Bolaji Akinboro: Entrepreneur creating super solutions in agritech sector
Bola Akinboro is a visioner, serial pioneer cum entrepreneur and international development expert, with interdisciplinary experience and passion for developing Africa’s agricultural landscape and economy.
He belongs to the class of superpreneurs – entrepreneurs who have achieved big things and broken many records.
He is the chairman of Voriancorelli, an agritech demand, and supply matching company that leverages technology to transform Nigeria and Africa’s agriculture sector.
He is a graduate of pharmacy from Obafemi Awolowo University.
He has a post-graduate certificate in business management from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and has received executive certifications from other renowned institutions, including Oxford University’s Said Business School, and Harvard Business School.
He started his career at Procter & Gamble in 1994 and became the head of his unit two years later. By 1997, he had relocated to Ghana to launch the Ghanaian subsidiary of Procter & Gamble, staking his job on the promise that he would deliver a business to the company within 18 months.
Under his leadership as customer business development manager and head of business, Procter & Gamble’s Ghanaian subsidiary became a $7 million venture in 18 months.
In 2000, he became the customer marketing manager (candies and detergent) for West Africa, before moving on to African Virtual University (an AFDB venture) where he served as the programs manager for six years. Akinboro has been many things, including a co-founder of one of the biggest fintech firms in the country –Cellulant.
He tells Start-Up Digest that entrepreneurs like him are the engines of the economic system.
“You see, this is the life of Elon Musk, a great serial entrepreneur,” he says.
“What got me here is a formula that consists of Vision – who am I in the grand story of mankind that God is writing? Purpose – a clear idea of what I should be doing to make a difference at every stage of life; and finally passion – a strong emotional connection to the rest of society that I am a world changer.”
Akinboro moved from pharmacy to business management and entrepreneurship. This is not an easy route for most pharmacists who would have preferred to remain holed up in drug stores and pharmaceutical firms.
But for him, “Changing careers or occupations was quite simple for me.”
He understood very early in life that a field of study or profession was an area of practice, which must evolve into a business for anyone to get economic benefits from it.
“For me, this was a continuum,” he says.
Akinboro says that the changes he has introduced in fintech and agriculture spaces are related to ecosystem thinking.
For him, fintech and agritech are economic systems rather than economic units, explaining that he does things that make lives better for real people – not necessarily those that turn them into monetary units that should be exploited.
“I want to help them increase their wealth, not reduce their wealth,” he notes.
He was attracted to agritech industry by the challenge of the moment. He says that agriculture is very big and he has always been keen on being part of the contingent that brings the sector into the digital age and opens it up to everyone.
Akinboro believes that the biggest problem in the agricultural sector is market linkages, noting that any model that solves this problem changes the fortunes of the sector for good.
“If this problem is solved, all other problems will solve themselves. How do we make sure that people have access to functional markets?” he asks.
On why micro and small businesses fail, he blames the operating environment, stressing that it is important to help everyone in society understand why businesses that last long are important. “Businesses that endure create jobs and pay the taxes which fund our public services,” he says.
The superpreneur says there are many projects in the pipeline.
“We are rolling out a smartphone for everyone’s project soon. Bill Gates said a PC in every home, from Borno to Sokoto, from Sokoto to Lagos, and from Lagos to Akwa Ibom,” he says.
“We have developed a framework that puts a smartphone for everyone. Watch this space,” he discloses.
He is still bullish on the Nigerian economy despite all the challenges besetting the country. He believes that Nigeria must succeed or Africa is in trouble.
If Akinboro were a governor or president of Nigeria, there is one thing he would do.
“I would get out of the way and create the conditions for business to thrive by reducing all the policy/multiple taxation/infrastructure deficits burdening the business space,” he concludes.