In Conversation with Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede

January 26, 2024

Today's guest is Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Chairman of Coronation Capital and former Group MD and CEO of Access Bank.

Aigboje is one of the most successful and esteemed businesspeople on the continent. In 2002, he led the acquisition of Access Bank, which under his 11-year leadership grew into the largest bank in Nigeria and one of the largest in Africa.

This wide-ranging discussion with the Chairman took place during the 2023 UN General Assembly in New York at an event hosted by the early-stage VC fund Microtraction, in which we were joined in conversation with Microtraction's Founding Partner, Kwamena Afful.

00:00 - Intro
02:59 - Banks as vehicles for economic empowerment
06:28 - Africa's credit gap
13:08 - Aigboje's view on transition
16:50 - The infrastructure for Africa's comparative advantages
19:22 - Africa's risk premium
25:12 - "Africa will solve its problems when it starts producing in Africa"
29:54 - Building digital economies
32:09 - One African currency?
38:21 - Engendering Africa's potential

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Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: I think that the ball is very much in Africa's court. One of the things that I tell governments in Africa is, look, our most powerful commodities are people. Weaponize them.

Justin Norman: That's Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, formerly the Group Managing Director and CEO of Access Bank. 

Justin Norman: What are things that banks are particularly well-suited to solve?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: I used to think that banks would be the basis of that solution. I haven't actually changed my mind.

Justin Norman: We hear the stats from the IFC, for example, that there's this huge multi-hundred billion dollar credit gap in Africa.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: For 30 years, as a banker, I tried to solve this problem and I couldn't. But as a backer of technology ventures, we solved it.

Justin Norman: What are we looking at from the founder perspective?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Pragmatically, my view is that it's a changing world. Find what plays to your advantage. I think that's our low-hanging fruit. And it's not that easy because if it was...

Justin Norman: This episode of The Flip is sponsored by Onafriq, formerly MFS Africa. Onafriq is the leading real-time payments network for Africa, which connects over 500 million mobile wallets across over 1,300 cross-border corridors and in over 40 countries across the African continent. Throughout the season, we'll hear from the Onafriq team about their work to create a borderless world. In this episode, we're joined by Nika Naghavi, Onafriq's Group Head of Growth, to talk about the opportunity for cross-border transactions across the African continent.

Nika Naghavi: We started in 2010. And initially, we were focusing on the immediate pain point that we saw in the mobile money industry, which was fragmentation and lack of interoperability across borders between these different mobile money services. And since then, we've played a key role as an ecosystem enabler and orchestrator. Today, if you are a business or a consumer, through a single API connection, you can send money or get paid across the continent through our hub and our network of networks. If you look at migration trends, you see a lot of South to South migration. And the opportunity in intra-African remittances is quite fruitful. We all who are in this space rely on the data from World Bank. And whilst it's a great resource, it has some certain shortcomings, especially when it comes to the volume of transactions between different African countries. We know that what World Bank reports is only formal remittances, and what in reality happens is five to ten times more than that.

Justin Norman: Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede is one of the most successful business people on the African continent. In 2002, he stepped down as executive director of GT Bank to lead the acquisition of Access Bank, which under his 11-year leadership grew into the largest bank in Nigeria and one of the largest banks in Africa. This wide-ranging discussion with the chairman took place during the 2023 UN General Assembly in New York at an event co-hosted by the early-stage VC fund Microtraction, in which we were joined in conversation with Microtraction's founding partner, Kwamena Afful.

Justin Norman: You've talked about banks as vehicles for economic empowerment. I want to start just with a conversation about, in the context of economic empowerment, what are things that banks are particularly well-suited to solve? And then we can talk about the things that they're not well-suited to solve afterwards.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: So, I was very provocative when I was asked to introduce myself. And I said this thing about spent the first half of my life trying to accumulate wealth. So, it's very important for us to understand the African demographic and the youth demographic. So, the prevailing feeling amongst young people, not just young people now, even when I was young, okay even... I think we were probably the last generation to enjoy what I would call good economic governance. And I'm 57. And so that tells you that for something like 35, 40 years, broadly, 54 African countries have been challenged by poor economic governance at the public sector level. So, this does something for the African young man or woman. They feel very frustrated. And they kind of feel, I've got to solve my problems myself. It drives them to be very educated, to be very in certain... On the average, the typical African youth is very ambitious, could be described as aggressive. You can see them in the classrooms across the world and so on.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: And so Africa is in a sense, very much like Hong Kong, the New York economy. Even if it's not working at the government level, we will solve our own problems. So we have gig, hustle economies, I like to call them the runs economy in Nigeria, where people are just doing things to make sure that they earn and they break this economic seal. So, that's the context. And probably, for your diaspora, I don't know if I'm hitting the right points. It's a lot of money of economic research that I'm kind of summarizing in a few minutes. So, that's the context. Now, it's a great thing to know that if you can find solutions for these people, heavy earners, truly good credit, they will use your services. I used to think that, conditioned by the fact that you needed a license to offer basically the solutions, and that license in the time that I got into financial services was a banking license, I used to think that banks would be the basis of that solution. I haven't actually changed my mind. If the banks are run in the right way and with the right mindset. So think of, and we're just talking financial services, but I think this kind of applies to many things. I like to think about technology opportunities in Africa from this perspective.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: If you have a great team that can execute on a meaningful solution, they should be able to grow to a million customers in a year. And if they're very strong, they should be able to grow to 10 million customers in five, 10 years. And then the challenge is, for some of them, they can go from 10 to 100 million in another 10 years. So, you can get a business going from zero to 100 million customers in 20 years. That's kind of like the Access Bank story we're talking. And I guess maybe some of your investments may actually experience that type of growth.

Justin Norman: So, you talked about credit though. So maybe we can zoom in a little bit because. I think we hear the stats from the IFC for example, that there's this huge multi-hundred billion dollar credit gap in Africa. And if the banks aren't able to or willing to address this credit gap then smaller players, the venture-back startups are trying to address that. So, can we talk about credit in particular, and then I'll ask for Kwamena's perspective from a startup perspective, but why is credit such a hard problem to address in these markets?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: So typically, countries address the need for credit, actually from a monetary policy standpoint. So, it's something that's very top down, very government focused because good credit stimulates economies. But I've told you that we don't have good economic governance. So, that's the principle reason why across Africa credit is very hard to come by. In Nigeria, for example, you have a population well over 200 million people and we've got officially, but I think now we've moved from 50,000 mortgages to maybe a hundred thousand mortgages in the whole country. It then tells you that these are huge opportunities to unlock value if you're thinking about credit. I'll give you an example, if you think about supply chain finance, which is simply, you look at a sector, let's pick something very easy. Let's think about MTN.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: So, MTN is in the business of voice data and a few other things now, alright? And it's a telecoms company that has a presence across quite a few countries in Africa, including Nigeria. And so MTN also has a few competitors, but the sector, the telecom sector has gone from 2% contribution to GDP now to about 15% or 16% over 20 years. That's major half a trillion dollar economy. So, that's a lot. I would say that in that sector, if you look at the value chain, the SMEs in that sector that are providing services to support that sector would at least number some 200,000 SMEs, healthy sector doing well and so on. What percent of those SMEs do you think have access to credit?

Justin Norman: Low. Like 1%, 2%.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Maybe 3%. Okay. So, you've got well over 90 something thousand of these SMEs, alright? That will continue to exist, will continue to grow, and they don't have access to credit even within, I'm talking access to 90 day, 180 day type revolving credit. So, why can't the bank solve that problem? Because the policy context is very weak. So, what typically leapfrog's bad economic policy technology. And that's why he used the term leapfrogging. So, for 30 years as a banker, I tried to solve this problem, and I couldn't, okay? But as a backer of technology ventures, we solved it. But to be honest, it wasn't even, we didn't invent anything. We just looked at how India solved their problem and then we applied the problem to Nigeria and then we're gonna roll it out across Africa. So, let me tell you how it works.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Simply put, you create a registry where MTN or the suppliers MTN, these 90,000 people in this value chain can register the invoices of work done within the value chain, okay? And this is digitally registered, and we verify that this invoice has been performed on. Not accepted, just performed on. And all of this happens in seconds. And so, you now want credit, and this marketplace would basically make available to investors. Investors could be you, I, okay? The opportunity to bid or to finance this invoice. And all of this happens in seconds. And then you bid and you win and you're financing this invoice at maybe 16%. And ordinarily this is an SME that doesn't have access to credit at all, and when they have access to credit will probably be financed at 40%.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: But because of the bidding process, you're bringing down the cost of credit. And then the account gets credited and when it's due for payment, you get money from MTN and you settle the investor. So, we believe that this solution in three years time will probably have least, this platform rather, we'll probably have low end 100,000 SMEs probably if we're successful, a million SMEs. And by the way, would've created a new asset class that is almost as safe as bank commercial paper, that millions of Africans, including those in the diaspora can bid up. So, this is a kind of credit opportunity that is coming. That company which we started with him, he knows about the company, with an investment of $10 million, it's now valued at about $100 million, two years old, and I think could be a unicorn. So, that's an example of a credit.

Justin Norman: Please do throw out questions if...

Audience: Just a couple of questions. Other side of Manhattan, there's propositions that in the continent and countries, there's so much debt crisis. So, structurally there's all this money owed backed by US currency. And so it would be great to understand the solution, which is very empowering coming from people within community having that agency. But how does that juxtapose be the structural issue that so much debt currently exists? What we haven't talked about here, which is structural as well, the negative threat as we're going down a cliff, right, climate change and the continent is most impacted by the impacts of climate change, right? So all these things have to be compressed.  But, there is the opportunity side linked to the leapfrogging technologies of a green industrialization plan such as the cobalt and the lithium, and actually creating the manufacturing. And to get that kind of scale of infrastructure, that's not at a consumer level, that's bringing financial systems to that. So, it just would be great to understand changing some of the structural dynamics that exist now.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Let me start from my view on transition, just generally. If you look at poverty and across the world and you define poverty as say, $1.2 a day, and so those who are under $1.2 a day in earnings. And the world has done a great job in basically compressing that number to 600 million people across the world. Unfortunately, 90% of those people are in Africa. And he just told you that our population numbers in Africa are 1.6 billion, correct? So, that's one third of Africa accounts for 90% of the world's extreme poor. Now, if you push that up a little and you go another 500 million people, alright? Then you're in the poor to what we call this zone where you move from almost middle class to poverty, just depending on how good the government's policies around inflation are.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: From a 1.1 billion, almost poor people are still a good number, depending on what type of business you're giving them. So, for instance, if you're giving them water, if you're giving them data, if you're giving them... They will still use voice communication. There are certain businesses that still make money even if there's a lot of poverty around you. So, my view about transition generally is that I've got to make these poor people, I've got to get them out of poverty just the same way as China has done and India has done. But India didn't deal with climate issues. And when I say didn't deal with climate, they didn't do it respecting climate change. So, it's a good model for me to look at whether or not you like it, whether or not you're a fan of it. Okay? But I'm certainly going to, from a survival standpoint, look at it. Okay? So, that's my first premise.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Now, your second is that nonetheless, there are things that, commodities and that seem to be at the heart of a cleaner world. I agree with you. But the notion, for instance, of creating lithium battery manufacturing businesses across Africa is very attractive. But India is doing the same thing. Other Asian countries are doing the same thing. And they have much better economic governance than we do in Africa. So, I know for a fact that whilst I would love to have those factories in Nigeria and I could work towards that, perhaps I should focus on kind of some of the things that he's talking about, which is that, okay, fine. Even if I'm not the lithium battery manufacturer, let me make sure that all the music that is on those mobile phones and on those devices is coming from Africa.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Let me make sure that the content, the sports, the art is us. The fashion and so on. So, I think that pragmatically, my view is that it's a changing world, yeah. Find what plays to your advantage. And I think that Kwamena is spot on in terms of the things that in Africa are kind of obvious that we should do. Alright? And the nice too lithium battery parts and so on. Fine. If we have geniuses in government, fine. But for now, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, that's not where I'm betting.

Justin Norman: We talked when we were in San Francisco last week a little bit more about the gaps in the sort of cultural industry value chain that need to be built locally as opposed to building the African TikTok. Right? Can you talk a little bit also about in connecting Africans to a global economy? A lot of that is a financial services story as well. You talked a little bit about just accepting payments in dollars and maybe what sorts of things also from an infrastructure perspective can be built to better connect to the global economy in that way and to tap into these global marketplaces.

Kwamena Afful: So recently, for example, a lot of African Afrobeat artists were struggling to get the dollars they made from subscription platforms around the world. Right? They struggled to go to one central point to distribute all their music, collect all the dollars and then be able to remit it back and use it. So, that's a very simplistic example of limitation that has been fixed recently. So, there's now companies that focus purely on distribution. You go to them, you give them your music, they'll put it on all the platforms, they'll collect for you across all the platforms and allow you to kind of receive your funds. Some even have third parties holding the money on their behalf and getting a hold of it is a challenge. Right? So, generally speaking, I think any tools that make it possibly... The currency issue is a big one and I could speak to Aig about it for days. But any platform that allows you to participate in global markets sitting behind your phone or your laptop on the continent for me is super powerful. So, if you can simply kind of spin up a US LLC, create a bank account. And I'm curious the opportunities for US banks to see themselves banking. It makes geopolitical sense from a preservation of currency perspective, which is another conversation. But US bank kind of banking global audiences. You make your use case, you create an LLC, spin out a bank account and be able to start receiving money.

Kwamena Afful: The more tools like that that exist, I think the more integrated the continent will be with the rest of the world in terms of participation. We invest in a lot of tools like that. We invest in a lot of companies. We met a startup that came in San Francisco and she just helps African contractors create a US dollar bank account. That's all she does. Right? Just simply go online, create a US dollar bank account. They'll keep the money for you and then you decide where you want them to wire it. And that just opens up so many other services that those that weren't based would have access to.

Justin Norman: Aig, maybe you can talk from your perspective. I think there's a lot of institutional barriers, as we just said to a Nigerian, for example, participating in the global economy. And there's this issue of maybe the perception of risk from global economies or certain countries of a Nigerian consumer and challenges around KYC and AML and things like that. Can you share your perspective on how that gets addressed or maybe this challenge of the perception of risk of the continent and how these opportunities to better connect people to the global economy can be captured?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: A lot of the risk premium that is dumped on Africa in particular, is essentially the world saying that this is how we are used to perceiving the individual. And if you don't conform to it, alright? That means you're more risky. Let me give you examples. So, if I don't have a ZIP Code, okay, for some reason in most countries, or the equivalent of a ZIP Code, I'm risky. Well, in Africa, we don't have ZIP Codes. Even if I am the richest man, Aliko Dangote doesn't have a ZIP Code. So, if your credit score process requires a ZIP Code, all of a sudden, you know, he's not good for credit. Okay? I don't have a passport. Well, if I want to get a passport in Nigeria, I have to wait three years. Okay, I hear that there are some advanced countries that the wait time is now three years, but, you know...

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: But you know, you really got a hustle to get out your passport. So again, you know, you want me to fill a form and you are asking for a passport number and I don't have it and so on. So, I'm just giving you examples where, to be honest, I mean, the risk premium is very exaggerated. But because of the fact that those who have economic power globally dictate the rules upon which things work, swift, and payment systems and acceptance into global payment systems, and basically the way the world works. And we don't have the kind of voice I'm seeing in Africa either here or amongst many other, by New York, I'm saying in the UN and so on, these rules are made. And so we struggle to have to live by those rules. Now, some of the problems are, there are actually fewer and fewer African banks that are members of the International Global Payments community.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Thankfully, we saw this coming and as Access Bank, that's one of the reasons why we've set up banks across the world. So, if you have a bank in the UK that's Access Bank in the UK, that is a licensed participant in the UK clearing system, Access Bank stays in this clearing system. Now, if you are a Nigerian bank and you're not in that clearing system, you've gotta apply to a UK bank, and you may be bigger than the UK bank, by the way, to make your payments. So, when you see all these routing business and so on, and so you're routing through that bank, a payment. That bank then demands that you show evidence that all your customers have ZIP Codes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And if they don't, then of course, I'm going to label your payments in a certain way. So, a payment coming from you, all right is deemed immediately of a higher risk status than a payment coming from a country that is more compliant based on global standards. So, I'm just giving you this context of risk. And then of course, is the fact that from time to time, African nations do get into payment challenges. And Ghana is...

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Is a recent example, okay? And you have 10 years of good work messed up by this a challenge of this nature. At the end of the day, if you really think about the 1.6 billion Africans who are basically excluded from payment systems, excluded from ability to just participate as global citizens, it's really unfair because they don't deserve it and the risk attached to them or the risk waiting attached to them is not true. But then it's the hand we are dealt.

Justin Norman: Short of, I think, maybe the perception is changing here, how does that get changed? Or is that what actually needs to happen?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: If the perceptions don't change here there's not much you can do unless of course, you try to, which is why you have the arguments of alternative, the BRICS Bank, this and that. But the truth is that the US dollar and then the Euro are still very much embedded in the fabric of our economy. So, for those who export oil, oil is still going to be sold, advertised per dollar per barrel for a long time. Okay? Just for example. Certainly, I think cocoa is priced. I don't know if cocoa price might be in Euro or in dollars.

Justin Norman: Yeah.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: But I mean, it just shows you how these things work at the end of the day, right? Africa will solve its problems when it starts producing in Africa. And one of the wealthiest, you know, economic ecosystems or companies in the world is LVMH. Okay. And LVMH is just, well, sorry, I take that back. It's not just, but it's brands. Okay? If I really think about the power of African content and what you can do if you brand it, okay? Then you start. So, we can have drinks coming from Africa that have the power of LVMH brands. We can have clothes coming from Africa, made in Africa. So, when you talked about this influencer or the dance guy. So, people watch him, they're looking at what he's wearing, okay? And what he is wearing is cool. And you know, they want to dance like that. They want to look like that. So, you know, when we can kind of break whatever constraints there are to making sure that whatever he is dancing in, is made in Africa, then real money, and that's when real money starts getting made. I mean, the hair the...

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: That's what I think our strength is. And I might be talking about hair, clothes, and so on. But I'll give you the example of LVMH, the richest man in the world, essentially makes his money by branding his product. We have... I think that's our low hanging fruit. And it's not that easy because if it was, I'll be LVMH Africa but I think that's the opportunity.

Justin Norman: And the cultural element is there. 

This season of The Flip is all about sharing lessons and insights from some of the most experienced and esteemed founders from across the African tech ecosystem. And it's a mission for which we're proud to partner with Norrsken22 to share wisdom and insights from the fund's Unicorn Board as well. We know that advisors and mentorship are an important part of the venture funding process. And throughout the season, we are speaking to and learning from the successful founders, operators, and investors from Norrsken22's Unicorn Board. In this episode, we're joined by the CEO of Flutterwave, Olugbenga Agboola, better known as GB, to talk about fundraising.

Olugbenga Agboola: It's really about the Africa opportunity and Africa growth story. We are a one billion people continent, as you all know, average age 20-30 years the numbers say. This is the next billion continent, this is the opportunity continent, right? After India, there is no other continent has the mass that we have in Africa beyond here. I think it's really about showing them the opportunity here and the fact that capital can unlock that opportunity if properly deployed, right? That potential is just there. And I think it's very obvious to see. For example, if you look at remittance numbers into Africa, the World Bank numbers, they are crazy. The growth is outstanding, right? And the opportunity is there for anyone who can build and scale to be able to do it for the right ROI for the right investors as well.

Olugbenga Agboola: The opportunity here can also be linked to the ambition size. What is the size of your ambition? If you're trying to build an infrastructure to do payments in across of Africa, that is bankable. If you're trying to build for just a niche market in one country, maybe you don't need to raise VC, right? It's just a matter of what's your ambition size? Do you have the track record to prove you can do this at scale? And do you really want to do this at scale? And that's the way it works for me.

Justin Norman: We'll open it up for a few questions and then we'll do some food and networking.

Audience: I have two questions. The first question is regarding the new generation of work, right? What is your thought about the educational piece of it? What I mean delivering new shapes and formats of work to the world, I think this is a very important pillar. So, I mean, your thought on this? Second question was about the informal markets, right? Informal markets big parts of sub-Saharan Africa has up to about 50% informal markets, which is unbankable, but maybe not even paying taxes, so what is your thought of the interaction between the digital ecosystems, the data reaching the informal markets, and the pressures that is probably increasing from the government point of view to formalize more informal markets? And what are your thoughts about the opportunities there?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Let me start with your second question. So, I'll use Rwanda as an example. The first time I visited Rwanda, 2006, 2007, I went because of health philanthropy. I was trying to raise money across Africa for the Global Fund. And so I went to a health center, and I noticed in the health center that there was, first of all, there was a computer in every health center, and I saw people come with a card, with something on a card. And they would come, and then they would go into this database. And with that database, you could basically be treated in any health center in Rwanda that you went to. 

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: But then, this database lends itself to all kinds of fantastic things. Okay? Now, in their case, it's more of a traditional database stored with more traditional systems. So, automated, but not digital. Now, small countries in terms of population, small in terms of physical geography, and so on. And therefore, you can solve for identity that way. Okay? But I think what India has done, solving for identity digitally in 15 years and basically connecting well over a billion people by basically creating a fundamental stack, a primary stack that has your name, that has, I think, name, sex, address, biometric, five things, just five things. And with that, India is on the cusp of creating the new world in terms of data. 

Justin Norman: Go for it.

Audience: Are there conversations between leadership and government to try to get one currency in Africa and if so, what are the pros and cons for the people if there was one currency?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Great question, there are. I doubt very much if African countries are ready to trade their sovereignty for a currency because it's not gonna offer them the kind of advantage that's going to make that sacrifice worth it. So, I think the, what is going to happen though, is that Kwamena was speaking about stable coins and digital currencies being an alternative. So, I would go down the route if I was, if I had that type of policy power of trying to create one, two or three trusted digital currencies that could be the payment method for cross-border trade. Okay?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Now there is a very powerful organization in Africa called the Afrexim and it's growing in part because it is sensitively run and their solutions are quite interesting. So, they've been pushing for, their mandate is trade, intra-African and Africa and other continental, another continent, trade with other continent. So, they are advocating that, okay fine, let's have trade systems that are run based on some notion of a universal currency that pairs to dollar, euro and so on. I think that's going to work. I think that's gonna work, certainly. So, I'm not seeing one currency, but certainly I'm seeing currency pairs for specific purposes. Trade on platforms like the platform I told you about, that platform, okay you get it. Right. Yeah. So that kind of thing yes.

Justin Norman: Yeah. Do you have a perspective, Kwamena talked a lot about stablecoins, for example. Do you have a perspective on the role that they'll play? I think certainly in a market like Nigeria, we're seeing a lot of organic adoption of it for purposes of protection against devaluation or access to USDC pairings. What do you think about that?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: The primary purpose for I think, for crypto assets in Africa, which is not even inconsistent with the notion actually of crypto assets being a safety haven for those who don't trust government, okay? It's inflation. Remember I told you about this inflation worry and how do I implicate. So, that I think is a primary driver. And then the secondary one is that how can I make a payment if I'm not a member of the global payment system? Those are the two things. Those two things, mind you, are powerful enough to sustain that type of solution. So, because the problems in Africa are very chronic, that is why the adoption rates for some of these crypto assets is so high, even despite the turbulence you find in the crypto world in terms of falling assets. So, I think ironically, you're gonna find that the crypto or digital asset technology probably makes more sense for Africa, the way it's being designed, and that the unfortunate thing is that the technology was not birthed in Africa I wish it was.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Those are the kind of things that will shift this whole notion of producing things that but it doesn't matter. We can still use it or we can still bring it. So, what I... One of the investments that we've been talking about is, and Microtraction is very much, one of the more knowledgeable people or the firms of this situation in Africa is how we can utilize blockchain and related knowledge to solve Africa's problems. So, clearly the digital ID alright? Stack. Clearly, India is going to use blockchain technology.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: In fact, they've started, okay? And clearly, alright? They are going to use blockchain technology for that alternative currency. Or it could even be the lack that is on it. So, what I'm looking at actually is this, is it possible that maybe working with something like the Afrexim or governments that get it, to create link to the digital ID, alright? Some settlement system. This is what India is doing by the way, okay? That allows everybody settle their transaction because they are a member of, or they have this digital ID okay? And the truth of the matter is that if it's done and done properly, then you might have that alternative African currency, single currency because it's just then simply switching everybody onto that single platform. It's a great conversation we're having because these are things that we are seeing that we are talking about, we are actually doing, but this conversation has put the greater urgency to my mind around this issue certainly.

Justin Norman: It may be a way to address some of the perceived risks, challenges that we talked about as well.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Yeah.

Justin Norman: Yeah.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Maybe a way to...

Audience: Can I ask some questions on the...

Justin Norman: Please.

Audience: I believe, what you talked about is obviously fascinating because you have a really wide perspective, in bunch of sectors. And then I love your vision for some of the ecosystems you're trying to build. As I listen to all this, it raises all sorts of exciting questions in my mind. I'm sure some of which you think about all the time. But it seems like, and that's what I see in our African countries as well, is a lot of people are... The successful entrepreneurs essentially have learned to run, between the drops because it's always raining. Sometimes it rains drops, sometimes it rains stones, but you have to deal with the environment, as you say. There is one main actor who defines often this environment and it's the state and it runs from bad government to predatory government.

Audience: Now, maybe tomorrow's youth will be able to have a greatest say in governance and there will be a change in that environment. But as successful entrepreneurs who have built businesses in Africa, you well know as you grow these businesses, you start to bump against these constraints more directly. So, these kids who are growing tomorrow's businesses, some of these businesses will hopefully grow and become enormous businesses, they will face some of the challenges you've probably faced, which is, okay, now I'm facing structural constraints to my business and to the impact my business can have on society because of the environment that I have. Both for attracting capital for protecting capital and so on. So, I just wonder how you think about this and so what advice you give to Kwamena, as to the companies they invest in, what they have to do to contend with that environment. Because everybody that I've talked to that gets interested in Africa, the question in my view that stops them from investing is trust in business dispute resolution and trusted infrastructure.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: When I first visited Shanghai, and they showed me Shanghai 30 years ago, and I said to myself 30 years ago, Shanghai looked worse than Lagos, 30 years ago. Now, I'm not saying that wealth wise and capacity wise, okay? Its people didn't have as much potential or even more than the people of Lagos. But certainly in terms of infrastructure, what I could see and what I know in terms of dispute resolution and so on, they were way, way, way behind where Lagos was 30 odd years ago, or maybe 40 years ago. And today, which I mean my first visit to Shanghai was that what? How? Okay? And I just raised that simply because this is what is possible. So, can it change? Certainly, it can change. The next question I ask is that, do Africans have the capacity to change? And I'm sure it's not an IQ issue, okay?

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: So, it could be cultural, it could be historical, there could be certain things that prevent leadership from... The best leaders from running basically the things that need to be run properly in Africa. So, I've kind of focused my mind from a philanthropy standpoint to make a long time bet on trying to get more of the type of people who are African in this room, in government than we have today, alright? And, I believe very strongly that if that equation changes, we're going to go back to the scenario that where actually 50 years ago, Lagos was more developed than most Asian countries with much greater potential, much greater economic power. And that was the case, better run and so on, because the people who were in government were the best of the best in the western Nigeria as far as Africa was concerned, or even the world. But then that's all well and good from a very long term development standpoint for the investor today, they're like, "Okay, fine, I hear you when you get there, call us."

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: The ball is very much in Africa's court, I'm saying, and that's why I spoke about this economic governance thing because everybody has the opportunity to put their investment dollars anywhere, you know, so it doesn't have to be Africa. And if it's so painful investing in Africa, then it's either you're gonna have to make it less painful or you're gonna make the returns much, much higher than they are today. So, infrastructure, let me give you an instance. So, if you come to Lagos, you will see a project that to connect metropolitan Lagos through a series of monorails which will work, okay? And when I say it'll work, it's working in many countries across the world, but it's taken us 30 years or 40 years to connect what in Shanghai, maybe when they started it took five years. So, it comes to this issue of execution and if investors see an execution capability that is proven in whatever way okay? They will back.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: If you invested in Nigerian GSM telecoms, alright? Your return would not be very different from if you were Naspers investing in Tencent, simple. At scale, you would have become extremely wealthy at scale if you'd invested in African telecoms at the time that these GSM companies rolled out. If I put that type of investment opportunity in front of this room today, you will invest. We have the execution capability to bring it to market at scale, hyperscale, despite the challenges. And from an investor or investing mindset, I think you should look for those opportunities. The broad technology investment case, okay? Is everywhere, it's hit and miss and everywhere in the world is hit and miss okay. In the more advanced countries, the miss is not as a result of government policy, in Africa, it's more exaggerated because of the things you're talking about. But then the way I like to invest in Africa is that I look for ecosystems that kind of shield you from what you've described, shield you from the lack of infrastructure, shield you from the vagaries of policy.

Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede: Make my bets within that, that's also happened in India, by the way, and even in certain Asian countries. So, what is gonna happen is Africa is beginning to sort out itself from a technology standpoint, recognizing that to move from success, which is you have 1 million users, okay? I didn't say 1 million customers. 1 million users, okay? Where you get to 1 million users, I think most young entrepreneurs would have done a hell of a lot of work to get to 1 million users of anything probably using technology. What people are beginning to understand is that you need ecosystems to take you to 10, alright? And then you need very powerful ecosystems to take you to hyperscale, which is 100. The notion of corporate venturing and partnerships and collaborations is becoming very key because of Microtraction's knowledge of the technology space and, you know, the African space, I think that they have early signs of ecosystem plays, et cetera. And maybe what we're... Maybe one of the things of value to investors here would be how do you connect them with these type of plays? And how do you package your investors in such a way that the sponsors of this plays are willing to let them in to these opportunities? I think that is going to be a very, very powerful population if you can get that to work.

Kwamena Afful: Amen.

Justin Norman: I think we should leave it there. Yeah?

Kwamena Afful: Yeah.

Justin Norman: Cool. Well, thank you Mr. Aigboje, thank you Kwamena, thank you to all of you.