Celebrating your own is an attitude worth imbibing and that is what this article is all about. I am going to take you on a journey as we take a look at the businessmen behind local brands in Nigeria. The Nigerian market has an avalanche of business brands that have transcended the borders of the country. Some of these brands are household names and are on their way to becoming multinationals.
Nigerian local brands have been doing remarkably well over the years as they are constantly evolving and becoming more relevant by the day. The value they offer has made Nigerians content with their products rather than go for foreign brands.
Despite the negative press and the ever-present economic upheavals, Nigerian local brands have been competing favourably with multinationals and have even dwarfed them in some sectors in terms of valuation and perception. Nigerian local brands have not sat back and are satisfied with being local champions. A good number of them are expanding aggressively across the African continent and even beyond.
Local brands like Dangote Group, Access Bank, Globacom, UBA, GTBank, Zenith Bank, First Bank, etc have settled and are dominating the African market. Indeed, we can say that these brands are not merely domesticated but are major players in the African economic space.
The names behind the brands
Behind every brand is a name. Every business once started as an idea in a man’s head. The multi-billion dollar companies you see today with sprawling infrastructures across cities were mere ideas in people’s heads. These ideas were put to fruition and today, we get to see and hear the names of these people. These men and women not only started but have worked assiduously to get to where they are today. These businessmen have not only made a name but have contributed immensely to the economic growth of Nigeria.
So who are the businessmen behind the local brands that are dominating the Nigerian economic sphere?
Nigeria’s Most Valuable Nigerian Brand
Founder: Aliko Dangote
Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote was born on the 10th of April 1957. He was born in Kano, Kano State to a wealthy Muslim family. His mother, Mariya Sanusi Dantata was the daughter of businessman Sanusi Dantata who was also Aliko Dangote’s father’s business associate. Alhassan Dantata who was the richest West African then was Aliko Dangote’s great-grandfather.
Young Dangote schooled at the Sheikh Ali Kumasi Madrasa, after which he proceeded to Capital High School, Kano. In 1978, he obtained his O’ level certificate from the Government College, Birnin Kudu. Thereafter, he bagged a bachelor’s degree in business studies and administration from Al-Azhar University, Cairo.
According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Dangote’s net worth is estimated at US$18.7 billion as of January 2023, making him the richest person in Africa and the richest black person in the world.
Brand: Dangote Group
Dangote who is a renowned business magnate is the founder, chairman, and CEO of the Dangote Group. The Dangote Group is the largest industrial conglomerate in West Africa. He started the Dangote Group as a small trading firm in 1977. He got ₦500,000 loan from his uncle and started selling commodities like bagged cement and agricultural products. Also in the 1990s, his proposal for the management of the Central Bank’s fleet of buses; an idea he felt was cheaper was approved.
Today, the Dangote Group is the biggest Nigerian local brand and among the largest conglomerates in Africa. Interestingly, it has operations in African nations like Benin, Ghana, Zambia and Togo. Initially a trading company, the Dangote Group has grown to be the largest industrial group in Nigeria, with divisions like Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour. Dangote Sugars currently dominate the Nigerian Sugar market. Its refinery business accounts for 70 per cent of the supply chain to Nigeria’s soft drink companies, breweries and confectioners. The company has a staff strength of more than 11,000 people in West Africa.
Founder: John Momoh
Born on 1st July 1957, John Momoh who is of Etsakọ extraction is the founder of Channels TV. Momoh was raised in Lagos State by a father who was a cook. He graduated from Baptist Academy and went on to get a bachelor degree in Mass Communications and a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos. To add to his qualifications, he also got a professional Diploma from the UK’s Thomson Foundation. He is an alumnus of the University of Lagos, Lagos Business School, and Harvard Business School, and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Institute of Journalism.
Brand: Channels TV
John Momoh doubles as the Chairman and CEO of Channels TV. Channels TV is an independent and multiple award-winning 24-hour news and media television channel based in Lagos. Channels TV is currently the biggest Nigerian local brand in the media sector.
Founder: Michael Adeniyi Adenuga
Born and christened as Michael Adeniyi Agbolade Ishola Adenuga Jr on 29th April 1953, Adenuga owns Globacom.
He was raised by his father Michael Agbolade Adenuga Sr, a school teacher and his mother, Juliana Oyindamola Adenuga, a businesswoman. For his secondary education, he attended Ibadan Grammar Scool
Adenuga received his secondary school education at Ibadan Grammar School, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria and also got his Higher School Certificate from Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro. He obtained his degrees in Business Administration from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Pace University, New York, respectively. According to Forbes, his estimated net worth is $6.2 billion as of May 202.
Adenuga who is the sixth richest person in Africa owns Globacom; Nigeria’s second-largest telecom operator. Globacom has international operations in Ghana and Benin. Before starting Globacom, Adenuga worked as a trader distributing lace and soft drinks. Interestingly, he made his first million in 1979 at the age of 26. He got a drilling license in 1991 as his consolidated Oil struck oil in the shallow waters of Southwestern Nigeria.
The telecommunication giant Globacom started in 1999 when Adenuga obtained a conditional GSM license. The first was revoked but he was issued a second one the government held another auction in 2003. In 2022, Globacom was Nigeria’s Most Popular Brand and the 3rd Most Valuable Brand. Despite competing with multinationals like MTN and Airtel, Adenuga has built Globacom to be the largest Nigerian local brand as far as the telecommunication sector is concerned.
Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing
Founder: Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma
The founder and CEO of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, Chief Innocent Ifediaso Chukwuma was born on the 1st of October 1961 into the family of Chukwuma Mojekwu. He is the youngest of six children. He once worked as a computer science teacher at Haydon School, Pinner, UK.
Brand: Innoson Motors
After completing his degree program in 1981, the young innocent started selling spare parts which is a very lucrative business in South East Nigeria. From trading in spare parts, he started the company Innoson Group with Innoson Manufacturing and Innoson Tech—& Industries Co. Ltd as its subsidiaries.
Founder: Allen Ifechukwu Onyema
Allen Ifechukwu Onyema is the CEO of Air Peace. He was born in 1964. He is a trained Nigerian lawyer and businessman. Allen is from Anambra State but was born and raised in Benin City by his parents Michael and Helen Onyema. He is the first of nine children.
Allen obtained his Higher School Certificate in 1984 from Government College Ughelli, Delta State. He was offered direction admission to study law at the University of Ibadan the same year.
Brand: Air Peace
Allen started Air Peace in 2013 with its head office in Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria. Since then, it has become the flag carrier and the largest airline in Nigeria and West Africa. Providing passenger and charter services, it serves the major cities of Nigeria and covers several West African destinations and the Middle East. As far s the aviation sector is concerned, Air Peace easily stands out as the first Nigerian local brand.
Founder: Adesimbo Bello-Ukiri
The first of the two females on this list, Adesimbo holds an LLB from Obafemi Awolowo University and was also a Sloan Fellow of London Business School, where she got an MSc in Management (Leadership and Strategy).
Brand: Avon Healthcare
Adesimbo as the managing director and CEO of Avon Health Care spearheaded the company’s transition from a startup in 2012 into the leading Nigerian health management organisation it is today.
United Bank for Africa
Founder: Tony Elumelu
Born in Jos, Plateau, Nigeria, on 22 March 1963, to Suzanne and Dominic Elumelu from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, Elumelu is the founder and CEO of UBA. He is a brother to Ndudi Elumelu, a minority leader in the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives.
The UBA supremo is a graduate of Economics at Ambrose Alli University and he also obtained a Master of Science degree in Economics at the University of Lagos.
Brand: United Bank for Africa
As a youth corps member, he served with the Nigerian Bank Union Bank in 1985, before setting up his career as a salesman. In 2005, he joined Allstates Trust Bank and his leading brand United Bank for Africa (UBA) was acquired afterwards.
Founder: Loveth Omafuaire
Loveth Omafuaire was born on April 28, 1987, to Chief James Eseolomu Omafuaire and his wife Mrs Felicia Omafuaire. Loveth’s passion for entrepreneurship can be largely traced to her mother’s success in business. Felicia Omafuaire who is popularly known as Madam eagle thrived in the sales of general merchandise for over five decades of her life. Naturally, Loveth and her siblings gravitated toward Felicia’s entrepreneurial path.
Loveth obtained a bachelor’s of Art from Delta State University Abraka, and a Master’s degree from the University of Ibadan.
She currently lives with her husband and their girls in the state of Kentucky where they are currently scaling NaijaPackage.
Naija Package is an E-commerce and skills marketplace for small business owners in Nigeria living in Nigeria and the Diaspora with the goal of giving them a platform and the tools to showcase their brand to as many people as possible.
It will be very important to point out the fact that the above-listed brands are not the biggest or the best as far as the Nigerian market is concerned. The selection of businessmen above is strictly based on choice and they are also chosen purposefully and not based on any available data or statistics. The essence of this article is just to celebrate them as individuals and the groundbreaking impact their brands have had on the people of Nigeria. From the telecommunication, media, and aviation to the financial sector, the impacts these brands have made and are making are undeniable.
They have contributed immensely to the economic growth of Nigeria as a nation and are still helping to put the country on the pedestal of economic greatness. As said earlier, they are not just local businesses but brands that are dominating the economic space in Africa. Every single one of them on this list and the ones not mentioned is worth celebrating.