Nearly a decade ago, three friends of Nigerian heritage; Muna Obioha, Aminu Nyako and Simisola Williams who, schooled, lived and worked in the United States and United Kingdom, came together to pursue their dreams of building a global company that showcases the strength of Africa in the world’s economy.
The trio share a vision to bridge the technology divide between developed and emerging markets for economic growth. Thus, they launched Louer Group, a US established management and technology consulting firm that provides consulting, technology and digital services to businesses and governments in emerging countries. Since its launch, they’ve worked in challenging environments where they’ve had to apply technology to the delivery of practical solutions to some of Africa’s challenges and have produced real results.
Pleasures Magazine, speaking to Aminu Nyako and Muna Obioha highlights why Louer Group’s approach of providing information technology services and solutions for organizations is germane to the growth of the African economy, particularly Nigeria.
Here’s excerpts of their interview.
QHello gentlemen, would you please introduce yourselves?
Ans Aminu: Hello, my name is Aminu Nyako, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Louer Group.
Ans Muna: And I am Muna Obioha, Co-founder and Managing Partner of the firm. Our third partner, Simisola Williams unfortunately isn’t able to join us here today.
Q Welcome gentlemen. Muna, Please tell us, what is Louer Group about?
Ans Louer Group is a US established management and technology consulting firm that provides consulting, technology and digital services to organizations in emerging markets. In recent years, governments and businesses have been under increasing pressure to reduce costs, minimize risks, improve efficiency and grow, based on consumer demands, hence the need for effective technology utilization. In the long term, one of the purposes for our public sector market is to make government interactions more accessible for everyone through technology.
Q Over to you, Aminu, what forms the value of Louer Group?
Ans When we see a problem, we do something about it, we think innovatively in problem solving, we put-in our best to achieve results, and we’re all about quality output.
Some of the major hindrances to the African economic growth, lie within the poor implementation of technology services as an economic enabler. There’s no better time than now, for organizations in Africa to harness its human capital, resources and upsurge innovation where necessary using digital services as a means to drive economic growth and sustainable impact. As this happens, then we can talk about competing in the global market and thriving in our areas of advantage. At Louer group, we’ve identified the challenges faced by organisations in this market and have developed custom solutions that address their deficiencies. As a leading provider of digital government services, sites, and secure revenue generation, we know what it takes to make online interactions better experiences for everyone.
Ans The choice of Nigeria as our pilot market is because it’s the 2nd largest African economy if not the largest, and if you succeed here, then you stand a very good chance in other African countries.
Q Great! This is a very diverse team – different ethno-religious backgrounds and gender. Was this deliberate? What do you appreciate about your team and how has this diversity helped your business growth?
Ans Muna: Well, this is the first we’ve been asked this question; I must say that the key thing that brought us together is our love for Nigeria and pride in our heritage. We realized we share deep passion for the advancement of Nigeria, as we strive to regain a country where Nigerians of all backgrounds, can believe in the system and have equal access to opportunity in order to attain their dreams irrespective of ethnicity, religion and status.
Having said this, we choose the principles of unity, sacrifice, trust and respect over the negative tribal, cultural and religious antecedents that’s ridden our country and other African countries, hindering us greatly from achieving our greatest potential and owning our rightful place in the world – which is being a leading continent of revered diversity.
With a career as an IT Consultant, Aminu as an Economist and Public Policy expert, and Simisola as an Investment and Finance Professional, having all worked for Fortune 500 companies and foreign governments, we were certain that leveraging our unique backgrounds would foster innovation and form a vision that shapes the future at the intersection of business, government and technology. It all started as an idea, then became an action; our readiness has been met with opportunities, most of which have been successful and that’s my African story.
Ans Aminu: Muna pretty much summed it up. We’re a diverse group indeed – Some well-meaning people initially tried to dissuade us from forming a partnership citing potential conflict as we grew, but it is precisely these differences in perspectives that make us a formidable team. I have come to realize that Nigerians outside of the country are more united than Nigerians within, possibly because of the disparity in levels of education and exposure. Outside Nigeria, factors such as tribe or religion are immaterial.
“When we see a problem, we do something about it, we think innovatively in problem solving, we put-in our best to achieve results, and we’re all about quality output.”
We focus on what unites us; our shared passion to see Nigeria and Africa as a whole, develop, to clean up our global image, and to set a new precedent for what is possible when Nigerians and Africans unite. That is why a core aspect of our group ethos is to bring young and progressive minded Nigerian professionals from any part of the world into a fold where we can collectively build our country. As part of Louer Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility, we offer a platform to any organization of Nigerians with ideas of how to unify the country and foster her development. Young Nigerians have unmatched potential and we function better in unity. I say this authoritatively because I know many Nigerians working collaboratively excelling in various businesses and even political fields both within Nigeria and in other countries. For example, the current president of Gabon was born to Nigerian parents from eastern Nigeria.
He was one of the many Nigerian children that were adopted from the country during the country’s civil war. Today, he has emerged the President of that country. Recently, I was with a group of young Nigerians who run oil rigs in Mauritania, and I asked myself, if these young Nigerians can do so well outside their country of origin, why are we being relegated in our own country? What I see as a bit of challenge here is that back here at home, we don’t always readily promote our own home grown products and services. But when we work together, it’s always magical.
Q It’s interesting you’ve mentioned this last point Aminu. Given that the concept the Louer group brings to Nigeria is mostly new terrain for many Nigerians, how would you mitigate against the potential rejection of your product offering?
Ans I couldn’t have chosen a better place to work, and do business than my home country, Nigeria. It’s really a myth that Nigerians aren’t tech savvy or will not welcome technology. Young Nigerians are among the most tech-savvy population in the world. Consider what is happening in places like computer village Ikeja, Aba in Abia state – young Nigerians are developing technology that foreigners from more technologically advanced countries marvel at, especially in light of prevailing economic limitations.
Again, consider the Nigerian banking sector. Although it’s relatively young, it’s even more activated than the banking sector in the U.S. This is because the technology experts in this country saw a problem in the sector and quickly moved to use technology to create solutions to those problems, and now, other countries are taking a cue from what we have done. Even right now, the private sector of the Nigerian economy is largely driven by modern technology. The difference in returns for tech driven well managed private sector as compared to their less upgraded counterparts is measurable and obvious.
In the public space, African governments, have been slow to embrace the idea of infusing technology into governance, and consequently remain many steps behind the rest of the world in this aspect. Nigeria, and indeed, Africa, has the youngest population in the world, and young people are the fastest adaptors of modern technology. Inevitably we must leverage on that advantage to drive the continent, and the time for that is now. As a nation, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we can leapfrog many indices of development if we apply and build on existing technology. The Nigerian government by adapting technology can make governance easy and seamless and be a beacon for other African governments to emulate.
Q Muna, would you tell us what Louer Group offers and to whom?
Ans Louer Group builds technology solutions that fit Nigerian organisations and work for Africa. Technology can solve many management problems today and Louer custom builds what our consumers – the private and the public sector – need. We’re currently focusing on public sector as this will make the biggest impact for the most people. Aminu mentioned that the public sector has to do much more to catch up with private and other governments and he’s absolutely correct. Well-meaning citizens are often frustrated when they cannot communicate, or can’t find exactly what they need to know in the system to move the country ahead. There’s a huge disconnect between what governance could be, what the people expect from the government and what government actually provides. We believe Louer group can facilitate solutions to these issues.
Q Muna, Louer group has been in operation in Nigeria for four years now. How do you measure success? What challenges have you encountered and overcome in the course of starting up your business in Nigeria?
Ans In the last four years, we have worked with public agencies like the National Lottery Organization (helping public servants improve their efficiencies in their services to the government and the citizens), the National Directorate of Employment (adapt a modern way of communicating with the citizens), and most recently the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission. We’ve also orchestrated major projects with other relevant government agencies that we necessarily must keep confidential for now, but will be happy to share with the world soon.
To any entrepreneur anywhere in the world, startup capital is usually a challenge, and this was certainly the case with us especially as tech can be capital intensive. However, I firmly believe that if one has a clear picture of what one wants to do in his mind, conviction about the vision as well as sufficient tenacity to take the first step, the world will align to help achieve the goal.
What we lacked in finances, we made up by leveraging on each other’s strengths. In early days, we took baby steps and were generous with our skills, often doing free work in exchange for customer referrals.
Today, we are have an ‘applaudable’ number of prestigious organizations associated with our company. The key measure of success for us will always be customer satisfaction and measurable returns on investments for our clients.
Q Aminu, what are the set goals of your company for the next three to five years?
Ans We have already exceeded our current five – year projection, implying that the Nigerian economy is ripe for the solutions we provide. We’ve had to establish a subsidiary to deal with private sector, while Louer group focuses mostly on public sector. Within the next five years, some of Louer group’s key initiatives will center around providing tech solutions to the problems of ineffective inter-government administration, poor government – citizen relationship, and providing safety for citizens, particularly by monitoring borders to curb intra and inter-border insurgency.
We also aim to assist the government in raising more funds, and managing it effectively. Ultimately, we want to help African countries synergize governance on the continent. Nigeria will be our starting point, but we will eventually emerge as the go – to – digital technology company for building holistic solutions to the challenges of governance in Africa. Most important, we understand the value of trust and aim to build trust between the public sector and us.
Q Young entrepreneurs within Africa are currently being heralded as crucial to the economic development of Africa. Would you say this clamor is reasonable?
Ans The involvement and participation of young persons in entrepreneurship in Africa is, critical to the development of the continent. When young people explore their talents, they contribute to defining the brand of the country or a continent. For instance, when one thinks of Mark Zuckerberg; an incredibly impactful wealthy young American, comes to mind. If I mention Malala Yousafzai, an ardent Pakistani activist speaking up for millions of women all over the world comes to mind.
These individuals elevate the brand of their country of origin. Young Nigerians are some of the most hardworking entrepreneurial youth subsets in the world, because outside the informal extended family system, we don’t have a strong welfare system, and we must thrive. In truth, we have many young Africans stepping up and building home-grown global businesses which contribute towards making the African economy a robust economy to reckon with. Unfortunately, we aren’t always portrayed this way in the media, which is why more young Nigerians must step up until we change the narrative and encourage internal and foreign investments here.
Q Muna, can you tell us what Louer group has done to improve the community outside of business? Do you organize seminars here in the country where you create awareness about what your company is here to do and where you equip young entrepreneurs with those needed skills you just mentioned?
Ans We are currently working with a number of groups and organizations within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to give them some basic needed skills and relevant resources required to start their businesses and stay sustained in them.
We were in Adamawa State recently where we undertook the renovation of some dilapidated school blocks to provide better learning environment for the Nigerian children. We have provided education scholarships for the last few years, but in the coming year, we look to go beyond provision of school fees for individuals to working with the government, the private sector, as well as NGOs to establish skills – based educational centers. So, we have bigger plans for the future.
Q Finally, Aminu, Nigeria will have general elections in 2019. What will be your advice to the Nigerian youths going into the 2019 elections?
Ans First, I will advise all Nigerian youths and indeed, the Nigerian people generally, to make sure that they get their permanent voter’s card (PVC) so that they will be able to participate in the general elections come 2019. We have to get involved in the political process of our country. We are better and stronger together, than apart. Serious nation building cannot begin until we begin to embrace this fact. This country, Nigeria belongs to the young and our young, and we have to work together to build up our home.
Q And how may the company be contacted?
Ans In Nigeria, we are located at No. 50 Nelson Mandela Street, Asokoro, Abuja. And in the United States, 10411 Motor City Dr, Suite 750, Bethesda, MD 20817, USA. www.louergroup.com