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Nigeria, others must deepen investment in infrastructure to solve transportation challenges

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Azodoh

CHINEDU AZODOH is the Co-founder and CTO, Metro Africa Xpress Inc. and one of the top 20 finalists of the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, a flagship philanthropic programme established by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), in support of African entrepreneurs. In this interview with BENJAMIN ALADE, he spoke on the need for Nigeria and other African governments to invest in infrastructure, and improve regulations to solve the ever-pressing issue of mobility in the continent as well as his experience in the competition.

How is the experience like being on the top 20 finalists?
It’s been great. There’s been access to high-quality training, a great network of entrepreneurs, pitch practice programmes, and potential mentors. I have enjoyed being a part of this. The community is also amazing.

What informed your decision to contest?
ANPI programme focuses on identifying, spotlighting, and supporting African entrepreneur heroes creating impact within communities, and building a more inclusive economy for the future.

At MAX, our Vision is to Power Africa’s forward movement. We do this today by extending access to finance, thus creating wealth in communities that are underserved and under-supported.

Impact is a core part of our DNA. Applying for this programme immediately makes sense due to the alignment between what we do and the ANPI’s goals. As we continue to move forward it makes sense to belong to communities that are aligned and support what we believe in and what we do.

How would you describe the drive behind African entrepreneurship, and how ABH is helping African entrepreneurs since its inauguration?

About 22 per cent of Africa’s working-age population are starting businesses. This is the highest rate in the world. Entrepreneurship is a way of life in Africa, but the opportunities for growth and investment in African entrepreneurship are not well known.

The ABH helps open up African opportunities to the rest of the world. It helps us tell our stories to a larger audience, and has helped several companies gain more traction, market, investments, partners, and customers. For instance, Lifebank (the Nigerian company that won the first prize of the 2019 Africa’s Business Heroes competition) who provides last-mile blood delivery is a super innovative business that may not have the notoriety it has today without the impact of ABH.

As Africa enters a technology revolution, particularly within services, the pace of urbanisation will only increase, and the ever-pressing issue of mobility in Africa will increase with it. With more people comes more road users and a greater need for speedy and efficient means of transportation amid infrastructure deficits, how do you think Africa can bridge the gap with reference to Nigeria?

One way this can happen would be through regulation. The kind of regulation the government makes will directly drive how investment into infrastructure will happen.

Government needs to invest in regulation that drives open markets and enables investors to have clarity of what their path to returns is. We must make regulations that are relevant to our market and specific to our challenges.

What challenges do start-ups face growing their business?
The biggest challenge has been regulation. The question has always been, how do you regulate an industry like ours? The other challenge has been how to cultivate and unlock talent.

Has government policies been favourable to entrepreneurs?
This varies from industry and from geography. Out of Nigeria, we’ve seen policies like the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) with a lot of benefits for companies, the Pioneer status for start-ups and innovators, and more.

The move by the Ekiti State Government in Nigeria to digitize its informal transport sector has been a massive success, as this helps previously unknown informal workers gain access to health insurance, social welfare, and more. There have been less-favourable policies in different industries like bans, and questionable legislation focused more on taxation and less on growing the economy.

Logistics is not an easy enterprise, how easy was it starting up in terms of access to funding, access to market, infrastructure and a host of others?
For logistics, the sector where we operate, it has been an incredible learning experience. We’ve learned a lot about managing relationships, telling our story, and navigating buildings in Nigeria. We are not where we want to be but we’re excited about our progress.

What role do you think the government can play by way of policy to boost businesses?
Governments can make regulations that drive growth and create equal opportunities for different players, increasing competition, and delivering better economic growth. We’ve started to see this happening in Nigerian states like Ekiti and Oyo.

What is your advice for African start-ups especially Nigerians who aspire to trail your direction?
Develop a good short-term memory. Stay focused on moving forward. Focusing on things that have happened can blind you from seeing what’s right in front of you.

Perhaps you become the winner of a share of the $1.5 million prize pool, what impact would you make of the funds?
This would help open up our platform, expand our reach, and extend our services to up to another 25,000 to 40,000 drivers, providing access to insurance, welfare, and finance.


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