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‘Wrong perception of Africa clouding investor’s mindset’

By Ngozi Egenuka
16 July 2022   |   4:02 am
Being the CEO of Welcome2Africa International, a trade and investment facilitation company with focus on Nigeria’s Agriculture and Maritime sectors, one would have thought that I studied Finance, Agriculture, or an investment-related course.

Bamidele Seun Owoola is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer Welcome2Africa International (W2A), a platform that facilitates and deploys investments and trade opportunities on the African continent.

With a degree in Psychology from the prestigious Essex University, United Kingdom, she is currently a Political Science student at the University of Abuja.

A business facilitator with experience facilitating local and foreign trade, investment and business alliances, Owoola has spearheaded a number of high-level investment conferences in London, Germany, Ghana, The Netherlands Luxembourg, Nigeria, and Belgium.

In this interview with NGOZI EGENUKA, she speaks about the negative perception Africa has in other continents and how to change the narrative.

Take us through your professional background?
Being the CEO of Welcome2Africa International, a trade and investment facilitation company with focus on Nigeria’s Agriculture and Maritime sectors, one would have thought that I studied Finance, Agriculture, or an investment-related course. But it will interest you to know that I studied Psychology and I am also currently a student of Political Science at the University of Abuja.

Ever since my first visit to Africa, I have been determined to change the narrative of Africa, and this led me to establish Welcome2Africa International.

Are there experiences during your growing up years that influenced your decision to embrace investment and trade?
Being born and raised in the United Kingdom, I have always been familiar with what a developed world could look like. From my visits to Africa, it became so clear that there is indeed massive investment and trade opportunities, which in turn could create wealth and reduce poverty.

Prior to visiting Africa, I had a warped perception of Africa, mainly because the media, and the educational system in the UK at the time, portrayed Africa in a negative light. It was my subsequent encounters with Nigeria-based students in the UK, during university, that changed my perception, and encouraged me to want to know more about Africa.

Tell us about your activities to facilitate trade and investment in the continent, how have you evolved?
My first visit to Africa was to Ghana. With a renewed mindset and a strong belief that every problem is an opportunity, I saw the difference that was missing, which was the knowledge that Africa would be a better place if there were more investments. And a company that will showcase the various opportunities in Africa was the call.

After a lot of research and speaking to a number of investors, Agriculture for me at the time was definitely the sector to focus on. The need to see my country develop drove my attraction to Nigeria’s Agricultural sector, knowing that we are the only ones that can develop our own country. Africa has a lot of potential and we should not be seen the way we are seen. We are a promising people with a lot of quality opportunities.

We have hosted a number of investment and trade conferences, across Africa and in cities in Europe such as London, Frankfurt, Brussels, Luxemburg, The Netherlands. We have an ongoing investment club, an accelerators club. So far, we have been able to facilitate well over $10,000,000 in trade and investment, and God willing we will do more.

What measures should Africa put in place to achieve development?
Changing the narrative is very important; providing policies that enable investments. We also need to invest more in infrastructure, as well as electricity.

At Welcome2Africa International, we do our bit by organising programmes with the goal of bringing key stakeholders to address investment and trade opportunities within Nigeria’s Agribusiness Sector. We also have an ongoing accelerators club, an investment club, and we are now working with a renowned fund manager to establish a $100,000,000 Agri-Impact fund. We also have Agri-Entry programme designed to facilitate joint ventures between foreign processors and manufacturers with Agri-producers in Nigeria.

What is your attraction to this field?
If there are more investments in the country, then there will be more businesses, more employment, and this would encourage positive and enabling regulation that suits the environment and bridge the imbalance/disconnect between the government and the business sectors.

Tackling the imbalance will reduce some of the challenges that we see in the business world and when more businesses are able to speak out, this will reduce the level of corruption. In developed countries, businesses control the narratives, but in Nigeria, the government controls the narrative.

As a business owner, what challenges do you envisage and what is your strategy to overcome them?
I see challenges as part of life; I have had to battle with the perception of the country, regulations, currency, building a team, and getting a strategy required to do all necessary to achieve the vision, objectives, and more.

As a young woman, how do you think women can become more relevant in the maritime and investment space?
By being consistent. For me, learning, positioning and persistency is key.

What’s your advice to women looking to sit at the same table as you?
My advice to women is to always show consistency, persistency, and eagerness to learn, make connections, and not give in to rejections.

Looking at your field of expertise, what would you say to women trying to overcome prejudice and stereotypes?
Always look to be a person of value and not limited to gender.

How do you unwind?
I like to see movies on Netflix. I like good food, meeting people, documentaries, and exercise for the mental benefits.