Lillian Barnard, a tech enthusiast and seasoned professional has spent over 20 years of her career working her way up the ladder in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, both locally and abroad. And she’s found real success.
In March 2019, Lillian was appointed as the Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa in March, 2019. She became the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in South Africa in the early 1990’s. In her words, She said “My experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.” In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Lillian spoke about her passion for technology, experiences in top executive positions in the ICT industry, her vision and goals for Microsoft under her leadership. Excerpt.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
From as young as 12 years old, I realise the value of education and the importance of Mathematics. I was crystal clear that I was going to go to University and pursue a degree in Commerce. I was exceptionally fortunate that I was enabled the opportunity to realise this dream, especially in the era in which I grew up.
Recently, you were the first woman appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa. How does this make you feel and were you surprised?
I am honoured to be the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in the country in the early 1990s. I am extremely passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.
My first 3 months in role have been filled with excitement. In my first week, I had the opportunity to be part of a momentous occasion where Microsoft launched the opening of the state-of-the-art datacentres as well our multi-million-dollar investment to create economic opportunities for South Africa through the evolved Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).
With 20 years’ ICT experience in leadership roles in South Africa and Internationally. What’s the greatest hurdle you’ve encountered, and how did you overcome it?
I was fortunate that early in my career, I was identified as Top Talent, and as result was often placed in roles which I felt required more experience than I could offer at point. There were three key learnings that I had, which enabled to overcome an hurdle I faced.
Firstly, I realised that my diversity of thinking, my tenacity and my passion for what I do are they three things that often enable my success in any task.
Secondly, I realised that confidence in my abilities – and finding this quickly – was going to be important as I progressed in my career, because I always had ambitious goals.
Finally, and this is still true to this, life is going to be a continuous learning journey of self- discovery that you are going to have to embrace.
How has your background prepared you for success in the technology ecosystem?
I have more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry, and have held various executive positions with IBM and Vodacom, both locally and abroad, that have enabled me to gain extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership.
This experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.
My time as an entrepreneur really taught me the importance of resilience, and to keep focusing on your end goal and not give up until you achieve it.
I have also been fortunate to have a number of strong mentors, through whom I have learnt some key leadership lessons, and in particular the importance of leading through inspiration, constant focus on your people and continuous communication.
Tell us about your philosophy and leadership style?
In South Africa, leaders must make learning a new way of life and have to become intentional about their learning agenda; because the tech industry is ever changing. This will ensure that you keep your skills current and it will ensure that you remain relevant.
In my journey to leadership, I learnt that it is critical to have faith in your capabilities and the confidence to express those capabilities through your authentic voice. My personal mandate is to ensure that through authenticity; I am transparent, honest and effective in communicating plans and goals for the organisation and doing so with clarity.
People has always been at the core of my focus. As a leader you must be transformational in your approach and build a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is fair to say that we all understand diversity, but inclusivity is so important, and this is all about focusing on the needs of every individual, ensuring that the right conditions are in place, so everyone can reach their full potential.
As a global organisation that is committed to finding new ways of empowering people to achieve more, we are constantly evolving and creating change from within, so we can provide the best possible service to our customers.
We obsess over what matters to our customers, becoming more diverse and inclusive in everything we do and create, operating as one company instead of multiple siloed businesses and lastly, to making a difference in the lives of each other, our customers and the world around us.
Our business is anchored in a growth mindset, this inspires us to be curious about our customers — learning all we can about their needs and challenges with a beginner’s mind — and then bringing innovative and practical solutions to meet their needs and surprise and delight them. We believe by applying a growth mindset, we have the ability to change the world; empowering every person and every organisation to achieve more.
What’s the best and worst decision you’ve ever made? And how were you able to turn the bad decision around?
I live with the philosophy that the only risks that we regret are the ones that we have not taken. As such, I focus on ensuring I deliver to best on all the decisions that I have taken, while learning and moving on from the ones that didn’t work out as planned.
What’s the greatest transformation in tech you’ve witnessed in your career and the next big thing in ecosystem?
We are in the midst of a technological revolution, the 4th industrial revolution, and I believe that artificial intelligence(AI) will be the defining technology of this time. Similar to the discovery of electricity or the development of the steam engine, I believe that AI will have the power to fundamentally change people’s lives, transforming industry and transforming society.
When developed at scale, quantum computing will change the world. Imagine a computer that could accurately model the natural world, allowing us to create real and practical solutions to climate change. A computer that could accurately model human biological systems, leading to new and incredible breakthroughs in medicine.
Women in technology are definitely in the minority, how are you encouraging and supporting women to come be part of the ecosystem?
Women are still under represented and having women’s representation in these fields is not only a matter of fairness, but our economies and societies also lose out when we fail to engage half of the world’s brainpower in our engines of innovation.
We need to encourage interest from the early years of development, combat stereotypes, train teachers to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers, develop curricula that are gender-sensitive, and mentor girls and young women to adopt different mind-sets.
I have played a pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of [email protected] and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.
At Microsoft, we start early in the pipeline by sparking girls’ interest in technology, for example:
- Our YouthSpark programmes seek to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to learn computer science through unique partnerships with governments, business, and non-profit organisations such as Code.org. Girls represent 52 percent of the total beneficiaries of YouthSpark. Through YouthSpark we spearhead an initiative, DigiGirlz which is aimed at giving middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
- Microsoft started a movement, inspiring girls, as well as the parents, educators and nonprofits who encourage and support them, to #MakeWhatsNext. Not only does this open up opportunities for careers in the technology industry, but in our increasingly digital world, STEM skills also offer a leg up for those wanting to become researchers, consultants, business managers, teachers and many more.
What is your vision and goals for the Microsoft South Africa brand under your leadership?
- I believe that cloud computing presents a big opportunity for Microsoft in SA. Public cloud services are set to triple in the next five years. This is because a lot of businesses are looking to drive innovation from cloud services. The recent opening of the datacentres and EEIP investment talks to the heart of our focus for the next 2 – 3 years.
- I also want to work closely with our partners to make sure we continue to build the requisite skill sets so that South Africa can continue to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become an emerging giant in this space. How we will skill our people to prepare them for the job of the future will also be a challenge.
- I want to continue driving the agenda of a more inclusive and diverse workplace by providing equal opportunities for men and women.
- As I mentioned earlier, I am passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.
- Together with our partner ecosystem, we are focussed on enabling business and Government to harness the opportunity presented by these emerging technologies in an ethical and inclusive manner to ensure that every individual is empowered and benefits from the digital era.
What are you seeing with organisations as Microsoft South Africa that have a social mission?
I believe that companies that have a social mission, aligned to their core business, tend to be more inspiring to their customers, partners and employees. People deeply commit to companies with an authentic higher purpose – and it enables them to be passionate about what they are doing!
It not just about doing good or doing business, it is about doing good business.
Teach us one word in your home language. What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa.
In South Africa we are spoilt with our choice of incredible food. But, with the beautiful oceans surrounding, I have to say I love fish!
Her Short Bio:
Lillian Barnard was appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa in March 2019. She joined Microsoft in May 2017 as Public Sector Director for South Africa, a role she held for almost two years.
Lillian has more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry. She is a seasoned professional with proven capabilities and a strong understanding of local market. Through the various executive positions that Lillian has held, both locally and abroad, she has gained extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership. This experience, combined with her deep industry knowledge, positions her perfectly to strengthen Microsoft’s commitment to South Africa and its wishes to drive its digital transformation ambitions and empower governments, organisations and individuals to achieve more.
She has become renowned for building strong, high-performing teams that consistently deliver on their financial targets, while also bringing innovative digital solutions to her partners and customers. Having led large teams both locally and abroad, she is recognised for strength in developing people and creating an environment where everyone can do their best work.
Lillian is passionate about enabling a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. By drawing on her own experiences, she endeavours to create a culture that enables people to bring their authentic selves to the workplace and be embraced for that individuality. She has been pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of [email protected] and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Lillian served as Chief Sales Officer for Vodacom’s Enterprise Business for two years. She also headed LillianB Consulting Services where she was an advisor and coach to business leaders. During Lillian’s 15-year career at IBM, she held a number of key leadership positions, including working for 7-years at the IBM European Headquarters in France and Switzerland.
She previously served on the boards of Vodacom South Africa, Mango Airlines and Dad-fund Non-Profit Organization.
Lillian holds a BCom Honours in Business Economics from the University of the Western Cape.
Interview With Sanne Steemers, A Dutch Chocolate Entrepreneur Connecting Europe And Africa
Thirty Six Foods is a Lagos-based social enterprise inspired by the diversity in the people and environment in all the thirty six states of Nigeria and believes nothing is better than chocolate. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Sanne Steemers a value chain consultant and a chocolate entrepreneur at Thirty Six Foods, to know more about the brand, her entrepreneurial journey and her interest in the chocolate business in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpts.
Alaba: Tell us a bit about yourself and your brand, Thirty Six Foods Nigeria Ltd?
Sanne: My name is Sanne Steemers. I have been working to connect Europe and Africa for most of my career. About five years ago, I settled in Nigeria. Even though I was reluctant to come to Lagos at first because of its reputation, I fell in love with the energy of people. Nigeria brought out my inner entrepreneur, and in addition to my value chain consulting work I decided to start manufacturing chocolate.
Thirty Six Foods operate as a social enterprise, which is a phenomenon that is not well-known in Nigeria. While we want to be profitable as a business, we also want to make sure that we create jobs, pay our staff a fair salary, and improve the lives of cocoa farmers. Nigeria has a bad reputation, and we would like to change that by making a high-quality product.
Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind your chocolate business and why Africa as a choice for your business?
Sanne: Over the past five years, I have worked in several agribusiness projects, and two years ago I started Thirty Six Foods Nigeria together with my business partner Chip Odina. We are both driven by the need to diversify the economy and create employment in Nigeria. Africa has great resources and potential, and I love to work here.
I also love chocolate. I was working as a consultant in cocoa trade when I arrived in Nigeria, and brought chocolate from abroad every time I travelled. At some point, I started experimenting with making chocolate in my kitchen. When friends and family started to ask for chocolate, I knew we had a good product.
Alaba: What’s your experience working in different African countries?
Sanne: The first African country I lived in was Burkina Faso in 2005. Since then, I have worked across Africa. I like how varied the continent is. I chose to settle in Nigeria because it suits me. Nigerians are very honest and direct, people here are ready to work as long as it has a mutual benefit. I still travel a lot for my consulting work. Last week, I returned to Burkina Faso and it was wonderful to see how the country is still friendly and charming as it was almost fifteen years ago.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Sanne: There are always challenges. The most difficult ones are those that are not in our control: roads, electricity, and climate. While I learned to make chocolate in Europe, we had to redesign our chocolate making processes entirely to be able to deal with the specific context in Nigeria. But challenges come with being an entrepreneur. We learn from them, and we find creative solution.
Alaba: How is your chocolate unique and different from other chocolate brands in Africa?
Sanne: We focus on both quality and sustainable impact. We are one of the few chocolate makers actively investing in cocoa communities to increase both quality and income. We operate as a social enterprise and offer employment opportunities to people who might not otherwise have had a job. Training is very important to us.
Alaba: How can governments support businesses especially in the agricultural value chain?
Sanne: Businesses mainly need the government to ensure good roads, constant supply of electricity, and smooth processing of permits and taxes.
Alaba: What’s your view on the chocolate business and its future in Nigeria and Africa?
Sanne: Africa is uniquely positioned in the cocoa and chocolate market. The continent produces the majority of the world’s cocoa and represents a large market. Adding value to cocoa through chocolate manufacturing is a logical next step.
Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?
Sanne: We are growing the business slowly but steadily, we never want to compromise on quality. We have a range of products that we are very proud of, and we have started to work with companies and individuals on custom orders. In addition to the Nigerian market, we have received our first export order which will be shipped next year.
Alaba: What’s your advice for prospecting entrepreneurs and investors considering the African market?
Sanne: Become an expert in your field while also being flexible to adjust to reality. You may need to change your processes or the way you sell. And take it one step at a time.
Alaba: What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa?
Sanne: I love Nigerian food; it’s hard to choose just one dish! My top Nigerian dishes are suya, amala with vegetable soup, and pounded yam with white soup. I get them from my favourite spots in Surulere.
Regarding the holiday spot: I spend most of my holidays in Amsterdam to see my family and friends in The Netherlands. In Nigeria, I love Tarkwa Bay for a quick break. Other favourite African destinations include South Africa and Egypt.
Her Short Bio:
Sanne Steemers is a social entrepreneur and senior consultant who makes social impact economically viable. She is the founder of Thirty Six Foods Nigeria and senior partner in the Agri-Logic consulting network. She is passionate about value chain partnerships, impact investment, making Nigerian chocolate and creating jobs. Lagos & Amsterdam are home.
Empowering Entrepreneurs is the Route to Eradicating Poverty in Africa – Tony Elumelu Foundation CEO, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu
As Tony Elumelu Foundation Past Beneficiary, Wecyclers, Receives King Baudouin Award African Development Prize
Brussels, Belgium, June 13, 2019—The CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, stated that building and empowering entrepreneurs is the route to eradicating poverty and creating economic transformation in Africa. She said this in a fireside chat in Brussels where she was a guest of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium as one of Tony Elumelu Foundation past beneficiaries, Wecyclers received the African Development Prize awarded by the King Baudouin Foundation.
During her remarks, she emphasized the need for Africans to develop a job-creating mentality, not a job-seeking mentality to catalyze the economic development on the continent.
She linked this to the work of the Tony Elumelu Foundation and its impact on the African continent. Its mission is to empower 10,000 African entrepreneurs in 10 years through its Entrepreneurship Programme. Just half-way through the Programme, the Foundation has empowered 7,520 African entrepreneurs across 54 African countries, providing its alumni with a non-refundable seed capital of $5,000 each, training, mentoring and networking opportunities. To further scale the impact of its work beyond its 10,000-beneficiary goal, the Foundation launched TEFConnect—the largest digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs—late last year. Already, the platform boasts over 500,000 registered users who network, do business and forge partnerships across the continent.
Hosted by the King Baudouin Foundation, the ceremony was in honour of the Nigerian business Wecyclers for their contribution to the development of sustainable recycling and environmental wellbeing. In 2012, Wecyclers received seed capital from the Tony Elumelu Foundation through a partnership with accelerator, CCHub.
Following the presentation of the prize to Olawale Adebiyi, Wecyclers CEO, Mrs. Ugochukwu commended the work of the team. The award represented further credence to the importance and potential of entrepreneurship in Africa in transforming the economy and lives of Africans.
She said, “The Wecyclers initiative is further testament to the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s belief that all of Africa’s problems are businesses waiting to be taken on by the bright young minds we have in Africa”.
Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu closed her remarks by reiterating the commitment of the Tony Elumelu Foundation to supporting SMEs and MSMEs and in turn creating the millions of jobs that the youth population of Africa needs.
Tony Elumelu Foundation
Interview With Mall for Africa Founder and CEO, Chris Folayan
Born and raised in Nigeria, Africa. Chris Folayan is well established successful serial entrepreneur, board advisor, mentor, and speaker with over 25 years of C level role experience in marketing, technology, startups, and corporate acquisitions. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Chris shared his journey into entrepreneurship, how and why he founded Mall for Africa and how he is disputing Africa’s eCommerce and retail space. And his corporate social responsibility strategy. Excerpt.
Alaba: You have launched few startups before Mall for Africa. Kindly tell us about your entrepreneurship journey and the learning curves?
Chris: My entrepreneurial journey started at a very young age. The journey of a serial entrepreneur has not been easy but it is one that has led to a tremendous bounty of amazing learnings you can’t get anywhere else. My journey really started once I left FGCI (Federal Government College Ilorin) a high school in Kwara state, Nigeria. Right after I finished at FGCI I came to America and was captivated by the internet and all things online. It was a whole new world to me.
The ambition, motivation, and sheer dedication to ensure I make something of myself having been given the privilege to come to America for University was a blessing I was dedicated to making the best of it.
One of my first jobs in the US was with a hard drive company. I was fortunate enough to work with many departments from online development to strategic marketing to Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). All happening before I was 19. Working with the M&A department helped me a great deal understand business development, what companies are looking for before acquisitions, and much more. I was the software guy who came to the meetings and evaluated the product before it was acquired to see if it passed all my tests. I worked on many projects and reviewed many companies over the course of two years.
My first big shot entrepreneurial gig was in a startup music company. I was hired as the CTO working on developing the first ever encoding direct media stream with digital rights platform all in one. From there I learnt about patents, improved my programming skills.and much more. Back then MP3 and RealAudio platforms were the rage. The learning curve was about programing and being at the cutting edge knowing that whatever you build has to have a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) even if you are first in market. You have to set your business and model apart from everyone else. After exiting the company successfully, I started a software and web design company.
For 10 years we developed over 1000 websites in over 60 countries and worked for some of the top Fortune 100 and 500 companies of the world including governments. With this entrepreneurial journey I learnt about contacts, connections, customer service, and the art of pricing appropriately to win. What most people don’t realize when starting a company is reputation is key from day 1. If you start with a bad reputation you will have a higher road to climb. With every business you need to imagine you are climbing a very steep hill.
The key here is to understand what the market wants and needs. Invest time into researching all the core attributes, devising a cost, then doing a cost analysis on development and market value. We did this successfully for many companies we started and sold.
One of the big learnings with “Mall for Africa” was how we legitimize ourselves in the market from the beginning. Everyone in Nigeria is skeptical of every new business. So proving ourselves as legitimate was the biggest hurdle from the start. We accomplished this by placing prime billboards, partnering with banks, and taking out major newspaper and radio adverts. Once we build a reputation for being legitimate we had to work on payments. Learning how to collect payments from a society where many don’t have traditional Visa and Mastercards. We developed a one of a kind platform where people could deposit cash into the platform like a gift card and would be credited the amount so they can buy items from US/UK sites.
This instinctively started and boosted the company into fame as we were able to give the banked and unbanked the ability to shop on US/UK sites. We ended up helping many tap for the first time into eCommerce without any border restrictions. Trust me when I say there were issues but with each one we persevered and never gave up. Being able to pivot has also been key for Mall for Africa. We have tried many new things from auctions to deals of the day sales.
We have also recently launched our white label platform to help businesses in Africa make money off ecommerce. We call this new venture Link Commerce. As you can tell the journey has been long filled with ups and downs, but you morph, and grow as the market moves you so you are always relevant and make money.
Alaba: Mall for Africa is no doubt disrupting the eCommerce and retail
ecosystem in Africa. What inspired this laudable idea?
Chris: Mall for Africa was inspired by friends and family, but not in the way you would think. I simply got tired of packing my suitcases with people’s stuff and with a software background I knew I could do something about it. What broke the camel’s back was really my being declined from boarding a delta flight from San Francisco to Lagos with 10 suitcases. The Delta lady at the checking counter said “You going to Nigeria?” and I said “Yes, I am.” She looked at me snapped her fingers and said “No you are not. Not with all those suitcases.”
I didn’t realize I had exceeded the maximum number of bags one person could have. 95% of the luggage was for people who had asked me to bring stuff over. There is a need in the market for a solution to help people buy products from US/UK.
My network of friends was not huge yet and I had 10 suitcases. What if we opened an option up to the entire country for people to shop? I could be shipping tons and tons and we could make money. Fast forward many years we have shipped millions of products to people in Nigeria, and across Africa. Helping people buy the products they want to look good, and helping people buy products to start businesses and improve their lives. So who inspired me? Honestly the best people possible. Friends family and the amazing Nigerian people who I adore who have pushed me over the years to improve our platform and help do more.
Alaba: Despite the challenges eCommerce firms are facing in Africa and some shutting down operations,what business model and strategies is sustaining Mall for Africa?
Chris: Ecommerce in Africa is hard, but by 2025 it will be a $300bn industry and Africa has leap frogged in many things. One vital part being telecommunications and mobile phones. We have more cell phones than land lines. Africa will have more growth in new users online than any continent. You take that into consideration you now have to look at how do you make money in such an environment. For MallforAfrica we have faced the challenges other ecommerce platforms have faced.
However, we are very nimble and able to pivot. Our business model has changed over the years. If you asked me 2 years ago how would you expand I would give you a totally different answer than I would today. Today, we are working primarily with partners to expand our business. Now I didn’t say our name I said our business. We are white labeling our platform and providing businesses with the ability to start their own eCommerce companies with the Mall for Africa infrastructure. We have started a business called Link Commerce which is now working on powering eCommerce platforms for banks, mobile operators, ecommerce companies, and shipping companies in emerging markets.
Alaba: What are the worst and best decisions you’ve ever made?
Chris: I don’t see decisions as worst or bad, I see them as learning experiences. I have learnt that decisions form wisdom and there is nothing like bad wisdom. The same goes for best decisions. We have made some great moves as a company and Link Commerce is one of them. But I would urge every entrepreneur and business owner not to see decisions as good and bad and tie themselves up to such terms. But see each decision as a form of building wisdom. I would say my best and worst decisions have been around the people we hire. We have hired some amazing people and we have hired some really bad people. It’s hard to find great people but when you do they are amazing. Uplift the company and ensure we grow. Having a great team is key for our business to succeed and we have a fantastic group of people working for us today. Beyond blessed to have a great team. Hiring in Africa is not easy.
Alaba: What is your advice for African governments faced with the challenges of attracting the right FDI?
Chris: My advice is simply to ensure that all FDI investments are beneficial to the people and locality the funds are applied to. Africa needs funding in 3 key major areas:
- Power / Energy
I am of the mindset if FDI funding is put into any of these 3, it will be money well used and invested. I recommend governments supply investors with key factors in any of these 3 key areas. Once we have this right the ROI for any investor will be 5X to 20X easy. As Africans we are very driven and entrepreneurial. But we are lacking these 3 platforms to display our true selves to the world. Once we are giving the opportunities Africa will rise to the top.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur? Your advice for
aspiring entrepreneurs and Investors looking at Africa as an investment
Chris: I am a very proud African entrepreneur. There are not enough of us out there and I pray more people take the leap of faith and start a company and do something great for the continent. My advice is to be prepared to fall and get back up multiple times. No one finishes the race if they don’t get back up. With any business in Africa you just have to keep your eyes on the prize. Follow all the rules and ensure you have a great team of trusted people around you. For investors I say Africa is your best return on investment in the world. Nothing can get you a better return but be patient with us. We are writing our future as we go and do not have history to dictate our future. If you stay the course and stick by us, you will be dancing to the bank. Maybe not as fast as you want, but eventually when you do… those dancing shoes will be tapping and clapping all the way to the bank. We are the best bang for your buck. Africa stands strong, proud, and 100% the best investment any investor can make.
Alaba: As a responsible corporate organisation, do you have a CSR policy?
What are the key focus areas for projects?
Chris: As our CSR we focus on helping people start companies and build up an online reputation in Africa to sell abroad. We have started a platform called MarketplaceAfrica.com in conjunction with DHL to help people sell into US and UK. This is how we are giving back to society. We provide free lectures, free photo sessions, free online assistance, free pricing guides and help with people who want to get their products online and sold. We are getting Africa ready for eCommerce so ensure we build a sustainable online future for our artisans. We are beyond proud of our efforts to ensure we help our brother and sisters in Africa enjoy the benefits of selling abroad and ensuring that money they get is put to good use in developing their company and building better lives for their family.
Alaba: How do you relax and what kind of books do you read?
Chris: I love to swim and play tennis as my form of physical relaxation. I like reading books on marketing, business, and self help type books. Books that feed off experiences of others. I am currently reading High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Burchard, Brendon, Hay House. The previous 2 books were Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.and The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything.
Chris is well established successful serial entrepreneur, board advisor, mentor, and speaker with over 25 years of C level role experience in marketing, technology, startups, and corporate acquisitions. Born and raised in Nigeria, Chris founded his first venture at age 7 recycled tires with a group of friends which he ran for 2.5 years. He migrated to the U.S to attend college in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Coming from Nigeria right into the technology boom era amazed by all he saw around him and the growth of the internet. Chris decided to teach himself various programming, design and software languages which he used as a foundation to catapult himself into various high level advisory roles in fortune 500 companies by age 19 he was working on his first patent, while pursuing a BA degree in marketing. After graduating from San Jose State University, he founded and sold several companies globally, while establishing new companies in Africa, USA, Middle East and Asia. Before Chris founded his current venture, the award-winning Mall for Africa and Mall for the World platforms, Chris was the Founder and CEO of OCFX Inc a multi-million dollar globally recognized silicon valley based, award winning software agency serving and consulting clients such as SONY, LSI, Cisco, HP, EPSON, TYCO, Accenture, CapitalOne, EMC, USA Government and many others in over 60 countries. Chris has a learn as you grow, out of the box thinking philosophy that drives strategy and business growth.
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