Michael Orimobi, is the Global Chairman and Managing Partner of the Nigerian office of Tokunbo Orimobi Legal Group, a global law firm listed with the International Financial Law Review (IFLR1000) as one of the world’s leading financial law firms and has the status of a “Recommended Firm” with the IFLR1000 with presence in Africa, Europe and America. In this e-Interview, Michael speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on the firm’s 40th Anniversary, running a global law firm, accomplishments, diversity and inclusion, predictions for 2019 amongst others . Excerpts.
“I am extremely grateful that all our plans to be Nigeria’s first international legal practice are unfolding.”
Q: Tell us about the history and heritage of Tokunbo Orimobi Legal Group, and how the firm has evolved?
A: Tokunbo Orimobi was established on January 12, 1979. The firm will be 40 years this week. From a small boutique law firm in Mainland Lagos founded by my late father – Mr. Tokunbo Orimobi – in 1979, the firm has grown into a full service commercial law firm with 8 offices in 5 countries today. Our total staff strength as at today is circa 50 persons globally.
Q: Few days from now, your firm will be celebrating her 40th Anniversary. How do you feel and what thoughts and emotions come to mind?
A: It is not very often you see any business survive four decades. God has been very faithful and we thank God for His mercies and grace. It has been an interesting and exciting journey for the firm. We had a vision and we stuck to that vision. I am extremely grateful that all our plans to be Nigeria’s first international legal practice are unfolding. I am happy, elated, ecstatic and proud of what we have achieved as a law firm.
Q: With offices in Africa, Europe, and America, what are some of the challenges in running a global business, and how are you leveraging opportunities?
A: Growth and expansion are very good and exciting concepts but they need to be managed wisely. Ambition coupled with Wisdom leads to Sustainable Growth and Development. If one of these traits is present and the other absent, then you might have a problem. One of the major challenges of running a global business is that you have liabilities in multiple currencies thus; the movements in currencies become quite important to your cash flow. Also, having a global business means you are having to deal with the laws, rules and regulations of different jurisdictions. With offices in five countries, we are gradually becoming a global one-stop shop for bespoke legal advisory services. Clients have started engaging us for multi-jurisdictional retainers and for solutions to their legal problems in multiple countries.
Q: What are the biggest accomplishments since inception in 1979?
A: We became Nigeria’s first international legal practice with offices in Abuja, Ibadan, Lagos, London, New York, Port Harcourt, Port Louis and Pretoria. We grew in size with circa 30 people in Nigeria and circa 50 people globally. We have made a profit as a business every year since inception with a growth of at least 10% in gross income annually. Quality clientele has increased over the last few years with over 200 active clients globally.
Q: Where does your firm stand regarding diversity and inclusion, specifically female partners?
A: We are committed as a business to diversity, equality and parity. As at today, I believe we have more female employees and most of our heads of departments are female. They are very committed and less distracted with the vicissitudes of life than their male counterparts. We have had a female partner in the firm in the past and currently have a female partner in our Mauritius Office. I look forward to having more female partners in our offices globally and even as members of the executives in our Global Executive Committee.
Q: What is the future for your firm and in what ways are you expecting growth?
A: We are constantly expanding and growing and we look forward to having 10 offices by the end of 2019. Our plan is to be a global one-stop shop for our clients. When you come to us, you have access to our multiple offices, our partners and other fee earners globally. “Global” is the new currency of law practice and we are happy to be the mastermind of this new style of legal practice in Nigeria. We have also set up a foundation with which we would run our various CSR projects. We have benefited a lot from the society and we are definitely giving back in full scale. I intend to transition from the law firm and run the foundation full time in a few years from now.
Q: Tell us your leadership style and the best piece of leadership advice you have received?
A: Tokunbo Orimobi is a knowledge bank. You come in, you learn and you are free to use the knowledge in whatever manner you want to use it. I love to train my staff, expand their legal knowledge and make them complete entrepreneurs. Our lawyers get exposed to administrative matters like business development, branding, budget, finance etc. This is the way I run the business. If you are open minded, you come in as a greenhorn and if you decide to leave the firm, you leave as an full-fledged entrepreneur. We might not be the wealthiest law firm in town, but we are certainly one of the smartest business lawyers in town.
Q: How do you feel as an African Entrepreneur?
A: Exciting times ahead for Africa. Africa is already becoming the toast of global investors. Africa is a territory of high risks and high rewards. I love taking calculated risks hence my penchant for making Africa the launchpad for all my businesses. Over the years, I have transitioned from being a commercial lawyer to being an investor with interests in various sectors of the African economy – banking, financial services, manufacturing, agriculture, commodities etc. I also sit on the Board of a decent number of African and Global businesses. This is why I love being a lawyer, it is a veritable spring board to do absolutely anything legal and beneficial. I started my career as an investment banker and this has helped a lot in transitioning me into an emerging face of Corporate Nigeria.
Q: What are your predictions for 2019?
A: As a capital markets and finance lawyer in Nigeria, I will focus my answer on the fiscal and economic matters.
Fiscal policy should loosen up in Q1 2019 due to scheduled elections in Nigeria; possibly another round of devaluation also in 2019. Due to increased spending from elections, there would be inflation which would increase the yield on bonds and thus bond prices would fall.
Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Services sectors should drive growth in 2019 as we expect some increase in disposable income and consumer spending.
Most likely, investors would be in a holding pattern trying to see what happens with the scheduled elections in Nigeria. We are hoping that the government focuses on the economy this time around rather than on only corruption. We have a massive budget we need to fund and it is time to think out of the box.
For investors with “long-term money” this is the time to raid the equities market. Most stocks are trading below book value and stock fundamentals remain resilient.
Diaspora investments: A must for the development of Africa
Image Source: rupixen.com
It has been three years since his Excellency president Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana shared some controversial thoughts on Africa’s dependence on aid or support from Europe in a decades long effort to develop the continent.
He was applauded for his bold statement and stance, but many (especially people from the Ghanaian diaspora) thought they were only words. Words they had heard many times before, but without plans or actions backing them. This might be true from their perspective, yet for the current generation of descendants from those who have been sold into slavery, it was good to hear an African leader show some backbone.
“We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves, in our country, in our region, in our continent based on whatever support that the western world or France, or the European Union can give us. It will not work. It has not worked, and it will not work”.
The Diaspora Is Linked To The Strength of Africa
President Nana Akufo-Addo’s views on European aid are commendable, even if we debate how much he will be able to back up his words with actions.
“The place of the Diaspora, the status of the people in the diaspora, of the African diaspora, is intimately linked with what happens on the continent. An Africa strong and performing, transforms your position, your status here in Europe”.
He was addressing diaspora members in France, but he could have been addressing all people of African descent worldwide. The fact is that his ability to back his words, not exclusively but to an important extent, is contingent on the support he as an African leader receives from the African diaspora.
Remittance Coming From The African Diaspora
As a member from the African diaspora, one might ask: “Are we not supporting enough?”
Ishmeal Lamptey (Source: unsplash.com)
According to the World Bank Sub Saharan Africa received an estimated 48 billion US dollars in remittance funds from the African diaspora in 2019.
A study by Comstock, Iannone, Bhatia published in March 2009 (yes, the phenomenon has been studied for some time now) shows most funds are spend on costs of sustenance (29%), medical costs (16%) and education (12%).
When looking at the order of precedence these costs take in relation to each other, we see that unforeseen costs come first, second are medical costs and the last are for education. This underlines what we all know. The fact that there is often a sense of emergency to these transfers.
The Need To Move From Remittance To Investment In Africa
So, to answer the question of the diaspora, if it is not doing enough…well no. Harsh isn’t it? The fact of the matter is that the remittance funds are our own version of aid to the continent. It is keeping our people our family from dying but it’s not helping with any development.
We, the African diaspora, need to make the transition from remittance to investment. Remittance will always be part of the financial flows, but when seen in relation with Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) from the diaspora, they shouldn’t dominate as they do at present.
Following the content of a few independent journalists, there is now ample proof that at least some in the diaspora are not only willing, but able to move to the continent and start new businesses. But this group is a very small minority. The vast majority will not be able to follow suit and we should not want them to.
The revenues of the use of their human capital is needed to generate the investment flows Africa needs. The challenge Sub Saharan Africa faces is that of aggregation of available funds originating from the diaspora. The funds are clearly there, the industries which need them for we’ve identified, but now we need to create a robust infrastructure to aggregate and get them to their destination.
Like we pointed out in our previous article about thinking sufficiently big; while we keep our eyes on the end goal, we might need to start building one stone at a time. From individual projects, to industries, to the whole economy.
When doing so, we need to keep in mind that Africa is a unique environment. The common instruments of capital allocation used in the world should certainly be our starting point, but not limit our imagination when pooling the diaspora funds and channeling them into the continent.
As we have admonished a few times now; Africa should think BIG. And that also applies to its diaspora. In the coming articles we will continue exploring the idea of “thinking big” in the African context. So please make sure to subscribe to our Newsletter. We invite you to share your thoughts with us on the matter and get a discussion going with us and our other readers.
Article By: Jerrol Cambiel, Chief Executive EU Operations Debnoch Capital
North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion
North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)
North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.
The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.
The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.
“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.
The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.
“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”
Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.
Legacy Premier Foundation Congratulates New World Trade Organisation (WTO) Head Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala © AFP via Getty Images
The entire team at Legacy Premier Foundation hereby congratulates Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as the new chief of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
With a proud heart and jubilation, we salute our quintessential woman of many feats on this global call to service.
This is a perfect example of a narrative that says “when opportunity meets preparedness success is inevitable”. Madam Director, you are an epitome of this simple quote. Over the years, you’ve carefully built a track record of competence with your records very visible in the public domain.
We are very pleased to send our warmest congratulations on your appointment as the seventh (7th) Director General of the foremost World Trade Organization, also making history as the first African and female to hold this prestigious position.
At this time where the world is battling with the Covid-19 pandemic, with a gradual return to normalcy, there are still some undulating terrains in the global trade landscape. We believe with you at the helm of affairs coupled with 25 years of diplomatic dealings and demonstrated leadership as a World Bank executive, you will saddle the affairs of the WTO and the entire global trade economy through these sensitive times.
We wish you much success in your new post and we look forward to the pleasure of working with you, in the place of making our African continent prominent in the scheme of world trades, and much more rejuvenation of hope that an African has all it takes to get to the zenith of his or her career without any equivocation.
We wish you a resounding success with legendary actions for global impact.
Signed: Dr Remi Duyile, Former VP, Bank of America and Founder, Legacy Premier Foundation