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‘The future of Nigeria’s luxury industry demands fresh approach’

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Cas Ojo

Born in Lagos Nigeria and raised in the United Kingdom, Cas Ojo is a seasoned professional in the luxury industry with broad experience across the consumer goods, hospitality and financial sectors. She has extensive experience facilitating collaborations between global brands such as Porsche, Harrods, Visa, the Financial Times, Roja Parfums, Bvlgari Hotel London, Bicester Village and more. With over 10 years of entrepreneurial experience, the Managing Director of the Luxury Network Nigeria is also the founder of an international luxury shopping concierge company, MyStyleWindow in London, where she has grown an impressive clientele of high-net-worth individuals in Nigeria, working with various banks including UBA and Fidelity Bank. Prior to this, she worked in Accounting and Finance with a number of high-profile companies across Central London, including Hotel Cafe Royal, Harvey Nichols and Natwest plc. In this interview with Maria Diamond, she spoke on the luxury industry, entrepreneurship, and financial sector, with emphasis on cryptocurrency in Nigeria.

Tell us about your collaborations with luxury global brands, how will these partnerships benefit the Nigerian economy?
The objective of The Luxury Network Nigeria is to boost the profile and perception of the Nigerian luxury industry on the global stage. In October 2019, we co-hosted a high-profile event with the Financial Times, at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, London, to put luxury in Nigeria on the international business stage. The purpose of the event was to shine a spotlight on Nigeria’s luxury sector, as part of a wider strategy to put Nigeria in the conversation about luxury on the international business stage. C- level executives from world-renowned companies all over the globe attended the event.

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They were all keen to engage in conversation about the Nigerian luxury industry. It was a prestigious event with fascinating discussion and insights from players in key industries, leaders and pioneering visionaries on overcoming the barriers to entry, ethical business practices, and building transparent, sustainable and value-driven business partnerships in Nigeria.

We believe the future of the industry demands a fresh approach. This approach must focus on promoting a consistent and homogeneous luxury narrative, and raising the profile of the industry; underpinned by conversation and collaboration between the key players in the industry locally, as well as dialogue with established luxury brands and service providers on the global stage. So, Nigeria is ready to take her place on the global luxury business stage.

Our aim is to assist companies to respond to the opportunities that lay ahead. Our projects include an International learning and development programme designed to facilitate high-level training led by industry professionals, executives and guest speakers from some of the world’s most prestigious luxury companies, to provide unique insight into brands, places and people that embody heritage, legacy and innovation. These groundbreaking programmes will be springboard for Nigerian businesses that wish to position themselves as major players locally or on the global stage.

What is the objective of Luxury In Nigeria (LuxIN)?
The central objective of LuxIN is to boost the image of the Nigerian luxury industry with strategic initiatives, and an innovative approach to the business of luxury, underpinned by in-depth knowledge of Nigerian culture and people. Nigerians are lovers of luxury and the idea is to facilitate access to the best products, services and experiences here in Nigeria and internationally.

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Having been in the luxury and finance sector, what’s your take on cryptocurrency, it’s acceptance in Nigeria and impact?
I have personally been fascinated with the proliferation of cryptocurrency in Nigeria to date, so, I’m happy to say a few words on this subject. As we know, Cryptocurrency in a nutshell is virtual money, or a type of digital currency derived from various cryptographic computations that allow users to transact or exchange value for goods and services.

In recent years, cryptocurrency has grown in popularity in Nigeria as a way of securing investments, making payments, leveraging on trending technologies, and trading online as a means of income. In fact, at the end of 2020, reports from various international organisations such as Reuters, the BBC and others, tell us more cryptocurrency trading goes on in Nigeria than almost anywhere else in the world. Due to the nature and unique characteristics of cryptocurrency, especially the decentralised nature of its framework, block chain that makes it independent of, and theoretically immune to a traditional centralised authority such as CBN system, and the associated government control and interference.

However, with the increasing synergism between finance and technology, it’s highly likely the paradigm shift of acceptance and trust in the crypto lifestyle will see steady growth both in Nigeria and the wider African market if it is not abused.

NairaEx seem to be the largest bitcoin exchange in Nigeria, what’s responsible for that?
To my knowledge, it is a Bitcoin exchange that enables transactions of various cryptocurrencies; with our local currency and local bank accounts. The popularity and acceptance of NairaEx and the growth of its operations seems to me as proof that Nigerians are fast adopting cryptocurrency as an authentic alternative to traditional currencies.

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CBN, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), alongside anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria recently raised concern on cryptocurrency. What are the measures being put in place to avoid the abuse of cryptocurrency?
Due to the nature of cryptocurrency, the Nigerian regulators have been very intentional about discouraging the adoption of cryptocurrency amongst the Nigerian populace. The regulators emphasise the pseudonymous nature of cryptocurrency as a cause for concern due to how neither transactions nor accounts are connected to real-world identities. Its irreversible nature, such that after confirmation, a transaction cannot be reversed, is also a concern; these are the dangers.

Consequently, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instructed all banks and other financial institutions to identify individuals or entities that transact in cryptocurrency or operate cryptocurrency exchanges and close their accounts, which some would argue is in direct conflict and undermines the very definition and nature of cryptocurrency.

It seems young people are more interested in cryptocurrency in Nigeria?
I think because the younger Nigerians are very engaged on the global scene and are exposed to real world data and information. From my personal observations, Millennials, especially Generation Z are fascinated and excited about the idea of a virtual currency over the traditional routine of cash-in-the-bank experience. They perceive the cryptocurrency train as a tool that can be harnessed and used as a means of income that provides a gateway to better lifestyle and of course more purchasing power.

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