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Building A Digital Marketplace For ‘Made In Nigeria’: Interview With Ukaegbu Great Jr, CEO, Keanyi

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Ukaegbu Great Jr, is the Founder and CEO of Keanyi an eCommerce consumer goods retail platform that connects exclusively local manufacturing sellers with consumers. He is responsible for the performance and long-term strategic development of this new startup. In this exclusive interview with Uchechukwu Ajuzieogu of Business Africa Online, Ukaegbu speaks on the Keanyi’s experience in the all ready existing Nigerian market, current state of the eCommerce sector, the biggest potentials for growth in Nigeria and outlined his company’s future plans.

Uchechukwu: Kindly share your set goals when assuming as the CEO, and how much progress has been made?

Ukaegbu: The role of the CEO has sent me back to Libraries and web directories , Every Single day, I read books and articles of becoming a better manager and understanding the market, above all I have adopted the culture of learning, unlearning and relearning. My goals as the CEO is to primarily see Keanyi reached our vision and goals as a company, creating thousands of Jobs and empowering Nigeria and African SMEs. Yes, I’m the CEO of Keanyi but sometimes I get scared to address myself as CEO because that’s not just a title, its work more than a war to conquer.

Uchechukwu: Can you provide some insights into Keanyi’s presence in Nigeria?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi was an idea that was conceived early 2016, then called Ariaria Online because we thought it to be more of an Aba thing, after much consultations, experts advised us to change the name because it will box our content and scope of reach. By early 2017 , we had re-branded to Keanyi adapted from an Igbo word ‘Nkeanyi’ which means our own. Keanyi was launched on the 3rd of October 2019 on the web space.

Our Goal is to put up made in Nigeria Products back to the map, and we will achieve it. After the launch we have seen lots of challenges and we are set to conquer them, Our primary interest was to boost to Aba market but we got negative signs on our radar with much rejections coming from the Aba manufacturers.

One of the interesting Facts about Keanyi’s presence is that 99.5% of vendors on Keanyi are from Lagos, and this is a good sign seeing Lagos as the hub of business, we might be concentrating more on Lagos, alongside Kano and probably Aba for vendors while targeting major cities in Nigeria.

Uchechukwu: What has been Keanyi’s experience in the market in terms of its challenges, competition and successes?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi’s experience in Nigeria has been that of Stable growth, our vendors keep increasing every Single day, One of the major challenges I have seen is acceptability. Keanyi is new and we are just One Month old and being an idea that seems to be swimming against a heavy wave of a growing economy, we are doing all to calm the tide. Challenges are there but we will bring bring them to justice. 

About Competitors, they will be there and I believe strategies makes the difference. Success is never a war won completely,it’s a continuous war and the only way to stay alive in the war is to keep winning every Single day.We are growing and waxing strong in the market.

Uchechukwu: In terms of reputation and performance, where would you like to see Keanyi and NIGERIA in 3–5 yrs?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi is a child in the industry. Let me make reference to a book of by my friend Obinna Uzoije: “Nigeria has never witnessed an industrial revolution and i believe the time is now.” Why is China dominating; Industrial dominance and control, just like the metamorphoses of the butterfly, I’m seeing Nigeria SMEs rise above SMEs to big business through Keanyi because our goal is to put Nigeria Products to the map. In the next 3 years, we will be setting the pace to connect African SMEs and businesses which we call the Shift 2023.

Uchechukwu: How would you evaluate the current state of the Local Manufacturing sector in Nigeria?

Ukaegbu: Manufacturing in Nigeria is indeed one the biggest challenges we are facing and ready to see it change. 78% of the SMEs producing, produces at request which I can tally to subsistence agriculture, their output most times is not much probably because of their mode of production/manufacturing. 

With Keanyi’s presence to boost the market, we hope to see most of the manufacturing SMEs switch to the industrial/enterprise stage. We also aim to invest heavily to boost their production.

Uchechukwu: Where are the biggest potentials for growth in Nigeria now and beyond?

Ukaegbu: Our biggest Potential no doubt is our population, we have a higher percentage to sell to but the level of poverty keeps stalling these potentials making us have zero percentage to sell to most times. Our Potentials is nested to our population and government Policies in the now and beyond ,the government must have good policies, sometimes I feel that Nigeria is a socialist state because of the effects of Government on the economy.

Uchechukwu: Tell us about Keanyi Vendor Platform and the gap its filling?

Ukaegbu: The Keanyi Vendor Platform is one of the best modifications we introduced on the platform because our market keeps growing every single day. The Vendor presence made us to launch the ‘Zero Sales Season’, where a Vendor signs up, put up their products and sell without us taking any percentage, the Zero Sales Season started from November 2019 and will span till Feb 2020.

Uchechukwu: Describe your leadership style, and what Keanyi Represents?

Ukaegbu: My Leadership style is goal oriented. I have my eyes on the goal, and I will do all the reach the goals with the Keanyi team. Being a leader means you have unlearn, learn and relearn. I understand that every single member of Keanyi has goals to live for as a person and I will also put myself in their shoes to make their goals come to reality. I remind myself that leadership is about humility every single day.

Uchechukwu: What are your Source of Resilience?

Ukaegbu: My source of Resilience is drawn from two different Sources;
– Jesus: I might sound religious here because in this Keanyi journey, I have always drawn more strength from prayers and directions. A lot of times as a person, I had loved to shut down and look for a soft work or even travel abroad, but He(Jesus) has been faithful. 

  • My second source of Resilience is the power of time and opportunity: I believe Nigeria at a time when the Rise of SMEs is on a higher magnitude, which calls for a marketplace. I am sure that Keanyi will be the next big thing that happened to the Nigerian Economy
  • My Able Team: At this Point i would like to say that my biggest Source of Resilience is my Team, I want to appreciate Keanyi’s Chief Technology Officer — Mr. Uchechukwu Ajuzieogu. This man been doing a lot for Keanyi , I owe him a lot in this life. I also want appreciate our Chief Operating Officer the beautiful intelligent lady and mother, an event shaker, and business maker — Mrs. Flora Mgbeledeogu, thanks for all the time you have been amazing. I owe you more, you guys has helped me grow, lets keep doing this.

Uchechukwu: An average CEO reads 52 books in a month. What’s your reading Pattern?

Ukaegbu: A lot of books has made me see beyond the norm, the stories and setting might be different but the strengths seems similar. I used to think reading was never my thing, but i read on a daily basis now; print and web. It’s been amazing getting more informed everyday. I read at night most times and I’m currently reading a book by Strivye Masiyiwa.  

Also Read: Coverdor Insurtech Startup Launches Brokerly; Africa’s First Digital Insurance Broker Solution-as-a-service

Uchechukwu: What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and graduate students?

Ukaegbu: Well entrepreneurship is a journey of 20% Idea, and 70% resilience. Ever Imagine watering an apple tree from nursery and watching it grow. As an entrepreneur get people who are better than you, its helping me already, network,build contacts and allies within your niche, work hard and above all listen to your customers — they are the king. 

Graduate is a title that comes with paper, which can only guarantee you job from a company who likes your paper, but a skill is your job which you offer for people who pays for it. While you read books to pass exams and leave the four walls of college, get skilled to overcome the under-utilization of the graduate paper.

B I O G R A P H Y

Ukaegbu Great Jr, is the Founder and CEO of Keanyi an eCommerce consumer goods e-commerce retail platform that connects exclusively local manufacturing sellers with consumers. Ukaegbu has more than 5 years experience in the Graphics, Branding and eCommerce ecosystem

He is also the founder of ABSUVilla. Prior to this role, he took on various senior roles with various organization — PR and Social Media Manager for Today’s 95.1 FM. He is a Nigerian and fluent in several languages including English, Hausa, and Igbo.

Visit Keanyi 

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OKADEMY: Investing in African Brains

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OKADEMY team; Kileshe Kasoma and Samy Mwamba (Image: Itot Africa)

OKADEMY is an on-demand digital training platform. Launched by Itot Africa in 2017 with the aim of sharing digital skills in order to create and bring jobs back to Africa. Itot Africa has already been able to physically train more than 700 people and create more than 100 jobs. To be able to meet the great demand for digital skills and talents in Africa, the team came up with an innovative concept, “a restaurant for the brain ”.

Like a restaurant, people can take these courses at their own pace, at any time, and at affordable prices tailored to the local economic climate. The digital platform  provides training on demand, primarily courses that offer digital and business skills. Then, they make these training available online and in all of their partner training centers that they call restaurants for the brain.

Okademy’s main objective is to enable people who are unemployed or far from employment to get closer to, find or create a job through training adapted to the needs of the labour market. Through a career follow-up system and networking with employers.

“We must allow people to feed their brains at their own pace, with the knowledge they really need, for professional purposes or simply out of curiosity,” explains Samy Mwamba, Director of Itot Africa.

“By 2030, according to a report by the International Finance Corporation, 230 million jobs will require digital skills, and by digital skills, let’s not just think of advanced computer skills, people are looking for basic skills, like Excel, sending emails, searching the web, video conferencing, etc. With the okademy.africa platform , in one hour, a person can learn a new skill, wherever they are.” Samy added.

Image: OKADEMY

“For each student who takes our courses, we track their progress through our system integrated into the training platform; this means in concrete terms that we know whether our students are unemployed, have an internship, a fixed-term contract or a permanent contract. We also have information about employers and job offers.”Kileshe Kasoma, People at Itot Africa

“With this data, we offer digital CVs to students, we connect our students with companies that are hiring, we modify, delete and add more courses and finally we have statistics on the impact of our courses in terms of job creation.” Kileshe added.

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In the next 5 years, OKADEMY aims to have 500 courses and at least 2000 students in each course. They also want to be open to all categories of people, which is why our prices take into account the economic realities of Africans. That is, from $10 a person can have access to training.

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Trudenty: Redefining the future of identity

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Trudenty CO-Founder & CEO, Lerato Matsio (Image: Supplied)

Trudenty is a Web 3 – SSI (Self Sovereign Identity) startup that leverages decentralised identity technology to provide privacy preserving credentials to people for use online. Founded by Lerato Matsio, a South African entrepreneur currently residing in Belgium after a rewarding career at McKinsey & Company that ended in February 2022.

Lerato launched Trudenty after she experienced identity theft and digital banking fraud (as a result) via her bank in South Africa. This experience inspired her to reimagine a world in which people were empowered with control over their information to cut through the root causes of digital fraud. And eliminate the need for companies to collect and store people’s information in a centralised database. Lerato found that blockchain and SSI technology offer a compelling suite of options to enable this.

Trudenty provides people and businesses with an alternative solution to perform identity verification and KYC that maintains the privacy (and security) of people’s sensitive personal information and also gives people control over their information.

In the world today, plenty of solutions exist for identity verification and KYC. However, they exist in a fragmented manner that requires people to share their sensitive information repeatedly across different companies every time they need to establish a new relationship with a company. This creates friction in the onboarding experience for people, but especially painful, exposes information that can be exploited by fraudsters to steal from people and defraud companies. Given the rise in instances of identity theft and digital fraud – it is clear that a change is needed.

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“At Trudenty, we are building the future of identity, and by doing so, we provide an answer to the identity-related pain points of our time.”Lerato Matsio, Founder Trudenty

“Our solution (currently in development) will enable real world trust anchors (e.g., banks, governments, health authorities, etc,) to issue verifiable credentials to their constituents that can be used by people to verify themselves, without compromising their identity, their privacy and allowing them control over who accesses their information. In future, identity verification and KYC will be possible using credentials issued by the real world credential issuer”. says Lerato.

With this inspiration and purpose-led mission, Lerato invited 2 technical co-founders with deep experience and expertise in Web 3 (incl. SSI) and fintech in Africa to help her bring Trudenty to life.

Later on this year, Trudenty plans to launch a pilot with a closed group of fintechs (and people) to test its solution. Through the initial use cases of digital onboarding, KYC and passwordless authentication. The team is currently working to complete development of their MVP for pilot later this year. They are excited to work with institutions and fintechs across the continent to usher in a new paradigm for identity verification, globally.

At McK, Lerato helped clients in Africa and Europe reinvent their business models and drive operational transformations, leveraging technology. Lerato is a Chemical Engineer by education, and spent a few of her early years as a Process Control Engineer at Sasol (a South African petrochemicals company).

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Jusnah Gadi: The Tanzanian Native proving it’s possible to do it all

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Jusnah Gadi, Managing Director of Young Music Boss

Jusnah Gadi a Tanzanian Native, raised in the Netherlands and currently resident in the UK, whose entrepreneurship has landed her in the likes of Forbes, Elle Magazine and the Evening Standard. She is a music business educator and founder of Young Music Boss which is a resource hub focusing on legal and business affairs.

With its tagline ‘Preparing Future Music Bosses’, YMB is an educational channel and network building platform to empower artists and aspiring music executives learning to navigate the business. With a legal background specialising in intellectual property and commercial law, Jusnah Gadi is fast becoming a formidable and much needed force in the music industry.

She is also the Co-founder of the UK’s No.1 Seafood boil brand (Hot n Juicy Shrimp Ldn) which has two operational takeaway branches and recently launched their microwavable sauce pouches ready to take the retail world by storm. HNJ was founded alongside business partner Samantha Pascal and boasts the likes of ZeZe Millz, Krept, Dappy and Ms Bankz among its notable regular customers. 

And as if all of that isn’t enough, Jusnah Gadi also has a full-time corporate job as a Senior Compliance Executive for a FTSE 100 Sports & Entertainment company where she has climbed the ranks in her department leading a team of analysts who ensure the company’s regulatory and legal obligations are upheld. 

 

Alaba: They say ‘don’t try to be a jack of all trades’. Do you believe in this? 

Jusnah: Well the idea is that if you try to be a jack of all trades then you will be a master of none. I believe in the statement to an extent. I do believe that ideally you should focus on that ONE thing and become the go to for it, be EXCELLENT at it and then other doors will open. I don’t entirely subscribe to it though, because I believe that skills are transferable and I believe you can be multiple things at once and be a success at it. 

Alaba: You speak about Tanzania and Africa a lot, particularly as it relates to the music industry – why is that? 

Jusnah: Because Tanzania is my heritage, though I wasn’t born or raised there, I actually visited for the first time in 2003, It is my roots.  I feel a strong sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment of my country and I think that my way is through Music Business. I see an industry that is RICH with talent but poor in infrastructure. I want to lead in that area and for me that begins with education. In order to develop an ecosystem which makes our music industry more sophisticated I believe the starting point is to ensure creatives and all stake-holders are adequately informed on the various different components that come into play.

I consult various artists teams in Tanzania and when I speak to producers/artists who have no.1 hit songs in East Africa, are dominating charts and streaming platforms with unimaginable numbers, yet struggle for basic needs I am reminded of the overwhelming amount of work there is to be done. If not me, then who? 

Alaba: You also launched the Young Music Boss Awards in the UK (YMBA), tell us about that? 

Jusnah: I am passionate about creating access to the industry but also cultivating and incentivising it, the YMB Awards are an extension of that. The Music Industry, is rich with accolades which celebrates the Artist’s, Producers and sometimes Labels. But rarely the executives behind the scenes who drive it all forward. The YMBA bridges this gap by awarding rising music executives, creatives and entrepreneurs who are the Managers, lawyers, A&Rs, Publicists, Publishers, Stylists, Marketers, Agents etc behind some of the most exciting artists, campaigns and music businesses of our time.

I was that kid who always used to read all the credits in the small print of the CD covers, wondering who those people were and what the different functions meant …now I know they are the people who make the industry revolve and evolve, the YMBA celebrates those individuals. 

Alaba: What about your Food Business, what inspired that? 

Jusnah: It was really an accident. I never planned to be a food entrepreneur. My business partner and I were craving a Seafood boil on our return to London from a trip in Las Vegas and struggled to find one. Eventually, we found one girl who made them from home, tried it and it was not great AT ALL. My business partner then suggested that we could actually do our own, I didn’t entertain the idea. A week or two later she had begun to test a recipe, telling some friends and family and had asked for my thoughts on a logo.

At this stage, I said to myself ‘okay I want in’. But even then, for me it was just an extra cash injection to fund other projects. Within just over a month, what was meant to be just a weekend gig from our home kitchens, word spread across London and demand increased. We then quickly realised that we could now longer safely or legally operate from our home kitchens which led to us obtaining the relevant licences and moving into a commercial kitchen. Two years later, here we are two branches with a product ready for retail. 

Alaba: So what do the next 5 years look like for you? 

Jusnah: Like Greatness. 

 

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