Mr. Ganiyu Ademola Dada, the CEO of Kofa international Company is an expert in leveraging financing for EXIM supported businesses between the United States of America and some African countries. Dada started his career as a banker in Nigeria before he travelled to the USA where he obtained a B.Sc in Accounting from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Roosevelt University. The former Chairman of Continental African Chamber of Commerce USA and Nigeria in Diaspora in the Americans spoke on the sundry issues in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
Tell us about Kofa International:
Kofa International Company was registered for the sole purpose of promoting US Trade and Investments Abroad whereas International Marketing and Loan Facilitation or Loan Brokerage is the heart of our business. The focal point of what Kofa is doing is building capacity all over Africa and we’ve recorded numerous successes over the years. For example, we’ve been supporting Japaul PLC since 2004 till date and we have different people coming in at different levels. Since 2008, we’ve leveraged over one billion in Nigeria and every bank is participating in the scheme and there is nothing we cannot do in conjunction with the United States Embassy. Interestingly, Kofa received a commendation letter from the Obama administration for our efforts towards job creation in the United States and we are currently partnering with the Federal government of Nigeria to create 200,000 jobs in the Nigerian economy. This is the focus of what we are doing all over Africa and the overall idea is to train, empower and help every individual to grow in their industry via entrepreneurship or internship.
You seem to be focusing on agriculture now:
Why we are focusing on Agro Allied Production and Processing is to ensure food sufficiency in the country as well as earn from exchange from the industry. For example, a company in Chicago, USA, EDA is doing 54 billion dollars annually processing agricultural products alone and they employ over thirty five thousand people. So, if we go the way of agricultural production and processing, we will be able to create a lot of jobs. The other way out for Nigeria in job creation is in entrepreneurship, financial empowerment and training. We need to develop the country to be the business hub of Africa and not the other way round. I appreciate the government of the day as they’ve shown commitment towards creating jobs in the country. It is very important that the government must also invest in human capital. What forward looking economies are doing now is creating family sustaining businesses to make people self-sufficient in their area of passion rather that the social safety nets the government is doing.
Is it possible to replicate some of the family sustaining programmes in Nigeria?
Yes, why not? We are all a product of the same thing whether you like it or not. There’s nothing special about some of these countries that are succeeding except for political will to create a sustainable solution to established challenges. We must be committed to our development by investing in the programmes that will create family sustaining ventures and taking time to train the beneficiaries. For example, as we sign multi-billion dollar contracts with the Chinese every year without compelling them to explore local content in terms of human capital, we are basically exporting jobs to China. This is because they will take the job to do and come back to assemble but if they do a substantial part of the project in Nigeria, about middle and upper level jobs will be created in the economy.
What has been the impact of this support to Nigerian businesses?
We were into general trading but at the dawn of the new millennium, we decided to be using US Export Credit Agencies to build capacity across Africa and more importantly Nigeria being 20% of the continent. We have been able to support many people. Our mission, in addition to providing low cost capital to qualified African government entities and entrepreneurs is to change the African economy from cash based to credit based in order to integrate African businesses to the Western Economy. Therefore, we want to be exporting western capital, in terms of technology, equipment and finance, to develop Africa. For example, we have worked with local Nigerian Banks, US Exim Bank and US Commercial Banks in USA, to secure multi-million dollar loans for Nigerian companies like Ibile Holdings Ltd and Japaul Plc to purchase DSC Shark and Marlin Classes of dredges. Kofa represents other manufacturers with products in agro allied industry. We have facilitated the financing of major projects in Nigeria in oil and gas, dredging, construction, and water chemical manufacturing, preservation, telecommunications and agricultural sectors of the economy. We need to create credit worthy companies in Nigeria that can attract more low interest loans from abroad to develop Nigeria without oil.
What has been the most challenging experience?
There are so many challenges. The qualified users of this money are Nigerian business people with good balance sheets; those who have contract either with governments or with oil and gas companies or anybody who has good banking relationships where Nigerian banks can guarantee them. The challenge is that African Banks do not want to guarantee anybody and the reason being that they will not guarantee you for a loan at 2% fee when they can charge you 25% for the same risk for the loan. Lack of cooperation from Nigerian banks has been our biggest challenge. The second challenge is insincerity on the part of African customers. For example, most people when they get the facility they divert the proceeds from the business to something else. Documenting business operation is also a big challenge for most Nigerian entrepreneurs. We have challenges with the banks as well as customers but through education, we take one company at a time.
What can Government do differently to help entrepreneurs to succeed?
Government can do a lot and we have been telling them. For example, if the US government did not provide an enabling environment for people like us to thrive; we will not be where we are, as we have no godfather. There are many programmes we have shown to Nigerian government like that of Small Business Administration (SBA) of USA whereby they can guarantee 90% for small business owners and leave 10% risk for the local banks. The Nigerian government must find different ways to mitigate risks to the Nigerian Banks so that they can guarantee or support small business owners and help vulnerable unemployed graduates, train them, empower them by guaranteeing loans to them to address the unemployment challenge in the country. The government must invest directly in the Youths and Unemployed Graduates to turn them to Entrepreneurs in their chosen fields which will grow from micro to small and some from small to medium and others from medium to large in future.
Do you think the full potentials of Lagos have been maximized?
Don’t forget what I told you earlier, Lagos has been at the forefront of this programme and they have used the platform twice. We have to give credit to Tinubu as well as Fashola. Lagos has been blessed with purposeful leaders and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is not relenting until the full potential of Lagos is maximized. The true reflection of a good leader is to be able to replicate himself in people, so Tinubu must be given credit for that. He actually wants to create a Chicago in Lagos and he has the blueprint well laid out. By the time they finish with the rail and transformation they are doing, Lagos will turn out to be a smart city but there’s still a long way to go in terms of sanitation, environmental issues and opening of new towns even with the constraints of finance, Lagos has done so well when compared with other states of the federation. As we speak, our focus is to develop Nigeria without oil. I want to use this medium to congratulate Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for creating an Employment Trust Fund as it is the way to go in building robust and sustainable MSMEs. We must be creating jobs the way we are graduating students from the university because there’s a correlation between crime and unemployment.
Lagos just celebrated fifty, what’s your take?
Lagos is on the right track and it will interest you to know that Lagos has a good credit rating that is very strong which is even better than Nigeria. I implore Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to continue with the good works to be able to make Lagos the business hub, transportation hub, entertainment hub as well as Tourism hub in Africa as this will attract more direct foreign investment.
What drives you?
Influencing and developing people positively in the driving force and I want Africa to move from abject poverty to affluence. It will interest you to know that we have natural, human, mineral resources and the only thing we lack is finance/capital. Having lived in the US and as a former Chair of Nigeria in Diaspora in the Americans, I believe it is my call to use US technology and funds that are unlimited to develop Nigeria and Africa. How Africa, Nigeria inclusive will wage war against abject poverty through wealth creation from our abundant natural, mineral and human resources is the driving force. Impacting people positively is what gives me life fulfillment.