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CORPORATESTRATEGY


Thenewhailandride I


VIEWFROMTHEC-SUITE


NIGERIAN SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR ONYEKA AKUMAH IS SETTING HIS SIGHTS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. SETH O’FARRELL REPORTS


nJanuary 2019,OnyekaAkumahlanded in Lagos returning from a trip to Qatar.He headed straight from the airport for a busi-


ness meeting in Apapa, an area in the southof the city.Dueto chronic traffic problems, he took multiple means of transport to navigate himself there: a boat, a bike and a bus. “This is the life of an entrepreneur in Lagos,” he tells fDi. Back at the office, he contemplated the fact


thatmore than nine million Lagotians take the bus every day as their only means of transpor- tation, wearing work attire and carrying lap- tops on these crowded vehicles. This sparked an idea for his next business opportunity.


The businessmodel Bus-hailing app PlentyWaka connects users with its fleet of buses. Dubbed ‘Uber for buses’, it promises to make the experience of taking public transport more agreeable and secure, allowing users to track buses and pay for a seat through a digital wallet ahead of time.“We want to create themost affordablemeans of transportation within cities and city-to-city across Nigeria,” Mr Akumah says. The app, which he co-founded with Johnny


Ena, John Shaibu and Afolabi Oluseyi, started bymoving six people a day in 2019, increasing to 1500 people a day in six months and then to 100,000 people in the first year.


Scale-upandexpand The company has recently expanded to the country’s capital Abuja and, according to Mr Akumah, has eyes on Ghana,Rwanda, Gambia and Senegal.While the Covid-19 pandemic hampered its progress initially, in March this year the start-up announced that it has been accepted onto the Techstars Toronto accelera- tor programme and will be expanding to a city in Canada, likely in Ontario. PlentyWaka covers one ofMr Akumah’s


three pillars of interest – agriculture, real estate and transportation – in which he is intent on helping Nigerians eat, sleep and get around with the help of technology.


His other ventures, such as agritech plat-


form FarmCrowdy and property app Rentsmallsmall, cover the other two pillars. FarmCrowdy, ofwhich Mr Akumah is CEO, pro- files small-scale farmers and grants themmar- ket access and funding opportunities,while Rentsmallsmall, of which he is a co-founder, enables users to pay rent on amonthly basis in a citywhere paying one or two years’ rent upfront is the costly norm. In an increasingly urbanised and overpopu-


lated world concerned with the sustainability of resources, all of these start-ups appear to have a universal scope. ButMr Akumah insists that partnerships are just as important as investments. “I’m happy to replicate these models inmany other markets but I want to do so with the right kind of stakeholders and the right teammembers,” he says.


The rise of Lagos tech Mr Akumah’s entrepreneurial success is part of the rise of Lagos itself as one of Africa’s fore- most tech ecosystems. “In 2010, if you said you were an entrepreneur, it felt like you didn’t have a job. Now, everyone wants to be an entre- preneur,” he says. Nigeria’s biggest city boasts success sto-


ries such as ecommerce unicorn Jumia, which in 2019 became the first African tech company to float on the New York Stock Exchange, and Paystack, acquired last year by Stripe for $200m. There is moremoney flowing towards fin-


tech, or financial technology, businesses rather than impact-driven businesses, he says, as the latter requires “patient capital”. While impact capitalism has taken root in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole, Mr Akumah is confident it can improve. Including greater Lagos State, the city is


hometo roughly 22 million people. “If busi- nesses are focused on improving the lives of individuals, especially because a lot of them live belowthe poverty line, I think you will see tremendous growth,” says Mr Akumah.■


IF BUSINESSES ARE FOCUSEDONIMPROVING THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS, I THINK YOUWILL SEETREMENDOUSGROWTH


April/May 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 11


CURRICULUMVITAE ONYEKA AKUMAH


PlentyWaka CEO and co-founder


Previously Chief commercial officer, Travelbeta; director, marketing and partnerships, Jumia Nigeria; vice-president, marketing, Konga; e-marketing co-ordinator, West, East and Central Africa, Deloitte


GLOBALOUTLOOK


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