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Emeka Okafor: Linking Nigerian Businesses with Their Markets

22 Feb 2011

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Emeka Okafor the Links man

 

“I’m a serial Entrepreneur. I multitask- and I love attention to details. Little details strike my creativity. Also, what you see first informs how you feel. In developed countries, you are calmer; you know what comes next. So what strikes you first matters, the more appealing it looks, the better your chances of selling your product.”

What is Connect Nigeria all about then?

I have a passion for Nigeria. I studied in the United States of America and started my company over there. But I came back because I am particularly interested in the development of this country. The internet is a vital tool in the world today.

It gets you information for whatever it is you want in this world. I had an experience when I was in the U.S; I designed a website for a friend who was into Artifacts. He needed a platform to display these works of art he had collected and I created one for him.

 Soon enough he got a customer that bought a $500 piece of Art for $5000 and he called me to thank me two weeks later. Now imagine if the owner of this piece of art had a basic knowledge of the internet himself?

That was when I thought to come up with a search engine, a link; a directory where one can find whatever they want here in Nigeria- hence Connect Nigeria.

ConnectNigeria.com helps you find everything you need and connects you with people and businesses that are looking for you or your business. We aim to become the home of the most relevant and reliable information about Nigeria and to make information easy to find and easy to use.

ConnectNigeria.com makes information easily accessible for everyone. It provides the fastest, easiest and most innovative way for you to find information about businesses, real estate, automobiles, jobs, events, travel, sports, entertainment, health, education, technology and lots more.

At ConnectNigeria, we've embarked on an ambitious and exciting plan to organise all of Nigeria's information in one place. That way, we can help you find everything you are looking for. This in its way is related to my initial passion for designing.

I was involved in creating the Calabar Carnival logo and other works for notable companies such as Skye bank. We also initiated the reality series Celebrity Takes Two; these are amongst the things we are engaged in.

Having said this, I disregard any claim of diversion. The company is vast and these two ventures are inter- related. The response so far has been overwhelming, because what we basically do is expose you to the world.

Connect Nigeria is all about exposure and creating awareness. If you own a market or business and you want to connect your brand, you can do so on ConnectNigeria.com. For instance, we liaised with Dana air to deliver to their customers a discount on every ticket bought or ordered from ConnectNigeria.

This accumulates over a period until it’s sufficient to get them another ticket. At the end of the day it’s a win-win affair as Dana Air gets a surge of customers, just as well as we get a surge of visitors patronising both and the customers in turn get a sort of freebie.

How do you intend to empower women?

In terms of empowering young ladies in our business, that’s easy. I am very passionate about women. I am blessed with five sisters and I love them all. I’m very passionate about seeing women succeed. My sisters are all my business partners in different businesses.

 If I see a woman who wants to succeed and they are very passionate about what they want to do and they come to our company and they do not have the necessary finances, we negotiate. Sometimes it comes free, while sometimes it’s subsidised.

Sometimes we give them a payment plan. For instance, I have a client that just moved back to Nigeria, she is one of the hottest fashion designers in Nigeria today. When she was living in the New York and going to fashion school in New York, she needed to get her work started so that she can do what she wants to do.

She came to us and we said we would do it for her at a subsidised rate. Today she’s back in Nigeria and she’s doing very well. In New York too she’s was succeeding, but I spoke to her. I told her that Nigeria’s fashion industry is growing massively and that her chances of succeeding back home are unparallel.

What’s your take on the perception of Nigerians in Diaspora?

In terms of being financially buoyant, the perception that things are going well for one as long as they are living abroad is false. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true either. While I was living there I worked in General Electrics for nine months.

You make a lot of good money quite all right but you also spend good money too. It’s easier to save in Nigeria than it is to save over there.  I can’t keep up with the joneses, I’m an okafor and I do what Okafor’s do.

When I moved back to the country, the car I was driving wasn’t what people expected me to drive. I have changed my car of course, but nothing has changed in my income. People see you and say, “you have money, give us”, but has the car brought in more money, no.

You have to be who you are. Richard Branson of Virgin, as wealthy as he is, walks around in shorts and slippers because he knows who he is. In New York where there are over a hundred millionaires, you find them taking the taxi; you find them in the subway.

They just go about their business they don’t care because they know who they. As to Nigerians in Diaspora not knowing who they are, this could be blamed on the slave trade era; that is why you find them adopting an accent barely two weeks after arrival.

A white man once told me he liked my accent and asked where I was from. I told him I was from Nigeria but I noticed some Nigerians were claiming they were from Jamaica or any other place but Nigeria because of the fraud attached to our name.

I always claimed I was Nigerian wherever I went to, no matter what and then they asked me again if I get those fraudulent emails as well, I said yes. Nigerians are known for frauds the same way the Americans are noted for drugs and worse crimes. So there should be no room for discrimination.

How do you intend to keep up with the unstable internet penetration?

Over 40 million people visit the Internet on a daily basis. 70 million or more with Internet enabled mobile phones. We were at the mobile web expo two weeks ago. We were the only Nigerian and dotcom company there.

We had experts from all over the world and from several other companies walk up to us and ask what was going on there and every single one of them said the same thing- that Nigeria is going to explode. I had someone telling me that 50% of their global traffic is from Nigeria and of that traffic, 50% of it is from mobile phones.

 Companies are slashing their advert rates now because people are advertising on the Internet. I like to empower people. I encourage my employees to put whatever they have, whichever talent, on the Internet. You can still be doing your 9-5 and still engage in your extra- curricular activities and make extra money for yourself.

I try as much as possible to build them up. I have people I can call and ask to come train my employees same way people solicit to do this.

How has the company been faring and what has the response been like?

So far the company is doing well, we’ve come a long way sing 1999 but we have progressed so far. We cannot overlook the incessant challenges everyone in business goes through though- like the inability of clients to pay as at when due.

Insufficient power supply and fluctuations of internet services also play a huge role. But I believe life would be boring without challenges. If I didn’t go through the challenges I went through I wouldn’t have created ConnectNigeria.com and the response so far has been quite encouraging. The company keeps growing. Our goal is to be number one in Nigeria. We strive to make life stable for Nigerians.

What’s your clientele like?

Our clientele involves major companies and brands in the country. We engage in re-branding also. We were involved in the transformation of Reltel to Zoom mobile, we campaigned for Skye Bank like I said earlier, the Celebrity Takes Two reality series was our initiative, and of course you know about the Calabar carnival, we did all that.

We enjoy what we do and that’s why we are succeeding. We breeze through it every day because of the way we handle our challenges when faced with them.

How are you giving back to the society?

My resolve this year is to be involved in charitable work. The company has been supporting people who are involved in this but our resolution this year is to be the one at the forefront. Back in the States, one of my clients had something called ‘Papa’s school.org,

Parents to the parentless was their motto so they toured in search for and housed orphans from all across Africa- we worked with him. And of course you know about the first lady of Cross River and her charity Destiny’s child, we were involved in that- we built the website. We try as much as possible to work with charitable organisations.

How do you intend to empower youths?

 

The youths being in the forefront in Nigeria are our major target. We encourage youths, however we can empower them. We created a website to encourage youths to go register to vote. One of my employees created an app for the Nigerian constitution so anyone can download it and read.

We hope to motivate the youth by doing so. If you go to Connect Nigeria, what we have are articles on life principles that would help you make good choices. We featured a lot of business articles on how to start businesses, low capital businesses.

To start one for yourself; you don’t have to wait to get a job. We are establishing a standard school in Arts and design technology this year where the average Nigerian don’t have to go abroad to learn how to design but can do it here at home at an affordable rate and with the same quality education.

Tags: Life, Life and Style

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