Incontestably noted as one of the preeminent elder statemen in Africa today, Chief Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, was born on March 5, 1937 in the village of Ibogun, located in the present day Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State in Southwest Nigeria. He began his career as a teacher at the Baptist Boy’s High School (BBHS), Abeokuta, before enlisting in the Nigerian military and embarking on what was to become a long and illustrious career of service to his country. In 1959, after completion of his military training, he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army as a Second Lieutenant and attached to British Battalions in England and in Germany. A year later, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. As a soldier, President Obasanjo held several command positions including service with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in the Congo. In 1961, he transferred from the Infantry to the Corps of Engineering , and in 1963, was promoted to the rank of Captain and appointed Commander Engineering Corps. That year, he was elevated to the post of General Officer, commanding the Third Marine Commando Division, where he conceived and immediately launched “Operation Tail Wind” which helped to bring the debilitating Nigerian civil war to an end. He accepted the surrender of the Biafran forces in January 1970. In 1975, Chief Obasanjo was appointed Federal Commissioner for Works, and also served as Chief of Staff and second in command to Brigadier Murtala Muhammed, following the coup of 1976. After the assasination of Brig. Muhammed, he reluctantly stepped into his shoes, but refused to renege on his administration’s goals and objectives. In 1977, he formed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), organized the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77), set up the Corrupt Practice Bureau; and through his government’s efforts, independence was achieved for Angola and later Zimbabwe. To cap it off, he became the first Head of State on the African continent to ever relinquish power to a democratically elected government peacefully and voluntarily.
In 1995, this former Head of State became a very important prisoner when military dictator, General Sani Abacha clamped a phony coup plot charge on him. Found guilty, he was held prisoner in a regional local prison until June 1998, after which he was released, following the death of his accuser. In 1999 and 2003, Chief Obasanjo ran for and won two successive terms for the presidency of Nigeria, during which his administration initiated and executed projects that positively impacted the lives of Nigerians and launched the country into an unprecedented path of social and economic growth. A few of the achievements recorded during his tenure include, the Anti-corruption campaign/recovery of looted funds from national treasury from past and serving government functionaries; the renegotiation and eventual settlement of Nigerian debt; the consolidation of the banking industry; the institutionalization of transparency in the financial sector; the opening up of the telecommunication industry; the liberalization of the education sector and the engagement of private sector participation and investment in tertiary education. Significant improvements were also recorded in the space technology program (the launch of two satellites, SAT 3 and NICOMSAT); the energy and nuclear sector, the education sector, the ICT sector, and the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission.
Indeed, as a result of the reforms enacted by the Obasanjo administration, Nigeria now stands as one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. In 2002, the country’s GDP grew by 21.1%, and from then until 2010, posted an annual growth rate of 9.15% , making it one the ten fastest growing economies in the world today. In 2007, Chief Obasanjo retired from office to his farm in Ota, Nigeria. However, in view of his commitment and dedication to the cause of Africa, as well as his experience and understanding of the political, socio-economic and cultural landscape of the continent, he was appointed as UN Special Envoy to broker peace among the conflicting parties in Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region. His involvement reunited the avowed enemies and brought peace to the region. He has also served served diplomatically on behalf of The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other organizations to broker peace in many other troubled regions in Africa, most recently serving as head of the joint African Union-ECOWAS observer mission to Dakar, during Senegal’s tumultuous elections. Obasanjo has played a pivotal role in the regeneration and repositioning of the African Union – with the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) designed to engender and promote the ideals of democracy and good governance, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). He has consistently supported the deepening and widening of regional cooperation through ECOWAS and the Co-prosperity Alliance Zone incorporating Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. He has at different times served as Chairman of the Group of 77, Chairman of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Chairman of the African Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee on NEPAD. He was also involved in international mediation efforts in Namibia, Angola, South Africa, Mozambique and Burundi. For his service to the African community, Mr. Obasanjo has received numerous honorary doctorates from leading institutions from all over the world, including Howard University in the United States, the University of Namibia, etc. He has over 15 books published to his name and in 1979 was decorated with the highest national award, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
Driven by a passion to help address the healthcare crisis in sub-Saharan Africa and her conviction that the solution lies in sustainable technological growth in drug manufacturing, Dr. Alexandra Graham decided to apply her expertise in that direction and gave up the convenience of employment in the US as a pharmaceutical executive at Abbott Laboratories, to pioneer a sustainable approach to self-sufficient drug manufacturing in Africa. In 2002, she co-founded LaGray, Inc. an Africa-focused pharmaceutical company with investments in Ghana and Nigeria. Dr. Graham and her husband, Dr. Paul Lartey set up LaGray Chemical Company, Ghana: the first fully integrated pharmaceutical production facility in West Africa, specifically built and operated to US-FDA standards and with the expertise and capacity to provide high quality, critical medicines for the treatment of priority endemic diseases in the West African region. Under her direction as Chief Operating Officer, the Ghanaian company received the Frost & Sullivan 2009 Ghanaian Pharmaceutical Market Industry Innovation and Advancement Award LaGray, Inc. has also established La Gram Chemicals in Nigeria. La Gram supplies quality pharmaceutical raw materials and analytical reagents to the growing pharmaceutical industry in the region. In keeping with the vision of self-sufficiency in healthcare, La Gram distributes quality medicines manufactured by African pharmaceutical manufacturers only.
Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Graham worked at IBM and lectured for many years at universities in Nigeria, UK and the US. She is equally passionate about healthcare as she is about education and currently serves as President of St. Karol School of Nursing in Ghana. LaGray, Inc. is establishing LaGray Quality Research Institute in Nigeria to provide post-secondary and post-graduate industrial pharmaceutical education and training. The institute will offer fully integrated hands-on training in pharmaceutical sciences, technology and regulatory compliance as well as industry support services in research, quality control analysis and regulatory affairs. In recognition of her entrepreneurial efforts Dr. Graham received an award at the first Pan-African Female Invent and Innovate Awards 2005, sponsored by the IFC Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM). She is a 2007 TED Global Fellow (www.ted.com) and a Springboard Alumna (www.springboardenterprises.org). In recognition of her scientific expertise, she was appointed in 2010 to serve on the Expert Drug Discovery Advisory Committee for the World Health Organization Tropical Drug Research (WHO-TDR). Dr. Graham was born in Ibadan, Nigeria but hails from Katcha in Niger State of Nigeria. She feels privileged to hold dual citizenship of the United States and Nigeria. She obtained a B.Sc. Chemistry, 1st Class Honors (Summa cum Laude) from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria and Ph.D. Organic Chemistry from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and University of Sussex, Brighton, UK. She also holds an MBA in Global Technology Management from American Intercontinental University.
A transformational leader, social entrepreneur and advocate for technology in the developing world, Njideka Harry, is the Founder and CEO of Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), an international non-profit organization. Njideka founded YTF in 2000 after a fast-paced and distinguished career at Microsoft. At Microsoft she was responsible for corporate strategy and financial planning as part of worldwide subsidiary mid-year reviews, budgeting and forecasting. Njideka has over 12 years of experience in non-profit administration, program management and social impact and has provided strategic vision and leadership to YTF’s innovations for scalable solutions to developing world problems.
YTF believes in the extraordinary potential of young people living in the developing world. We envision a world in which our beneficiaries are equipped with the adequate skills that prepare them to confidently compete for 21st century opportunities. YTF pioneered the ‘digital village movement’ in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2000, with the establishment of the Owerri Digital Village, a community technology and learning center and first of its kind in the region. For over a decade, YTF has partnered with other grassroots organizations to replicate the paradigm across 7 African nations and impacting over 2 million youth living in over 4000 communities. YTF has received recognition from private sector corporations like Nokia, Google, Soft Choice and Microsoft and international development agencies, including the World Bank, National Endowment for Democracy, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Reuters Foundation. Njideka is a proponent for the use of information and communications technology (ICT) as a tool to aid human capital, create jobs and transform agriculture, education and healthcare. YTF designs innovative and social protection programs that protect people against the loss of human and physical capital while promoting opportunities for skills acquisition and sustainability. In the international arena, Njideka has designed and implemented technology and education programs that connect students and teachers in schools and community technology centers in Africa to students in the United States.
Njideka serves as a consultant to several social enterprises, companies with a social mission and international agencies on matters related to human capital, technology for development and corporate social responsibility. She has served on panels in international conferences such as the World Bank Innovation Fair in Capetown, the World Summit on Information Society in Tunisia, the Baramati Conference on ICT and Development in India, and the UN Meets Silicon Valley in the United States. She has also contributed articles and case studies to journals like Technologia, One World Africa, and a book, From the Ground Up – the Evolution of the Telecenter Movement. Njideka is an Ashoka Fellow and has received numerous awards for her dedication to community service. She is an Associate Fellow of the Nigeria Leadership Institute and in 2011, led YTF to win the Microsoft Alumni Foundation Members Choice Award. Njideka will receive her MBA from Kellogg School of Management in 2012. She received her undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and completed a post-graduate fellowship in technology and development at Stanford University. A native of the United States and Nigeria, Njideka shares her time between both countries and enjoys time with her husband and 3 young daughters.
Herlihy has extensive experience in megainfrastructure projects in Africa spanning a number of disciplines including project development, financing and governmental liaison supported by a strong understanding of African economics. An American citizen, his career began in the UK in 1994 in the health waste sector before joining the Bank of America as Marketing Analyst in 1997. From 1999 to 2003, he worked on the Africa ONE project where he gained valuable African experience. In 2003, he was appointed Vice President of Development at Global Alumina, a large alumina refinery project in the Republic of Guinea focused on development of a multi-purpose infrastructure project including a port, power plant, rail extension, town development and the refinery itself. Mr. Herlihy was one of the key developers in bringing the project to reality in line with the Government’s economic development goals despite strong opposition from the majors in the mining community. The project set new standards in the incorporation of social and environmental inclusion and has become a model both in the alumina sector and the project finance sector for mega-infrastructure development in emerging markets. Upon a partial sale of the refinery project to a strategic investor, Mr. Herlihy raised $10 million of venture capital and founded SEACOM. As the founder and CEO, Mr. Herlihy led the financing, development and construction of the first submarine fiber optic cable to connect East and South Africa to the world’s major international networks.
Having successfully steered SEACOM into the position of an established and recognized market player, Herlihy now focuses his efforts on strategic projects essential to the Company’s continued development in his Executive Director role. Since launch in 2009, SEACOM has been a major factor in increasing supply of international capacity by up to five thousand percent in certain countries and a catalyst for the telecommunications market to invest over $6 billion into terrestrial fiber as the region prepares for the evolution from a voice centric to a data centric market. SEACOM is a leader in evolving this data market through its concentration of content aggregation and content development in Africa as the market prepares for the oncoming impact of cloud computing. Mr. Herlihy holds a MSc (Development Studies) with a concentration in African Economics and BA (Economics and Philosophy) from the London School of Economics and Boston College respectively. In addition to sitting on the Board of Directors of SEACOM, Mr. Herlihy also participates on the board of two foundations and an incubation investment fund.
Toyin Kolawole is the founder and CEO of True Branches, an e-commerce company launched in 2008 with locations in the USA and Nigeria. True Branches is focused on facilitating trade between the Sub-Saharan African market (particularly Nigeria) and the United States. Under Toyin’s management, True Branches has grown tremendously as a leading e-commerce solution by providing expert trade advisory and fulfillment services for individuals and corporations looking to do international business between the United States and Nigeria. Furthermore, True Branches is focused on delivering innovative technology solutions that provide Nigerian exporters and industries faster and better access to the global market and vice versa.
Toyin obtained her MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University in 2006 where she was awarded the FC Austin scholarship; a prestigious lifetime status awarded annually to 10 select candidates with excellent academic achievement and exceptional leadership qualities. While at Kellogg, Toyin majored in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Management and strategy, Marketing, and Analytical Consulting. After her MBA, Toyin joined Bain and Company, one of three foremost global management and strategy consulting firms in the world. At Bain, Toyin consulted for several fortune 500 companies, offering and implementing highly innovative and practical solutions to complex management problems Prior to her business education at Kellogg, Toyin worked as a private equity analyst with SME Manager Limited, an African Capital Alliance fund focused on business growth and development in Nigeria. She obtained her bachelor’s in Management and Accounting from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. She is also a Nigerian chartered accountant Toyin is married with two sons and loves reading fiction, hiking and music.
Tapuwa works with Global Career Company, a leading international recruitment consultancy, specialising in recruiting local talent with international experience for the African market. Tapuwa sits on the Management Team of Global Career Company and gives strategic direction to deliver agreed results across the sourcing and marketing activity. Having been with Global Career Company for more than 6 years, Tapuwa possesses a great deal of knowledge of recruitment trends in Africa. She plays a crucial part in influencing change within recruitment in Africa as GCC increases its ability to deliver multiple recruitment assignments across services. Her specialities in emerging markets include; developing and executing a global sourcing strategies for all our key nationalities across all channels, design and manage direct sourcing strategies through analysis of our client pool.
Global Career Company is an international recruitment consultancy with unique service offerings. Our Recruitment Summits; events where we source suitable candidates from a global talent pool of thousands, sending tailored shortlists for our clients to pre-select and invite for interview at the Summit, provide endless opportunities for candidates wishing to pursue their Career in Africa. Search and Selection Services, and Recruitment Campaigns are innovative solutions for companies looking to source high caliber individuals who possess a rare blend of international experience combined with regional understanding. Over the past 10 years, Global Career Company has helped over 350 multinational companies and leading African companies recruit over 8,000 African graduates and professionals from around the world back into Africa. We have over 200,000 African Professionals in our network with a large range of backgrounds and levels of experience. A selection across these include Diageo, GTBank, Unilever, Diamond Bank, Phillips, JTI, GSK, Weatherford, Coca Cola Sabco, Afreximbank, Aurecon, G4S, Aggreko, BAT, Total, Halliburton, Lafarge, Safal, Heineken, Multichoice, just to mention a few.
As the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Country Manager in Nigeria, where he oversees all of IFC’s activities in Nigeria. This includes IFC’s investments: (i) in the banking sector, insurance and microfinance banks; (ii) tourism, retail, property, services, healthcare, education and agribusiness; and, (iii) telecom, media, technology, power, transport, oil & gas. In addition, he oversees IFC’s advisory services in transforming banks’ capacity to originate/innovate/monitor SME financing, investment climate reforms, corporate governance in the banking sector, village phone and mobile banking, and capacity building to general SMEs and SMEs in particular value chains such as agribusiness, health and education. More importantly, Solomon has led the transformation of IFC’s program in Nigeria from a reactive business as financier of last resort to a strategic-driven business, with clear prioritization on infrastructure especially power and PPPs, agribusiness and SME financing to support economic growth and increased employment, implemented through building strategic partnerships with clients and deepening client relationship management with Nigerian businesses. This has resulted in Nigeria becoming IFC’s 9th largest country portfolio globally, and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa with an outstanding investment portfolio of almost US$1 billion, and annual investments of up to 40% of IFC’s total business in sub-Saharan Africa.
Solomon was also recently appointed to oversee the development and implementation of a proactive and systematic strategic approach to IFC supporting south-south investments in Africa, particularly from Brazil, China, India and Singapore. Prior to this, Solomon served as IFC’s Head of Infrastructure for sub-Saharan Africa based in Johannesburg from 2002-2006. Between 2001-2002, he also oversaw IFC’s overall business in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe. After joining IFC in 1999 and up until 2001, Solomon led IFC’s Infrastructure Advisory Services Group’s business development in sub-Saharan Africa, but prior to that worked on projects primarily in Eastern Europe. Before IFC, Solomon worked in the US, and has several years of senior investment banking experience on Wall Street, providing corporate finance advisory services to large and medium corporations. Immediately before joining IFC, he worked for five years in investment banking at Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns in New York City as an Associate and Vice President in the generalist, mining, and media & communications groups.
Solomon is a graduate of the J L Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He also has an MSc in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, as well as a BS in Applied Physics from the Atlanta University Center. For several years before business school and after graduation from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Solomon was a college professor at the Atlanta University Center in Mathematics and Engineering.