Olugbenga Ogunbowale is a tech enthusiast, an entrepreneur, and the founder of Epower NG. He has won many international awards including the recent WBAF International Partner Award. In this interview by Kingsley Alumona, he speaks about his entrepreneurial and leadership journey, the WBAF award, and his recent work.
How would you define yourself? And, what inspired your voyage into leadership and entrepreneurial ventures?
I’m a social entrepreneur and a communications executive, and the founder of Epower.ng—a digital agency transforming ambitious brands through websites and apps. I’m also the co-founder of TOES, an NGO working to end orphan poverty in Africa.
While in primary school, Abacha was the Head of State. In the midst of so much uncertainty and economic pain, my parents tried their hands at different businesses. They explored fish farming, poultry farming and even shoe making. Looking back now, I can easily trace my entrepreneurial genes to my parents.
You were recently appointed an International Partner for Nigeria by the World Business Angels Investment Forum (WBAF). Briefly tell us about WBAF.
As an affiliated partner of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI), WBAF promotes access to finance for businesses from start-up to scale-up, with the goal of creating more jobs and social justice worldwide.
I was appointed as an International Partner representing Nigeria in the Grand Assembly of WBAF in recognition of my influence in global early-stage investment markets—specifically, my contribution to the growth of SMEs in Nigeria.
What are the advantages of the inclusion of Nigeria to the WBAF? How would you rate investment opportunities in President Buhari’s government?
Every day, decisions are made about financial inclusion by major players in the corridors of power. These decisions have huge ramifications for SMEs, start-ups and unemployed youth. The inclusion of Nigeria to the WBAF means Nigeria has a voice in the Grand Assembly of WBAF.
Nigeria was ranked 131 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 Index. According to the Index, the country moved up 15 places from 146 in 2019. So, there’s some progress. But it’s not enough. Paystack’s $200 million exit shows Nigeria is still an exciting place to invest, but government must invest heavily in providing stable power, good roads, security, and also in making it easier to get credit.
In what ways would you personally benefit from the WBAF appointment?
WBAF world leaders are a diverse group of top global innovators and disruptors who collaborate to address key issues. Members of WBAF include heavyweights like Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, president of Croatia, UK trade minister, and the co-founder of Starbucks. WBAF is active in 115 countries and there’re only 219 international partners in the world. So, being selected by WBAF is a big deal.
As an international partner, I’ll engage with WBAF to expand its mission and contribute to its community. It’s a platform to advocate for more financial inclusion in Nigeria, and an opportunity for me to network and collaborate with the movers and shakers of our time to create jobs and grow businesses.
As a younger entrepreneur with many international awards to his credit, do you have any entrepreneurial/leadership programmes for young people?
To help young people discover their purpose, I co-founded a leadership club called Pacesetters Leadership Club with Olugbenga Asaolu. Since 2016, we’ve inspired over 200 young leaders who’ve launched businesses, landed their dream jobs or secured fully-funded scholarships to study abroad.
I also organise a summit each year called ‘Spectator to Spectacular’. It’s my way of inspiring young Nigerians, as I bring together successful young leaders to tell the story of how they made it. Some of the participants now hold leadership positions; others have made tremendous progress in their careers. Epower has trained over 3,000 youths in digital skills through our work with brands like Facebook and Google.
What project are you currently working on? And, where do you see yourself five years from now?
Epower recently launched a new start-up called Grant Master. Grant Master is working to make application for funding very easy. We match organisations with professional grant writers that can help them achieve their goals of finding equity-free and interest-free funding. In October alone, our grant writers won $15,000 for three clients. We’ve onboarded writers who’ve won a total of $4.5 million in grants. We’re the only West African start-up to make it to the finals of the Global Investment Summit and my pitch was the best out of 18 global finalists from six continents. Grant Master won $250,000 in perks from brands like Google and Amazon.
In five years, I see myself driving the growth of SMEs across Africa through ICT and policy. I see myself lifting more people, especially child orphans in Africa, out of extreme poverty.
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