Sam Ohuabunwa is the immediate past chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), erstwhile president, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), and a former chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ikeja branch. He is the National President of the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) and founder of Sam Ohuabunwa Foundation for Economic Empowerment (SOFEE), He is also the Managing Consultant of Starteam Consult and is on the board of several companies. Ohuabunwa is an entrepreneur who practises and preaches entrepreneurship. He has been involved in the founding of no fewer than 20 thriving businesses spanning the pharmaceutical, medical, manufacturing, agriculture, food, logistics, telecommunications, construction, oil sector, financial services and consulting. In this interview with ADELOWO ADEBUMITI, he spoke on business and economic revival and opportunities and how to key into the Federal Government’s national economic recovery and growth plan.
What led to the establishment of the Sam Ohuabunwa Foundation?
I have found that there is a growing problem of slow economic growth, high unemployment, and poor performance of businesses in Nigeria. I saw from my experience as an investor, that I am in a position to mentor others. I have been involved in setting up more than 30 companies in Nigeria. Some of them are dead, some are alive, and some are doing well while some are struggling. And that gives you a rich experience which can help you guide others. To tell them what you did that make you succeed, and what you did that make you to fail. Those are the kind of things that empower me to start this foundation. I have also found that young people cannot pay for consultants who would charge them so much money to give them ideas. So we create an opportunity where they can get the same information as when they hire a consultant.
What informed the choice of the theme for today’s Sam Ohuabunwa Foundation seminar?
In 2016, things were hard for many companies and many businesses because of the fall in oil price, fall in size of output, foreign exchange scarcity, devaluation of the Naira, and high inflation. Every company was affected. If you are not losing your job, your salary was coming late. Even housewives were complaining that their home maintenance allowance could no longer give them room to maneuver. So everybody was complaining. So we thought that having look at the economy and noted the sort of things that government is doing in terms of what is in the budget, stimulus and other policy options it is undertaking. We are desirous that every Nigerian business person understands what the economy is saying. Look at the opportunity for growth and then see the role they need to play to lead the economy to grow. Economic recovery is not a public sector thing; actually it is a private sector affair. If the private sector does well, then the economy recovers. Rather than be docile or complaining, without understanding what direction government is taking, what policies they are presenting and what opportunity they present many companies would under-optimise the opportunity. The reason is to be able to get everybody to be on the same page. So they will get the information that will enable them sharpen their strategies so that they can take opportunity, exit recession and show growth in 2017. We want all companies to show growth in 2017 and we believe it is possible.
Has the foundation conducted such a seminar in the past?
Yes, last year. This year is a one-day business revival seminar. But we do a lot of things. We do business clinics, seminars, and empowerment programmes. Every year, we normally do something about the national budget. Because many small businesses cannot afford to pay N120,000 to go to Lagos Business School or to go to some of the places where they can go to get this kind of information. So as a foundation, we try to bring in smaller businesses or companies can get advantage. We want companies to come and get information with which they can sharpen their knowledge. As we all know, knowledge is power.
Who are those that you are expecting as participants?
We are expecting company chief executives, and those who hold position in companies. We are expecting people from private companies and people inside government businesses like NIMASA. We are also expecting entrepreneurs, business executives and those in planning business development. Because they are critical in understanding what the government is doing, what the economy is saying, so that they can plan with that in mind to make sure there is a revival. We are done with 2016; we just want everybody to record growth in 2017. The Federal Government is determined with national economic recovery and growth plan, to bring the country out of recession. With all the policy changes we are seeing now. Issues of rejig the economy, issues of protecting locally made products and supporting locally made Nigerian goods. These are all what the government is doing, but those things would come to naught if the private sector is not sufficiently mobile to take advantage of it, bringing in investment and push the envelope so that this country will recover. Since we want the economy to recover, our own is to push as much as we can through the auspice of this kind of seminar.