How We Started Zenith Bank With N20m — Ovia

The Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia, has advised budding entrepreneurs not to be dissuaded by whatever challenges they might be facing presently, just as he narrated how he founded a bank with N20 million in 1990, despite the uncertain business environment during the military era.
Speaking in an interview on Bloomberg TV at the weekend, about his new book: “Africa Rise And Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 billion,” Ovia urged entrepreneurs to be responsive to opportunities lurking around.
Specifically, Ovia advised foreign investors not to be deterred by negative news and commentaries about Africa.
He explained: “We started the business with N20 million at an exchange rate of N5 to a dollar. So, we actually started the business with $4 million in 1990, and it has now blossomed.
“We now have a total asset base of $16 billion. If you look at the arithmetic, there have been over 1000 per cent growth. You can’t get that anywhere. Even in the best economies in the world, you are not going to get that type of benefit.
“So, that is the kind of risk entrepreneurs, businesses or international investors must take in Nigeria or any other African country and reap tremendously in terms of quantum growth in their business.”
According to Ovia, just as he saw opportunities in the banking sector at the time Zenith Bank was set up, there were other opportunities that some other persons had in other industries.
“It was a matter of time and chance,” he insisted.
“Time and chance at that time because at that time, many people were scared to invest in Nigeria. We are talking about late 80s and to be precise, in 1990, many international investors were scared to invest, simply because we were under military rule.
“So, you could imagine the tremendous opportunities that existed in Nigeria and some other African countries, but because we were indigenous people, we knew that it meant nothing.
“We had lived through that and we knew it doesn’t really affect the economy tremendously. Definitely, it was a matter of understanding what you do, because the corporate governance issue had improved significantly.
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