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Jim Ovia: Poster Boy Of Nigerian Banking

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Diminutive Jim Ovia, Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, on Monday, September 17, 2018, launched his much-awaited autobiography: ‘‘Africa Rise and Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 billion.’’

In headlining the main point of the book, Mr. Ovia writes:

“In the course of Zenith Bank’s own journey to “rise and shine’’, the business began as a single branch in Lagos on the ground floor of an impoverished resident duplex that we shared with a private a private tenant and his wife. At the time, there were no high-rise office structures in the area, and we were not able to afford a stand-alone building of our own, so we created an impromptu commercial space where we could carry out the banking business. We put up our signage and logo, but truly it did not resemble an office or a bank at all.’’

In summary, Mr. Ovia writes: ‘‘That unassuming duplex was the starting point for a business that became a London Stock Exchange-listed company with operations in the UK, China, UAE, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, with more than 400 branches and business offices in Nigeria”

Understandably, the author of the book received rave reviews at its launching. Here is a sampling of the reviews:

“There is nobody that will read this kind of book and will not be inspired and I want to recommend it to everyone. It is always very good when people who have been successful in their career or profession decide to say something about how they really toiled to get to where they are.

“Some people just think people get to be successful without knowing that they actually toiled to become successful and this kind of book inspires our younger ones to become more resourceful and then more inspiring.”

   — Akinwumi Ambode, Governor, Lagos State.

“There are different types of Godfathers. There’s political, religious, economic and so on. Jim Ovia is my economic Godfather. He will not defect like my political Godfather. Economic godfathers stick with you rain or shine.”

— Emmanuel Udom, Governor, Akwa Ibom State.

“Jim Ovia will be prominently cited as one of the founding fathers of Africa’s modern banking system. Africa Rise and Shine enshrines how Ovia pioneered the creation of one of the continent’s most successful banks, and demonstrates how believing in yourself, aiming for excellence, building a team, and listening to your gut-all with and unwavering ethical stance-frame the model for the next generation of great entrepreneurs anywhere. Jim Ovia’s story re-defines the power of today’s self-made man.”

 — David Applefield, Financial Times.

‘‘There are quite a number of nuggets to learn from this book. That said. This is what was missing for me. There were really no failure stories. I know we want to read a success story but successful entrepreneurs share their failure stories too. I think it demonstrates that the path to the top might be tough but worth it in the end. I wanted to learn more about the politics of banking in Nigeria, the challenge of hiring the right people and having great people leave. I wanted to know if they ever had any close calls and how they made it through those years. I wanted to know if he had ever had to fire someone he really liked before because he had to choose the business.’’

 — Tomie Balogun, Investment Consultant.

Mr. Jim Ovia, the subject matter of the book, ‘‘Africa Rise and Shine’’, which is essentially the story of how he started Zenith Bank in the late 1980s with N20 million and ballooned it into a $16 billion enterprise, is arguably a poster boy of Nigerian banking.

Great job, Jim!

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