‘Nigeria Is The Tropical Savannah, Not Silicon Valley’, Says Interswitch Founder, Mitchell Elegbe

As Nigeria, arguably one of the principal economic powerhouses of Africa, continues to attract global attention against the odds as a destination which cannot be ignored for investment and business opportunities, the 2024 edition of the ‘Doing Business in Nigeria Conference’ which held on Saturday 13th April in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital served as a pivotal event for entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders seeking to tap into the country’s vibrant business landscape.

Interswitch Founder/ CEO, Mitchell Elegbe

Delivering a keynote on the theme ‘Doing Business in Nigeria: The Opportunities, Challenges and Realities’, Interswitch Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mitchell Elegbe set the tone for deliberations at the conference, sharing robust insights and perspectives hinged on over 22 years operating in Nigeria, from where the company has expanded into other African markets, being in the driver’s seat of one of Africa’s most influential digital technology businesses.

Among other incisive pointers, Elegbe walked participants through the dynamic trajectory of Interswitch’s business operations, starting from 2002 when key infrastructural elements such as power and telecoms were at a nascent stage.

The Interswitch Founder acknowledged that Nigeria is probably not one of the easiest markets in the world to do business, however stressing that compelling business opportunities exist only where there are challenges, pointing out that regardless of the challenges and constraints in the local operating environment, some particular industries and sectors have consistently bucked the trend and shown great promise.

In his view the performance of these outliers is attributable to factors such as the ability to adapt and innovate within the local market hinged on pragmatism and nimbleness, understanding of consumer behaviour and agile responses to changing business landscapes.

According to Elegbe, who set things in context through the lens of fintech businesses, there are significant differences between the typical Silicon Valley business model and what is necessary for sustainable success in a market like Nigeria, particularly in the current global investment climes.

In his words, operating in the Tropical Savannah that Nigeria is, as he described it, warrants the business to ensure products/services are designed to meet people at their points of need, whilst essentially ensuring proof of concept, focus on unit economics and scaling to achieve volumes in spite of thin margins, with a view to driving profitability as an early priority.

He emphasized that Unit economics are instrumental in evaluating the economic sustainability and profitability of the business model, providing insights into whether the business is generating sufficient value to justify the associated costs.

Other keynotes were delivered by Wole Adeniyi, The Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic IBTC Bank, who was represented by Olu Delano, Executive Director for Personal and Private Banking as well as Binta Max-Gbinije, Chief Executive, BMG Seven Limited, each bringing unique perspectives and expertise to the discussions.

The conference agenda was thoughtfully curated to address key themes and topics relevant to doing business in Nigeria, with sessions covering market entry strategies, regulatory compliance, risk management, investment incentives, innovation, and sustainability, among other salient themes.

Beyond the informative sessions and workshops, the Doing Business in Nigeria Conference 2024 provided platforms for networking and collaboration, including a business pitch session targeted at emerging entrepreneurs.

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