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Steve Akinboro: one of the billion reasons to believe in Africa

By on October 23, 2012

When Steve Akinboro left the shores of Nigeria 29 years ago, little did he know that on his return he would be bringing one of the biggest fast food brands to the country; while holding one of the biggest offices in an enterprise with over 9, 000 outlets around the world.

A graduate of St. Finbarrs Secondary School, Yaba, Lagos, Akinboro made his way to London, becoming a member of the Chattered Institute of Marketing in the United Kingdom and bagging a post-graduate degree in Information Systems from the London South Bank University. Today, he is the Executive Vice President, Corporate Operations, Domino’s Pizza, United States of America. Recently, he led the team that expanded the company’s entrance into Nigeria with the establishment of 2 stores in Lagos and more planned nationwide. Domino’s Pizza, which partners with Coca Cola, has its two pioneer stores at Lekki and Victoria Island; with over 40 employees. According to Akinboro, the company sends its managers to the US for training, and ultimately aims to open over 20 stores in the country.

“I’m absolutely delighted and thrilled over the fact that Domino’s Pizza is here in Nigeria,” said Akinboro. “We intend to be the number one pizza delivery company in the world. So, when I joined Domino’s, one of the things that the CEO and I had talked about is how do we leverage Steve Akinboro and the fact that I’m from Africa and essentially from Nigeria and find the right candidate as a master franchisee and support them to make sure that we grow very quickly, not only in Lagos but across Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. I have been a positive role model in talking about the potential that we have not only in Nigeria but across Africa. So, to be able to come back home and open a Domino’s with the Master Franchise amongst my people is very elevating and inspirational and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to do that.”

Akinboro’s story aligns perfectly with the ‘A Billion Reasons to Believe in Africa’ campaign being championed by beverage giant, Coca Cola. The campaign seeks to address the trend of negative stories about the ‘dark continent’ by highlighting the various positive contributions that Africa has made to the world through its people. Nigeria, as the power house of the continent, has continued to, despite the various negative stories that emanate daily, contribute exceptional people that have excelled in their careers all over the globe and made the nation proud. Like Akinboro, most of them eventually come back home to give back to their fatherland; thus providing much needed FDI.

According to Olufemi Ashipa, the Brand Manager, Colas, Coca Cola Nigeria, it is this development that the beverage giant aims to harness and expand. “Africa is a continent that boasts of abundant and enviable resources and we at Coca Cola, as a company that knows and understands Africa, will constantly aspire to influence positive attitudes amongst Africans. So through our ‘a billion reasons to believe in Africa’ campaign, we celebrate great Nigerians that have overcome the undeniable challenges of Africa and have triumphed in their respective endeavors. Through their positive and inspiring stories, we will create an optimistic spirit in young Africans and inspire them to think positively about the continent. As an icon of happiness, Coca Cola identifies with positivity and the great African spirit to excel despite all odds.”

Akinboro, with the successful launch of the two stores of Domino’s Pizza, is even more convinced that the odds have lessened. Having also spent some time in South Africa, he is more than ever convinced that the continent is the next frontier and deserves to hold its head high when competing for its fair share of global investments. Nigeria, according to him, is the power house of the continent and will therefore serve as the launch pad for various new businesses expanding into the continent. And it is this message that he is taking back to the US as he returns to continue his oversight duties.

“There is a reason why we chose Nigeria in sub-Saharan Africa as an entry point,” he said. “Nigeria has become a trendsetter on the African continent and it is also a powerhouse, holding together the West-Africa as well as sub-Saharan Africa. So, it makes all the sense in the world for us to start out here in Lagos, Nigeria, because we have a pretty decent infrastructure base, compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa; and it’s a strategic launching pad for the rest of sub-Saharan African market. It’s actually a door-opening for us. We are excited and looking forward to it.

I believe in Africa because I was born and raised here. For those that believe that nothing good can come out of Africa, I’d tell them to think again. Take me for instance. I was born here, my family was not rich, but I was able to get a job and get myself through school. Today, there are millions of Africans doing the same. So, this notion that nothing good can come out of Africa is not true. Secondly, we don’t need people from other places around the world to give us fish. We don’t need handouts in Africa; what we need is the opportunity to fend for ourselves. And when we are given an opportunity, we tend to make the most of it. The GDP we are seeing in Nigeria today, which is a little over 7 per cent, is pretty close to what they have in China, Brazil and other developing countries across the world. So, if you had any doubt about getting into the African market, I’d say ‘think again’. The facts today are compelling; they are staggering; and it makes a good business case to get into the African market right now. That is why I believe in Africa.”

By Gbenga Olorunpomi