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Ruby Jubilee: Interview With Michael Orimobi, Global Chairman, Tokunbo Orimobi Legal Group

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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.

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aYo Holdings, African micro-insurer breaks 10 million mark; eyes further growth

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aYo Holdings CEO Marius Botha (Source: aYo)

African micro-insurance fintech aYo Holdings, a joint venture between telecommunications giant MTN and financial services group Momentum Metropolitan Holdings (MMH), has broken through the 10 million customer mark in under four years after starting operations – and new CEO Marius Botha says the milestone is set to trigger a period of further growth.

aYo launched in Uganda in January 2017, and has since started operations in Ghana and Zambia with plans to expand into Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria in the new year. aYo provides fast, convenient, easy to use hospital and life cover directly to a user’s mobile phone, and has already paid in excess of $1 million in claims.

This rapid expansion has seen the company evolve into a major player in the African micro-insurance market, effectively by adopting a ‘pay as you go’ insurance model, where its policyholders have the flexibility that allows them to have the cover they need at any given time.

Botha says while there has always been a ‘definite demand’ from African consumers, the challenge was being able to find the right technology and mechanism to deliver what is essentially a high-volume, low-margin product, where not all clients are paying or active at any given time, but buy cover as and when they need it.

“The partnership with MTN has really been the key that unlocked the ability to deliver this product. As a result, millions of Africans have access to and are engaging with life insurance for the first time – and we cannot underestimate what this means to them in terms of driving financial inclusion,” said Botha.

While mobile networks provide the ideal delivery mechanism for the spread of micro-insurance across the continent, Botha says the company’s growth has also depended on understanding the nuances of each market, and creating products that cater for the specific needs of the target market.

“The big thing about micro-insurance is that it protects those who need it the most. People with low income need insurance even more than those with higher incomes, because they are more vulnerable and have a smaller cushion of resources to draw upon in times of need,” said Botha.

Many clients use the payouts from their aYo policies to not only pay for their hospital bills, but use the balance to buy food or schoolbooks, so they can send their children back to school. One client’s glasses were damaged in an accident, leaving him incapacitated and unable to work, as he is legally blind. His cover paid his hospital bill and allowed him to buy new glasses, which allowed him to continue providing for his family.

“There’s no doubt that the impact of micro-insurance is transformative, as it shields millions of Africans from the economic shocks that would otherwise keep them locked into an endless cycle of poverty,” said Botha.

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Thabo Mashegoane Appointed As Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA)

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Thabo Mashegoane

The President and Board Chairperson of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), Thabo Mashegoane, has been elected as Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA).

Formerly the Vice-Chairman of AfICTA, he succeeds Engr. Hossam Elgamal from Egypt to become the third Chairman. AfICTA, a private sector-led alliance of ICT Associations, multinational corporations, companies, organisations and individuals in the ICT sector in Africa, aims to fulfil the promise of the digital age for everyone in Africa by encouraging dialogue and fostering ICT enabled development.

During an electronic election at the AfICTA Annual General Meeting on 25 November, Mashegoane was elected chair, while IITPSA Past President and Non-Executive Director Ulandi Exner was also elected AfICTA Vice-Chair for Southern Africa.

The election named the following board members and officers: Paul Rowney, Deputy Chair; Opeyemi Onifade, Treasurer; Dr. Waudo Siganga, Vice-Chair for East Africa; Engr. Assem Wahby, Vice-Chair, North Africa; Adetola Sogbesan, Vice-Chair, West Africa; and Eric Sindeu, Vice-Chair, Central Africa.  

Thanking his predecessors for their service and leadership in the Alliance to date, Mashegoane noted that AfICTA was an organisation with a vast network, impact on critical policies, and reputation that took years and hard work to build. “Mine is to take the baton and continue where the honourable Engr. Hossam Elgamal has taken this organisation to. Of importance is the platform to enable African countries to collaborate and share best practices and lessons learnt with an objective of not leaving anyone behind in development. This is a vision we will continue to uphold. We stand in a critical position to influence attainment of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 through ICT.”

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Speaking after the election, Mashegoane said digital inclusion and ICT-enabled development was also a key mission for the IITPSA in South Africa.  “The IITPSA shares the vision and ethos of AfICTA. IITPSA has also stated that we need to step up efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, among other things, seeks to bridge the digital divide and harness technology to address major global challenges such as poverty, climate change and conflict, we need to work harder. At IITPSA, we believe this means we have to collaborate across industries, across countries, to deploy the benefits of ICTs for the good of all,” he said.

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Baller Syndicate: Building Europe’s First Elite Athlete Angel Syndicate And Exploring Africa

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Baller Syndate Founders – Koen Bosma (r) and Jason Esseboom (l) (Source: Baller Syndicate)

Baller Syndicate is an exclusive network of elite athletes that are looking to get into tech investing. An initiative by Koen Bosma and Jason Esseboom, two former athletes who were better at startups than playing football. They played together in a youth academy, and Koen even turned pro. The founders crossed paths again in the world of startups and innovation. Koen and Jason share a passion for sports, entrepreneurship, and investments. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, they talked about how they are positioning elite athletes to become successful tech investors, through their educational like-minded community and building bridges between Europe and Africa.

Over the past few years, they have worked with hundreds of startups and invested in 20+. Most of those startups are trying to break into the sports-, health-, and entertainment industry. During this time, Koen and Jason had the privilege of working closely with founders, which gave them great insights and a first-row seat to startups’ biggest pain point.

Startups in the sports-, health, and entertainment industries have a disproportionate mismatch with angels that can truly accelerate their journey, compared to startups in other industries.

When Koen and Jason looked closely, they spotted a trend in the USA of elite athletes making tech investments cool and accessible to the world. Athletes like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Serena Williams are building their own family offices, venture funds, becoming LP’s or making direct or syndicated angel investments. So they asked themselves the question: why is this not happening in the rest of the world?

This led to starting Baller Syndicate.

Alaba: So what does Baller Syndicate do?

Koen: Our vision is to unlock athletes’ capabilities as accelerators for the growth of startups. When we started having conversations with active-, and retired athletes about their post-career activities, we truly learned a lot. Simply mentioning the term “investment” to an athlete in Europe turns all signals to red and makes their alarm bells go off! We could hear them thinking: “are these guys trying to take my money!?.

The interesting thing, however, was that when we took the conversations a layer deeper, we learned athletes get approached for investment opportunities quite regularly, but always ‘through a guy.’ When athletes don’t fully understand the concept, the default is to rely on someone they trust.”

We learned that athletes “solve” their lack of knowledge about investment opportunities by putting their trust in a person they know well.

Baller Syndicate’s goal is to decrease the knowledge gap by educating athletes with understandable content. Education is liberation, and that’s how they will help athletes change the narrative!

Alaba: Tell me, how does your education work with the tight schedules athletes have?

Jason: Overall, our education consists of two parts. We noticed that there is so much good content out there, but navigating it can be challenging or even overwhelming. Our vision towards education is to aggregate the most relevant content and translate it into a language athletes understand. We don’t see ourselves as professors but as translators.

Our first approach is to make an online course with actionable and engaging videos. This is the theoretical part. For the second part, we interview athletes that are active as investors or entrepreneurs to provide valuable case studies. Providing the theory is necessary because if we’d just share case studies, athletes miss foundational knowledge. To make learning fun and engaging, we chose to explain investments through sports analogies, using stories all athletes can relate to. Everything we offer is online, so the athletes determine when and where they want to learn.

Of course, we dream of a big live event where we connect the worlds of startups and athlete investors, but that’s not happening in a world governed by a pandemic.

In our way of working, we are lean startup evangelists at our core. This means we start with something, test it, and adjust based on the feedback. We test our educational program with a small group of selected athletes and truly learn if our translations resonate with them. After testing, we know where we need to improve to move forward and help more athletes.

Regarding the content of our education, we have three principles:

  1. We skip jargon or break it down
  2. We logically structure content, tested by elite athletes
  3. We facilitate group learning through our community

We believe this structure puts athletes at an advantage to learn how they can make independent investment decisions.”

Alaba: How do you make money?

Koen: Right now, we don’t… We invest our time and money to make Baller Syndicate into something valuable for athletes and startups. The sportstech ecosystem really needs to grow, and we believe we need to give first and hopefully get something in return later. Baller Syndicate is our way of building the sportstech ecosystem. Our educational platform will run as a foundation, where athletes pay a small fee as a yearly contribution. Secondly, we are attracting corporate sponsors that have a similar vision as ours, to pitch in a bit.

Baller Syndicate operates as a typical angel syndicate for athletes who have learned they wish to go into tech investments. In a syndicate, athletes pool money and invest together in startups they select themselves. We facilitate athletes by finding the right startups and guiding athletes throughout investing in those startups.

Our business model is based on carried interest, which means we only make a buck when their athletes make profits. But we have some strict “rules” for our members to start with tech investments.

If the athletes don’t know how to activate an investment, there is just waste. So before any tech investment through the Baller Syndicate platform, we ask these five questions below:

  1. Does the startup have something special that fits the profile of our members?
  2. Can we add value beyond money (and the obvious Twitter post)?
  3. Are multiple athletes on board?
  4. Do the interested athletes know they need to create a balanced portfolio of startups and not ‘bet’ on 1 or 2?
  5. Is there a lead investor (in case of large investment rounds)?

There are many other factors to consider, but we ask these vital questions to help elite athletes de-risk their startup investments. Our goal for 2020 is simple: to build our educational content and test it with a selected group of 10 athletes. We are currently primarily working with footballers, but there are also professional golf- and tennis players.

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Jason: Building this syndicate is as tough as it gets, but we are up for the challenge. We are motivated to the core to realize our big vision: unlocking athlete potential as accelerators for startups’ growth. We have started exploring athlete investing in Europe, and now we are eager to learn how athletes in other continents are approaching their new career after sports.

Through Baller Syndicate, we are building a diverse community of like-minded athletes. In our community, athletes are diverse in their sport, country, or background. They are alike when it comes to their ambition, mentality, and work ethic. Hopefully, this interview will open the doors for us to get in touch with African athletes and build bridges between Europe and Africa.

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