Tim Akano: Bridging digital gap, gatalysing youth empowerment
Tim Akano is the Founder and Managing Director of New Horizons Nigeria, a franchise holder of the US-based New Horizons International – the world’s number one ICT training institution.
Reputed for its global impact, New Horizons International has offices in 85 countries, with a daily students’ attendance of over four million and the first choice of the top Fortune 500 companies for most of their training needs.
In Nigeria, Akano has been flying the flag of New Horizon with utmost distinction, moving from one level of growth to another and from region to region.
Today, without mincing word, New Horizons is present in more than 30 Nigerian universities, helping to train students in computing, which has further expanded the information technology ecosystem in the country.
The company opened its first office in Nigeria on April 2, 2005 in Lagos with a staff strength of five and less than 10 students. In a period of 18 years, the company has emerged as the largest ICT training institution in Nigeria with over 400 ICT professionals on its payroll and rolling out over 100,000 candidates yearly in 15 partnering universities and 100 High Schools.
This is a fulfillment of a great desire for Akano, who considered other businesses people go into to make money and chose ICT development where he could add value. His company pioneered the integration of ICT certification-based training into both the high school and university educational curricula in Nigeria. New Horizons goes to schools and sets up IT laboratories, making ICT as a part of the academic programme as the science laboratories.
This was a singular action that has bridged the gap between the high demand for good quality ICT professional in the business world and the non-ICT literate school leavers being rolled out. With New Horizons’ Nigeria’s ICT certification-based training, universities began to produce graduates, who combine their academic qualifications with at least four international ICT certifications before graduation.
The Man, Tim!
AKANO was born on April 2, 1963 in the town of Oluponna, Aiyedire local council of Osun State. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo (then University of Ife), where he studied from 1983 to 1987 and was awarded a B.Sc. (Hons) in International Relations. He is also an alumnus of Lagos Business School (2002), WITS University, Johannesburg, South Africa (2003), and International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Geneva, Switzerland (2005).
For close to two decades, he worked with national and multinational corporations like Unilever (1987-1988), DEBIS Computers (1988-1990), Dunlop (1990-1995), and Nigerian Bottling Company, NBC (1996-2005) in multiple positions across Marketing, Sales, Strategic Planning, Media Relations, Supply Chain Management, Production and General Management.
Within this period, he quickly rose through the ranks from being a commercial attache to becoming a Senior Executive Manager for NBC and won several awards in the process. As an NBC Plant Manager in Ilorin, he won the 2001 North America & West Africa Division President’s Award in the Silver category, and was responsible for generating sales revenue of over N30b for NBC Lagos/North Division. He was selected as one of Coca-Cola’s 50 ‘Future world leaders.’
After close to two decades of his successful working career and rising to high-profile positions, Akano decided to take a gamble and quit his job in 2005 to set up New Horizons Nigeria, an IT training institute. The idea for New Horizons was spurred by his discovery of the ICT knowledge gap in Nigeria, plus the desire to bridge the digital gap between Africa and the developed nations.
The New Horizon boss is a cyber security enthusiast and is the pioneer of the ‘World Cyber Security Conference,’ the first African Cybersecurity conference platform built to discuss issues affecting the security of Nigeria and Africa with international experts.
The 2012 edition of the conference, organised in partnership with the Nigeria Defence Headquarters (DHQ), contributed to the appointment of Dame Patience Jonathan, former First Lady of Nigeria as the ITU Impact Champion on Child Online Protection (COP). It also led to the decision of ITU-IMPACT to select Nigeria as the Regional Centre for Cyber Security in Africa. The world Cyber security conference has attracted world leaders to Nigeria like the former Prime Minister of Israel and the most decorated Israeli soldier of all time, Mr. Ehud Barak, who was the Guest Speaker at the 2014 edition that was held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
He possesses numerous memberships from national and global institutions like the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN), Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM), Institute of Management Consultants and Courier, Logistics and Management Institute. He serves on the Advisory board of the Nigerian Association of Computer Science Students (NACOSS).
AS a philanthropist, Akano has dedicated his life, resources and energy to youth development, empowerment and transformation of his community and Africa in general. He has mentored many young people that have gone ahead to work in major industries across the world, some of which are now successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, USA. He is an active financial member of Oluponna Development Association (ODA), a community development association domiciled in his hometown in Osun State.
In line with his philanthropic mandate, he is also the founder of One Africa Initiatives (OAI), an NGO fostering the integration between continental Africans and Africans in the diaspora, to bring about a positive transformation of the continent.
He is also the founder of FABAAW, a mentoring platform for young people from over 50 African countries and around the world offering career coaching, investment guidance, leadership training, governance and policy-making, good citizenship, skill acquisition programs and many others.
Another of Akano’s many titles is that of writer and author. He has published hard-hitting, extensive articles across topics in politics, economics, culture, mental health and more. His weekly long-form articles and Everyday Greatness Guide (EGG) are widely circulated, with a readership of over a million worldwide.
Akano has built a massive ICT training capacity in Nigeria, having expanded rapidly from a two-classroom training company with 10 students to over 600 classrooms of 50,000 students across Nigeria with branches in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Ogun State, Delta State, Kogi State and Benue State, among others. His great accomplishments in ICT development in Nigeria are evidenced by a long list of local and international awards.
Apostle Of Regional Investment, Agricultural Diversification
SCHOLARLY Akano believes strongly that Nigeria and indeed Africa needs investment and agricultural diversification. As such, he has on several occasions called on African leaders to harp on agricultural investment and diversification.
According to him, if Africa doesn’t rise up to its responsibilities, China could launch her into the second era of slave trade as the Asian country has consistently been infiltrating the region’s natural resources especially precious stones and agriculture in order to develop its own economy.
On agriculture, he noted that Ghana and Ivory Coast control 60 per cent of the world’s total production of cocoa beans, but China’s recent export of its first cocoa to Belgium should raise concern for the continent. He therefore harped on the importance of youths developing their mindset and strive to do better for the nation and self.
He added that to stand from a position of strength, African youths should build a strong network of businesses as Africa would have to be united economically first for growth of the continent. According to Akano, Information Technology (IT) is an uncharted territory, especially regarding the fourth industrial revolution. He said with the right levels of commitment and hardwork, Africans could dominate the space.
He advised youths to change their orientation on the meaning of success and pay the price for greatness.
“To go far in life, you must pay the price. Don’t look for quick success but a lasting one because the deeper your roots, the more difficult it becomes to eliminate you. And this depth is gotten through exposure to knowledge. Our brain capacity is as big as that of the whites, but the missing link is in the development of our mindset.”
He added that instead of blaming the leaders, efforts should be made towards individual mindset development. “If you decide to be focused in achieving your goals, nothing can stop you. What has been affecting us is that we have small ambition, and believe the lies the western world has sold to us of incapability. The danger with that is that we would not go the extra mile,” Akano said.
Advice For Nigeria
As a believer in the Nigerian project, the New Horizons boss said Nigeria should reposition itself as Africa’s business Hub. To that extent, Lagos State government should be encouraged to build its proposed Airport in Lekki to international standard so that it can serve the African market.
Secondly, he said Britain is single and searching for a new partner after fantastically but foolishly separating from the European Union recently. “She has her eyes on China and Africa. We have a good chance of marrying Britain cheap on our own terms if we get our acts together. England needs the African market more than any other thing now. Three, Japan is on the edge – it does not want US to throw her under the bus. Japan has a budget of $100 billion to invest in Africa and other developing countries. We should allow Britain and Japan to have access to the Federal government Free Trade Zone in Lekki, since the Chinese controls the Lagos Lekki Free Trade Zone.
“In the interim, Nigeria needs urgent blood transfusion. The blood level is too low for comfort. This is why the federal government should move fast and either borrow or sell the refineries/other unproductive assets or do oil-for-cash deal at a competitive and transparent pricing to generate immediate cash to stop the nation from slipping into coma.”
His Many Awards
IN his 60 years on earth, Akano has endeared himself to so many developmental strides, which have earned him both local and international global recognitions. Some of these include Nigerian Icon of Youth Empowerment by the Federal Government of Nigeria through NYSC in 2022; Award of Excellence for the successful execution of 2014 World Cyber Security Conference by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the office of the First Lady of Nigeria in 2014; Award of Excellence by Chief of Defence Staff by Defence Headquarters in 2012; Military, Police and Paramilitary Special Recognition Award for contributions to Inter-Agency Unity by Military, Police and Paramilitary Public Relations Officers Forum in 2012; Fellow, Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) 2021; Fellow: Courier, Logistics & Management Institute by Courier, Logistics and Management Institute (CLMI) 2019; Fellow Institute of Management Consultants (IMS) 2018; Fellow Institute of Information Management (IIM) 2022; Top 50 Drivers of change by Standard Newspaper 2009;Top 10 ICT Professional (Distinguished Alumni Award) Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association (Lagos Branch) 2009; Top 10 Champions of Youth Empowerment by Top 10 magazine in 2022.
Others are Distinguished TOP 50 Osun State Indigenes Award by Nigerian Tribune Newspapers 2011; Leader in ICT Skills Development by West African Top 50 2008; Top 15 Innovative Techno-preneurs in 2008 by Tell Magazine 2008; Top 30 Living Legends of Osun State by the State of Osun 2021, among many others.