can deliver you true economic freedom.
ESSENCE: As a person of color, do you think it’s a different experience launching a business than our counterparts?

Burton: As a person of color, the biggest hurdle in the beginning is lack of access to startup capital which means most of our businesses end up being bootstrapped. Aside from that, starting a small business is largely procedural. Growing it is another story because that’s about accessing markets and customers and your ability to do that varies depending on your experience, background and access to resources.
ESSENCE: What would your advice be to first-time minority business owners?
Burton: Embrace the practice of “working on your business and not just in your business.” Don’t get caught up in the minutiae of running your business because that is where entrepreneurs get stuck and that is what keeps them from growing. Think about your business as a business from the start and not just a job that you’ve created for yourself. Educate yourself. Invest in your business as often as you can and commit to always learning.

“Despite the difficulty of the journey, it’s one of the few paths that can deliver you true economic freedom,” says Founders of Color, CEO Kelly Burton


By Ashley McDonough · December 5, 2019

Via Essence

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Inspirational, Startups | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tasking Nigerian government agencies to improve performance – Part 2

The second part of this series, which I started in the October edition of this publication, highlighting some important government agencies in Nigeria will continue in this edition. Many government agencies have not delivered on their constitutional responsibilities and their failure to perform has adversely affected Nigeria’s socioeconomic development.

This article spotlights four agencies that are very important to the advancement of the country. I think we should delve into whether or not the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Police Service Commission (PSC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have lived up to their statutory mandates. In fact, I will propose NBC and NCC should be merged.

National Human Rights Commission

This commission was created by the NHRC Act of 1995, which was amended in 2010. It was established to promote and protect the human rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the constitution. The Act, as amended, gives NHRC quasi-judicial powers to investigate and enforce its decisions. The commission’s mandate involves monitoring human rights activities and assisting the victims of human rights violations.

Can we honestly say the NHRC has delivered on its mandate? You be the judge. The country is known for having a poor record on human rights. Military and other law enforcement bodies are aggressive – and sometimes they are violent – towards citizens. Yet, they hardly ever get punished for it. Government officials treat the people with absolute disregard and they get away with it.

In Nigeria, landlords are cruel towards their tenants without facing any consequences. So-called masters treat their domestic staff like they are not human beings. They do all this for one reason: the violators understand the victims do not know their basic rights. Even if they do, the victims lack access to justice. What is even more baffling is the absence of a detailed complaint process on the commission’s website. How then are citizens expected to make complaints?

These states of affairs are partly an indictment on the commission that is saddled with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights in the country. We cannot become a society of people with dignity if we continue to let those who violate human rights go unpunished.

The government’s inability to provide basic amenities for the people is also a human rights violation. Till date, no president, governor or highly-placed government official has been prosecuted for failing to provide basic amenities for the people. This might be because either no one has ever petitioned them, or they were petitioned but the NHRC lacked the will to investigate them.

One of the most important investigations on human rights violations in Nigeria was the Oputa Panel set up in 1999 to investigate human rights violations during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999. It could have been a turning point for the country with regard to getting justice for the oppressed. But sadly, none of the panel’s recommendations was ever implemented by then-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

In Canada, aside from the Canada Human Rights Commission, there are subnational commissions like the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Alberta Human Rights Act established the Human Rights Commission to carry out functions under the Act. The Act is a legislation that protects Albertans from discrimination. The commission has two mandates. First, to foster equality; and, second, to reduce discrimination. The incident must happen in Alberta for the complaint to be filed to the commission.

The enactment of the Human Rights Act in the respective provinces in Canada has helped in improving the country’s human rights record over the years. To be more effective in protecting human rights in Nigeria, it will be appropriate for the subnational governments in the country to enact their own human rights protection legislations, which will establish various bodies to enforce the legislations. As it is now, it is obvious that the NHRC is ineffective.

One of the ways the Alberta Human Rights Commission has executed its mandate is through the Human Rights Education and Multicultural Fund. The Fund provides support for educational programmes and services that promote equality. The commission also uses awards to promote human rights. The awards are a way to recognise and celebrate Albertans who have worked to advance human rights and promote diversity in the province.

The NHRC can take a cue from the Canadian commission. The citizens need to know they have a commission that has their back.

Police Services Commission

The Police Service Commission (PSC) was established by the PSC Act of 2001. Among other things, it is saddled with the responsibility of recruiting police officers, other than the Inspector General of Police (IGP), meting out disciplinary actions to erring police officers. The PSC is also responsible for the promotion of officers within the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the remuneration and allowances of members of the force, and the efficient performance of the police.

In my opinion, the PSC is the most inefficient and ineffective agency in the Nigerian federation. To be clear, the leadership of the commission, past and current, is not entirely responsible for the state of affairs. The biggest culprit is the way the PSC is structured. The PSC, as currently constituted, is set up to fail. How can a commission in Abuja be responsible for the recruitment of police officers, their promotion as well as taking disciplinary measures on all the officers nation-wide? I consider it a harebrained idea.

The PSC is considered a civilian oversight body of the police. In a bizarre turn of events, the PSC is currently embroiled in a recruitment crisis with the NPF. Last month, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the NPF and the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, to discontinue the recruitment exercise of 10,000 constables embarked upon by the IGP in what the PSC alleges is a usurpation of its powers.

In developed societies, security is a major issue. For this reason, police forces are placed under municipalities who are able to coordinate their affairs more effectively. Each municipal police department has a police board, which is an equivalent of the Nigerian PSC. Except that in our case, the PSC oversees the whole country’s police force, which is also a centralised system. The mandate of the police boards in developed societies is to own and operate the independent municipal police departments, ensuring that political interference is minimized.

The boards select and evaluate the Chief Constables and sometimes other senior officers. This system ensures the respective police departments are efficient and complaints from the citizens are handled promptly.

In recent times, we have seen campaigns by citizens clamouring for an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria because of the brutality of many SARS officers who carry out their jobs without recourse to the rule of law. But despite the outcry by citizens, not much reform has happened.

Nevertheless, we must continue to demand for a reform of the PSC, Nigerian police and the security of all Nigerians.

National Broadcasting Commission and Nigerian Communications Commission

I have decided to lump these two agencies together because they should, under an ideal situation, operate as a single commission. In Canada, The Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) regulates both the broadcasting and the communication industries. The Broadcasting Act declares that the Canadian broadcasting system must encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity. It also ensures support for the linguistic duality and multicultural nature of Canadian society.

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was set up by NBC Decree 38 of 1992. It was later amended by Decree 55 of 1999. Its mandate is to, amongst other things, regulate the broadcasting industry in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the independent national regulatory authority for the telecommunications industry. Its mandate is to create an enabling environment for competition among operators in the industry. NCC’s mandate also entails ensuring the provision of efficient telecommunications services throughout the country.

Without a doubt, these two commissions have not lived up to the expectations of their constitutional responsibilities. The NBC is responsible for content regulation as well as the promotion of Nigeria’s culture through broadcasting. The NBC’s mandate of regulating the broadcasting industry is very important given that the broadcast media can affect the people’s thinking and behaviour to a remarkable extent, for good or ill.

The NBC needs to wake up to its responsibilities, by using its office to promote the Nigerian culture and ensuring that broadcast contents are able to foster unity in the country. The country is divided and the NBC needs to use its powers to promote unity. Broadcast contents can be used to increase indigenous language programming, which can also foster unity, especially in a multicultural country like Nigeria. The NCC on its part needs to work harder towards consumer protection, quality of service and closing the digital divide in the country.

Given the imperative to reduce the cost of governance and to achieve better efficiency, the NBC and the NCC should be merged. Moreover, we are in the digital age where the functions of NBC and the entities it regulates can be driven and optimised by connectivity and big data. So, we can have one commission to regulate the internet, broadcasting, and communications.



Posted in Africa, Broadcasting Commission, Governance, Government Agency, Leadership, Nigeria, Parastatals, Politics- | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasking Nigerian government agencies to improve performance – Part 1

In a recent conversation with a group of friends, I posited that although we may all agree that the buck stops at the desk of the President of the country or the Governor of a state, many government agencies in Nigeria have been constitutionally created to deliver interventions and other public services. The actions and inactions of government agencies and parastatals affect us daily, sometimes positively and, on occasion, negatively.

There are various ways through which government agencies and parastatals affect the economy and the society in general. These institutions provide direct services and assistance to members of the public; they regulate and control various economic and non-economic activities; they also provide stabilization and foster growth of the economy. Each government agency was created to carry out at least one of the above-mentioned functions. While the agencies themselves are under the oversight of the various ministries, Nigerians should demand optimal performance from them.

Oftentimes, not enough public attention is put on these agencies. As a result, their performances or the lack thereof are not discussed enough to ensure they are working efficiently and living up to their constitutional duties and responsibilities. If this is done, various agencies should be held accountable for poor service delivery and weak implementation of government policies.

This article will provide the first part of my overview on some government agencies. This month, I will examine three agencies that are very important to the socio-economic development of the country. I will look at why they were created, how they have fared and how their poor performance affects us all.

National Orientation Agency

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) is one of the important agencies in Nigeria. For a multicultural country like Nigeria, the importance of setting up the NOA cannot be overemphasised. For one thing, most observers would agree that civic education, political education as well as putting out the appropriate information are necessary components in driving appropriate citizens’ participation in the political process. Unfortunately, knowledge of all these are limited in the Nigerian polity.

According to the NOA’s website, the main objectives of the agency, as provided for in Decree 100 of 1993, include ensuring that government programmes and policies are better understood by the general public; encouraging informal education through public enlightenment activities and publications; awakening the consciousness of Nigerians to their responsibilities with regard to promoting national unity, among other responsibilities.

However, the archaic nature of NOA’s website, which has not been updated in recent times, tells anyone that visits the site that the agency is not even fulfilling one of its basic functions, which is to mobilize favourable public opinion and support for government programmes and policies.

The NOA is supposed to be the de facto translator of government policies by breaking down the policies for better comprehension by every Nigerian. In an era of fake news driven by the ubiquity of the internet, and mistrust of government caused by the failure of previous administrations, there is no better time for the NOA to be more effective.

In my conversation with friends as I alluded to earlier, someone made a remark that I found intriguing. He opined that the Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) – created during the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and later metamorphosed into NOA – was far more effective than the current NOA.

To some extent, I agree with him. So, when you see Nigerian citizens who don’t know their rights and are struggling to understand government polices, blame it on the NOA.

Universal Basic Education Commission

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is a federal government agency saddled with the responsibility of coordinating all the aspects of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme. The programme was introduced in 1999 and aimed at providing greater access to basic education as well as ensuring its quality.

Amongst the functions and objectives of the UBE programme are free formal basic education; compulsory, uninterrupted nine years of primary and junior secondary school education; introduction of the rudiments of computer literacy; and community ownership of schools, including participation in decision-making process in the schools.

State Universal Basic Education Boards (also known as SUBEBs) are the states’ equivalent of UBEC. SUBEBs are saddled with the responsibility of administering the basic education programme and policies of the state governments in line with the Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education Act of 2004. SUBEBs oversee Early Childcare Development and Education (ECCDE), the six years of primary education, and three years of junior secondary education in the states.

Without mincing words, the UBEC and SUBEBs have failed in their objectives. SUBEBs have now been reduced to contract-sharing bodies, which governors of some states use to appease political associates. Sham contracts are awarded to provide sub-standard renovation of some schools. Sadly, the children of most of these governors never get to attend these schools.

SUBEBs, as currently structured, are set up to be inefficient. An ideal structure would be to give local governments full responsibility to run basic primary education as it’s obtained in most developed countries. For instance, Japan has three levels of government. They are the national, prefectural and municipal governments. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for the education system from early childhood to upper secondary school, including establishing national curriculum standards, setting teacher and administrator certification programmes, as well as pay scales. It is also responsible for developing requirements for setting up schools.

MEXT allocates funding to prefectural and municipal authorities for administering schools. Municipalities are responsible for the supervision and the day-to-day operation of schools. This system enables better early educational outcomes. Therefore, when you see primary schools in Nigeria in poor shape and they have poorly trained teachers, it is because of the failure of UBEC and the SUBEBs in the states.

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was established in 1993. It was created by Decree 15 of 1993 and amended by Decree 19 of 1999. The current enabling law is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control Act Cap N1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. NAFDAC proclaims that its vision is “safeguarding public health.”

Its functions, as provided in the enabling law, include regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, medical devises, packaged water, amongst others. The lives of Nigerians and Nigerian residents are literally in the hands of NAFDAC.

While the agency has historically performed well in terms of reducing the proliferation of fake drugs and tackling drug abuse, Nigerian citizens continue to die from drug abuse, consumption of contaminated food items and fake drugs. It is quite popular now to find the marketing and promotion of non-approved creams, weight loss mixtures and sex-enhancing mixtures online and in retail stores. No one can really say how safe these mixtures are. Many families have lost their loved ones due to fake medications purchased online and from drug stores.

Clearly, NAFDAC needs to do more in safeguarding public health. In a country where qualitative healthcare is limited both in terms of access and availability, the only palliative is effective and stringent regulation to safeguard the health of the Nigerian people. The next time you hear someone lost his or her life from using fake drugs, put the blame on NAFDAC.

Let us imagine for a moment what it would look like if these three agencies improved their service provision to an optimal level. Nigerians must endeavour to put a spotlight on these agencies to ensure they live up to their statutory responsibilities.


Posted in Africa, Canada, Governance, Government Agency, Parastatals, Public Sector | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nigerian start-ups need government support

In my column in the May 2019 edition of this publication, I posited that entrepreneurship education (EE) and government support for start-ups are key factors that have set the United States and China apart as the world’s entrepreneurial powers. Government support is very important to the survival, growth and sustainability of the start-up ecosystem in those countries. Sadly, the Nigerian government has not started doing enough to support start-up activities in the country.

Start-ups have been variously defined as companies in “the first stage” of their operations and “initially bankrolled by their entrepreneurial founders” (Investopedia); or “fledgling business” enterprises (Merriam-Webster). Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and CEO of Warby Parker, an American online retail company, defined a start-up as “a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” The start-up process can take a long period of time. A company that has operated for five years could still be regarded as a start-up.

With recent developments in the Nigerian start-up ecosystem, it is evidently clear that government support will be of immense benefit to both the start-ups and the economy in general. Even without government support, Nigerian start-ups have created new frontiers, disrupted existing markets and created several jobs. So strong is the impact of the Nigerian start-ups that they got the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, who visited Lagos three years ago. That was his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. The highlight of his trip was his visit to Yaba, an area of Lagos that is now widely regarded as the Silicon Valley of Nigeria. Zuckerberg met with about 50 local start-up founders at the Co-creation Hub (CcHUB), the city’s innovation centre.

In June of that same year, two months before the Facebook founder visited Lagos, his foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, invested $24 million in Andela, a start-up that trains software developers in Africa. In November 2017, Facebook announced some initiatives to further drive innovation, skills development and economic impact across Nigeria. In May 2018, NG_HUB was launched in Yaba, Lagos.

The hub, an aspect of Facebook’s Nigeria initiatives, has a virtual reality lab, a creator lab, and a co-working space. It brings together developers, startups, and the wider community to share their ideas, skills, and time. The hub promised to train and support 50,000 students, SMES and entrepreneurs across the country through series of digital skills training.

In terms of government’s efforts to support entrepreneurship, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, inaugurated the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group of the Nigeria Industrial and Competitiveness Advisory Council in June 2018. The group was given a charge to draw up a roadmap for promoting the technology and creative sectors to enable the sectors create jobs, contribute to economic growth and improve the well-being of Nigerians.

When the council was created in 2017, it had 50 members, including 28 tech entrepreneurs. Some of them accompanied the Vice President to Silicon Valley in a bid to attract foreign investment into the Nigerian technology ecosystem.

The Vice President’s office is also in charge of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which introduced Startup Nigeria – an intervention programme whose aim is to support innovation hubs and help to increase entrepreneurial and innovation capacity across the country. Nevertheless, we are yet to see a concrete plan from the government regarding support for start-ups.

Nigerian start-ups are creating value for the society, including supporting one of the government’s prime agenda of job creation. A couple of months ago, I was introduced to PiggyVest (formerly called Piggybank). PiggyVest is a financial technology start-up that allows users to save money through its platform. Founded by Odunayo Eweniyi and Joshua Chibueze, the company has raked in $1.2 million in funding since it started. I enrolled on the platform and frankly, nothing in my adult life has been more helpful in terms of savings. The company has grown its registered members to about 195,000 with over N1 billion in monthly savings.

Then, there is Paystack, which provides online and offline payment services to businesses across Africa. The fintech has grown to process nearly 15% of all online payments in the region. It has also raked in about $11.7 million in funding, mostly from venture capitalists. Mines.io, a digital consumer credit platform for emerging markets, has received $17.2 million in funding.

These start-ups are not restricted to the fintech sector. They exist in agribusiness, healthcare and transportation sectors. Recently, Kobo360, a logistics start-up founded in 2017, raised a total of $30 million in funding for expansion. Its $20 million Series A round was led by Goldman Sachs. The remaining $10 million was working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks. Considered to be the Uber of freight logistics, the company uses its app to connect truckers and companies.

Developments in the growing e-logistics and transport space saw the launch of ORide, a bike hailing app, in May 2019. ORide’s parent company, OPay, a mobile-based platform for payment, received $50 million from Chinese and American venture capitalists in July 2019. The introduction of ORide is a pivotal moment in the emerging Nigerian motorbike hailing market. Other players in the market are Max and GOkada.

Other start-ups providing solutions in various sectors include Thrive Agric and FarmCrowdy in the agricultural sector; LifeBank in the health sector; Estate Intel in the real estate sector; and KiaKia in the lending and credit sector. The existence of these companies is indication of the compelling opportunities for investment and job creation in the start-up sector. The government cannot afford to treat the sector with short shrift.

Singapore has become a regional powerhouse for technology because it is backed by a supportive government. Recently, the government announced that it has set aside $29 million to support 5G research and innovation to drive the island nation’s aspiration of becoming a 5G innovation hub. Singapore’s government policy is to combine business-friendly policies with heavy investment in the tech sector.

Acknowledging that access to capital is very paramount to start-ups, the country rolled out series of funding schemes to help start-up companies at different stages of growth. Two of the schemes are the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) start-up grant, which provides about S$50,000 seed funding for early stage start-ups; and the IDM Jump-start and Mentor (i.JAM), which grants between S$50,000 to S$200,000 to start-ups through government-appointed private sector incubators. The start-ups must demonstrate their proof-of-concept.

Aside funding, the government of Singapore supports start-ups by providing an environment for innovations to thrive. The country has a commitment to keep research and development (R&D) spending at 1% of GDP. Furthermore, it has pledged to invest US$14 billon into scientific and technological research as part of its Research Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan.

In India, the Narendra Modi government has come up with several initiatives to support start-ups and foster a culture of innovation. The government has ensured that there are policy initiatives geared towards helping start-ups to raise funds for growth and expansion. Amongst the government initiatives are the Start-up India, launched in 2016. The initiative promotes and assists entrepreneurship by mentoring, nurturing and facilitating start-ups through every stage of their development.

There is also the Digital India which was setup to make all government services accessible electronically. The primary aim is to build India as a digitally-empowered society and knowledge economy.

Governments around the world continue to build strategic programmes to attract innovative start-ups and talents to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture in their respective countries. The start-up dream has become the new chase. You do not have to be a citizen of a country to be eligible. All that is required is to start your venture in the country. Start-up Chile was created by the Chilean government to attract early stage and high-potential entrepreneurs to help bootstrap their start-ups, using Chile as a platform to go global. Funding ranges from $15,000 to $90,000.

Start-ups and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Development (SEED), an acceleration initiative of the Minas Gerais state government of Brazil, supports both local and international entrepreneurs to develop tech-based projects. Funding ranges between $21,000 to $25,000. The French Tech Ticket is a French government initiative created to attract gifted and ambitious individuals from all around the world to start their start-ups in France. The funding for the programme is $48,000.

Sweden has proven to be the most ambitious of all when it comes to supporting start-ups. Little wonder most of the notable start-ups like Spotify, Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga, Skype and Soundcloud started there. The country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and the capital, Stockholm, is the world’s second most virile tech hub on a per capita basis, behind Silicon Valley. The country’s average internet speed is only bettered by Norway and South Korea. More than 60% of the country has access to a superfast fibre optic broadband and that figure is projected to rise to 90% in 2020.

Nigeria is among countries with the highest cost of mobile data as a percentage of average income. Despite these hurdles, the country remains a top destination for start-up funding in Africa, coming only second to South Africa. According to WeeTracker, a leading African media company, South Africa attracted about $241 million in start-up funding in 2018, while Nigeria attracted about $134 million during the same period. Kenya came in third position with $111 million.

Nigerian governments at all levels must begin a policy shift towards supporting start-ups in their respective jurisdictions. They need to understand that the more start-ups they have, the more solutions, the more jobs, the more the revenue, and ultimately the more investments that will flow in.

The government must work with respective stakeholders to bring down the cost of data and increase the internet penetration rate. Government policies and programmes that help to promote access to credit for start-ups will be crucial in enhancing the country’s innovation capacity.

At a time when some of our youths are engaging in fraudulent acts via the internet, there is no better time to start directing their skills and passion to something more productive and fruitful. The government must realise that promoting start-ups will play a central role in achieving the country’s aspiration to become a top global economy.



Posted in Africa, Agriculture, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Fintech, Innovation, Lagos, Nigeria, Payment Solutions, Startups, Technology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Startups 2019: The 25 hottest Canadian companies to work for now

The 2019 LinkedIn Top Startups list reveals the 25 hottest companies where Canadians want to work now.

With the 2nd annual Top Startups ranking, we uncover the breakout companies commanding professionals’ attention today: the ones that are growing massively, scrambling industries, shifting talent flows around the world and, often, altering how we work and live.
Our editors and data scientists parsed billions of actions generated by LinkedIn’s 645 million members — and looked at four pillars in particular: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from our flagship LinkedIn Top Companies list. To be eligible, companies must be 7 years old or younger, have at least 50 employees, be privately held and headquartered in Canada. (You can learn more about our methodology at the bottom of this article.)
Looking to land a job at one of these fast-growing companies? You can stay up to date on new postings by turning on job alerts for a curated list of these startups: Click here, add your desired job title or function, location and any other details, then toggle the job alert to “on.” You’ll get a notification when any new job goes live so you can be the first to jump at the opportunity.

1. Element A1
Headcount in Canada: 442 | Headquarters: Montreal | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Artificial Intelligence, Python, Machine Learning | Largest job functions: Research, Engineering, Business Development | What you should know: Element AI builds artificial intelligence-powered software for enterprises, including its first publicly available product that helps automate document reading and processing for businesses. For applicants with wanderlust, Element AI has open roles across the world, including in Paris and Singapore.

2. Wealthsimple
Headcount in Canada: 211 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Software Development, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Operations | What you should know: Wealthsimple aims to make investing simple and accessible to everyone by combining human financial advisors along with a low-fee, diverse portfolio that minimizes risks. The startup, which said it was closer to an IPO after a $75 million funding round in May, has 25 open positions across teams, including its brand, investments, product and production units.

3. Clearbanc
Headcount in Canada: 114 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: E-commerce, Digital Marketing, Finance | Largest job functions: Finance, Engineering, Business Development | What you should know: Clearbanc gives startups the money they need to grow without having to give up equity in their companies. Clearbanc, which aims to invest $1 billion across 2,000 companies this year, provides anywhere from $10,000 to $10 million to help young companies expand their marketing efforts and, ultimately, revenue. Instead of taking equity, Clearbanc sets up a revenue-share model and charges a percentage fee.

4. CCI
Headcount in Canada: 70* | Headquarters: Mississauga | Year founded: 2017 | Most common skills: Quality Assurance, Recruiting, Regulatory Affairs | Largest job functions: Legal, Sales, Human Resources | What you should know: Cannabis Compliance Inc. is one of Canada’s first consulting firms to advise on regulatory issues around cannabis. The startup not only helps companies gain government approvals and stay compliant, they also offer training for professionals who want to break into the industry. The startup has more than 10 open positions, including “Financial Controller” and “GM, Toxicology.”

5. League
Headcount in Canada: 200 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Health Care, Insurance, Software Development | Largest job functions: Engineering, Support, Business Development | What you should know: League has built a one-stop app for employees to access their lifestyle and health care benefits, streamlining everything from insurance details to unique company perks in an easy-to-use hub. The startup, which counts Unilever and Shopify as customers, is hiring for more than 30 positions across its teams with a focus on sales, product and engineering.

6. Drop
Headcount in Canada: 58 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: SQL, Analytics, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Marketing, Business Development | What you should know: Fintech startup Drop turns your everyday purchases — like Uber rides, coffee and groceries — into gift card rewards. Drop hires applicants from both startups and Fortune 500 companies to help grow its more than 3 million-member base. The startup is now hiring for 8 roles with a specific focus on engineering as it continues expanding its platform.
7. Connected
Headcount in Canada: 182 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Java, Software Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Product Management, Arts and Design | What you should know: Connected helps brands build better software products, partnering with them at any point in the product development lifecycle. If you’re looking to land one of its 8 open roles, be ready to show off your hard-earned skills. But, that’s not all Connected is looking for: The startup also seeks smart, kind and curious professionals, says Marketing Manager Kelly O’Hara.

8. Dialogue
Headcount in Canada: 315 | Headquarters: Montreal | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Health Care, Nursing, Software Development | Largest job functions: Health Care Services, Engineering, Sales | What you should know: Virtual health care startup Dialogue helps you and your family access therapists, nutritionists, nurses and more at the moment you need them. The startup has more than 30 open roles, hiring for health care professionals as well as sales, marketing and global operations expertise. Late-stage candidates can expect to complete and present a case study, an important moment to stand out with “out of the box” thinking, says COO and Co-founder Anna Chif.

9. Integrate.ai
Headcount in Canada: 71 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2017 | Most common skills: SQL, Python, Analytics | Largest job functions: Engineering, Research, Support | What you should know: Customer intelligence-platform integrate.ai — founded by former Facebook and Instagram executive Steve Irvine — uses AI to help create more meaningful digital interactions between people and businesses. To snag one of the startup’s 11 open roles, you’ll need to “love people,” one of its core values.

10. Ritual.co
Headcount in Canada: 226 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Java, Software Development | Largest job functions: Engineering, Operations, Sales | What you should know: Ritual makes paying for and picking up your order at more than 5,000 restaurant locations easier than ever through the concept of “social ordering” on its mobile app — and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Ritual is hiring for more than 60 positions with most open roles available on its engineering, operations and sales teams.

11. Mejuri
Headcount in Canada: 95 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: Adobe Photoshop, Merchandising, Digital Marketing | Largest job functions: Marketing, Arts and Design, Operations | What you should know: Mejuri sells fine jewelry — without the retail markups. The jewelry brand continues to dazzle: It recently opened its third brick-and-mortar store and raised US$23 million in Series B funding in April. The startup is continuing to grow rapidly and is now hiring for more than 20 roles, primarily across its retail and technology teams.

12. Ada
Headcount in Canada: 120 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2016 | Most common skills: Analytics, JavaScript, User Experience | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Business Development | What you should know: Ada, which has grown from two to 120 employees in three years, enables enterprises to create a seamless customer experience through its AI-powered chatbot platform. The startup has raised $21.5 million to date and is now on the hunt for 24 open roles as it scales its product, engineering and sales teams.

13. PathFactory
Headcount in Canada: 94* | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Analytics, Salesforce | Largest job functions: Sales, Engineering, Support | What you should know: PathFactory ultimately helps business-to-business companies nurture, educate and convert potential customers by improving how they consume company-created content, customizing it for each buyer using AI and in-depth analytics. PathFactory recently welcomed CEO Dev Ganesan, who has deep experience in the software-as-a-service and content management space.

14. Openacre
Headcount in Canada: 52 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, SQL, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineer, Business Development, Marketing | What you should know: Engineering and product teams are growing particularly quickly at Opencare, which aims to change the patient-health provider relationship by making preventative care as accessible and convenient as possible. Want to get in but don’t see the right job? “We encourage people to introduce themselves even if the job posting does not 100% match their skills,” says Mike Bettley, senior manager of talent acquisition.

15. Flybits
Headcount in Canada: 75 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Java, Software Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Business Development, Sales | What you should know: Flybits empowers banks to offer personalized and relevant financial services to their customers by combining bank data with contextual data, such as a customer’s location. The startup’s recent US$35 million in Series C funding has paved the way for even more growth with more than 20 open roles across Canada, the U.K. and the U.S., primarily in its technology and sales divisions.

16. Certarus
Headcount in Canada: 101 | Headquarters: Calgary | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: Petroleum, Oil and Gas, Energy | Largest job functions: Operations, Accounting, Engineering | The basics: Certarus developed a “virtual natural gas pipeline” system that compresses, transports and integrates natural gas for the industrial sector, which ultimately helps lower operating costs and reduce the environmental impact as companies seek to displace diesel and propane projects. The energy startup has more than 40 jobs open across its Alberta, Ontario, and U.S. operations.

17. StackAdapt
Headcount in Canada: 132 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, User Experience | Largest job functions: Sales, Support, Engineering | What you should know: StackAdapt, a native advertising platform, is looking to hire 11 people across its teams, including marketing, platform quality and revenue — and not all the roles require a four-year college degree. “Often, relevant experience is more telling about candidates’ potential,” StackAdapt COO Vitaly Pecherskiy tells LinkedIn.

18. Loopio
Headcount in Canada: 114 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Software Development, User Experience, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Sales, Support | What you should know: Loopio’s software streamlines how to respond to requests for proposals, requests for information and security questionnaires, allowing internal teams at companies such as IBM to collaborate more efficiently. Between now and the end of the year, the startup plans to hire about 30 new team members across all functions, from marketing to engineering to sales, says Alexis Macdonald, senior director of people operations.

19. Collective Arts Brewing
Headcount in Canada: 115 | Headquarters: Hamilton | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Brewing, Sales Management, Social Media Marketing | Largest job functions: Sales, Operations, Accounting | What you should know: Collective Arts brings together the creative process of brewing craft beer with emerging artists and musicians. The self-described grassroots company is hiring for 10 open positions, including a brewer and a forecasting coordinator.
20. Ample Organics
Headcount in Canada: 94 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Software Development, SQL, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineer, Information Technology, Sales | What you should know: Ample Organics is a trailblazer in the burgeoning cannabis-software industry, which helps producers track everything from growth to clientele. The privately funded startup grew its employee base rapidly over the past year, though very recently had to scale back. The readjustment isn’t slowing the company down as CEO John Prentice expects its client base to continue to grow.

21. Swift Medical
Headcount in Canada: 85 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2015 | Most common skills: Software Development, C++, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Information Technology, Business Development | What you should know: Swift Medical’s app can assess the severity of a skin wound with the wave of a smartphone, then help medical professionals streamline everything from tracking the healing progress to documentation and claims submission. Swift Medical is already used by more than 1,000 organizations and is monitoring more than 100,000 patients each month. Looking to join the team? The startup is now hiring for five new roles across its engineering, sales and marketing teams.

22. Borrowell
Headcount in Canada: 72 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: SQL, Software Development, JavaScript | Largest job functions: Engineering, Product Management, Business Development | What you should know: Fintech startup Borrowell reached more than 1 million users and closed a $20 million Series B funding round in June, furthering its mission to help Canadians make more informed decisions about their credit — for free. Borrowell is dedicated to achieving gender parity, with 47% of its team currently made up of women.

23. Greenhouse
Headcount in Canada: 168 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2014 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Merchandising, Social Media Marketing | Largest job functions: Operations, Sales, Marketing | What you should know: Healthy beverage company Greenhouse, which has 25 open jobs, is focused on growing its sales and events marketing team across Canada as it takes its plant-based products nationwide. Not based in Toronto? Greenhouse also has workers located in Mississauga, Quebec, Ottawa, and soon, Vancouver.

24. #paid
Headcount in Canada: 51* | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2013 | Most common skills: Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Digital Media | Largest job functions: Marketing, Sales, Engineering | What you should know: Forget influencers: Creators are in the spotlight with #paid. The media platform helps companies such as Starbucks and Toyota connect with their fans, leveraging them to create marketing campaigns that will resonate broadly. #Paid, which is pronounced “hashtag paid,” then helps manage, measure and optimize those creator-led campaigns. The startup is now on the hunt for a brand strategist, controller and more.

25. Venngage
Headcount in Canada: 55 | Headquarters: Toronto | Year founded: 2012 | Most common skills: JavaScript, Web Development, SQL | Largest job functions: Engineering, Marketing, Arts and Design | What may surprise you: Venngage makes it easy for anyone to make beautiful infographics, reports and data visualizations. It’s already being used by organizations such as Google, Forbes, Harvard University and WIRED. Venngage has two openings — office coordinator and DevOps engineer.
Jessi Hempel

Senior Editor at Large at LinkedIn



Posted in Canada, E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Fintech, Healthcare, Innovation, Startups, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment