‘Not how much money, but how much value you put in things that create money’
Ronke Okeremi, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Arit of Africa Limited – a Nigerian Information Technology (IT) company with core interest in Basic Enterprise Solutions – comes from a family where her parents are both engineers. Her mother, a retired Electrical/Electronics Engineer, she said, contributed to her interest, passion and career in information technology.
In a brief chat with The Guardian, the helmsman at one of the nation’s foremost indigenous and forward looking firms with in-house skill and a set of solutions to meet diverse business goals, talked about her company and passion for innovation, the ICT Sector in Nigeria, and what government must do to truly diversify the nation’s economy.
What was the magic behind the re-positioning of your company to the path of phenomenal growth and significant strength?
There was no magic. It is completely process-driven based on vision, discipline, integrity and hard-work.
I believe Arit of Africa is one of the oldest IT firms in the industry, as we have been around for over four decades since 1974.
Arit of Africa was founded by a woman, who, together with her twin sister, were the first Nigerian female engineers. By the grace of God, today we are still standing strong and expanding our offerings, year in year out.
How can you describe your experience in the last few years in this sector, in respect to day-to-day running of this company in particular, and the industry in general?
The industry is a male-dominated industry, so I must say, it has been challenging. But I have been able to survive due to determination, passion for IT and the passion for adding value as a service provider.
For me, my mum taught me as a child never to celebrate obstacles or challenges as there is always a way around obstacles only if one can think out-of-the-box. I have never forgotten that statement to date
Can you share with us what you consider as the most trying moments in your journey to success?
Arit of Africa Limited has always been known in the past for providing hardware infrastructure and support services and a very successful one at that, having partnered with top original equipment manufacturers [OEMs] when the firm partnered with the likes of COMPAQ, TALLY GENICOM, IBM, RADIO SHACK etc.
The transition was a bit challenging when our service offerings were expanded to include providing solutions, deploying applications and working with our security software distribution channel partners across West Africa. We thank God today the rest is history
In your opinion, what other qualities do you think are required or needed for a young entrepreneur to make it to the top in Nigeria?
That is a very big and interesting question. I will say a young entrepreneur must be very smart, hardworking, focused and consistent in whatever he or she has set out to do.
The person also needs to have the ability to overcome challenges quickly, and have the mentality that there is always a way out of any obstacle, no matter what.
Moreso, an entrepreneur needs to understand that his/her validation must come from within and not from outside.
What efforts are you making to create more awareness on the inherent power for success for the sake of aspiring young Nigerians and what more can government do to increase the success rate of start-ups in Nigeria?
We have a CSR budget every year from which we sponsor small business owners and small start-ups.
However, government has a lot to do in this regard. I think the first step for government is to do honest self-education to understand ventures and initiatives that are capable of creating value for Nigeria on a long term.
Then the government should assemble a team of competent people who are disciplined enough to follow the path of the programme that have been developed.
Smart governments know that it is not how much money that you throw at things that create value; it is how much value you put in things that create money.
What other things can government do to encourage the success of the local content policy and protect indigenous companies to champion the ease of doing business in the country?
There was a policy in the public sector; I think during General Obasanjo’s regime that stipulated that the indigenous companies must be patronized on every purchase on a ratio of 50:50 in respect to foreign companies and OEMs.
This was junked due to change of guards and also complaints from the end-users that those equipment were not as durable, which I think was just a mindset thing.
However, the government could at least take a cue from this and then ensure we have effective technology transfer in the country.