Move Back to Nigeria is a series on BellaNaija which aims to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap, considering the leap, as well as those who have tried it and realized it is not for them. MoveBacktoNigeria.com’s mission is to showcase stories of Nigerians abroad who have moved back home and are taking giant strides, often against all odds and to serve as inspiration to others. This, however, does not preclude us from sharing stories of the people who have moved back and are facing various challenges.
Given the increased focus on agriculture in Nigeria, we are delighted to bring you this week’s interview with Stephen Adenika. Read on to find out in his own words, what it takes to get into the industry in Nigeria, the role Ecommerce is playing in agriculture in Nigeria, some of the challenges and solutions to getting ahead as an agriculture entrepreneur in Nigeria, among many other helpful tips.
Thanks for speaking with us. Can you please introduce yourself, tell us who you are and what you do?
I am Stephen Adenika, an entrepreneur and current CEO of Apfatrade Limited – a company which specializes in agriculture. Separately I also work in Real Estate.
Ok. When and why did you leave Nigeria?
I left Nigeria in 2007 and this was simply for academic pursuits.
Can you tell us about your educational background?
I attended the European University of Lefke, Northern Cyprus, studying Business Management.
Is that what you always wanted to study?
To be sincere I ran to that department because back in school, at secondary level I was a science student and I always thought I would be an engineer. I was not good at Mathematics.
Cyprus? That’s an interesting choice. How was life there?
It’s a beautiful island and a good place to live but there were some challenges. For instance, as a student you don’t really have the opportunity to work and things were particularly hard for me at the time, due to the fact that my parents had financial issues which led me to spend much longer than I should have as a result of frozen semesters/ my inability to pay fees.
And so after your undergraduate degree, what came next?
My story is a bit challenging as I said earlier. After my B.Sc, I was not exactly sure of my next steps. I did not plan to return to Nigeria immediately but I also knew I had to leave Cyprus for greener pastures. Where to? That was the problem. Luckily for me, I had begun some entrepreneurial pursuits while at school and that formed the basis for my coming home. I decided to come back home and invest the little I had.
You moved back to Nigeria, what happened after that?
I believe that time is my most valuable asset and so, I went straight into business. I started doing the background research and checks and I started the incorporation process for my company.
Tell us about your company, what is it that you do?
The name of the company is Apfatrade limited and we are basically into agriculture. We own an e-commerce platform known as www.apfatrade.com, which is one aspect of our services. It is essentially a platform for agricultural producers, sellers, importers and exporters. They put up their products, meet sellers and buyers and also interact there. We are also into physical farming, and we currently operate a fish farm and a poultry project too.
And where are your farms located?
In Lagos and Ogun State.
How have you found running a business in Nigeria, have there been any particular challenges?
There have been lots of challenges. In Nigeria, it can be quite difficult when you do not really have the financial backup. The mentality down here is so different and at first when we started with just the e-marketplace, it was well received but it did not go as planned. People did not really understand the concept that much so I had to re-invent the platform and introduce the visible farm. Undoubtedly, the government is beginning to take more of an active role to support the growing agriculture industry. There are a lot of grants available. However, it’s quite difficult to access them.
We find that a lot of young people are interested in agriculture these days, is this really the situation and why is it so difficult to access the funding?
Yes it is the situation and the celebrity endorsements that make the sector seem rightfully appealing. Regarding the grants, it is indeed very difficult. I have undergone research, tried to make contacts, and explored all avenues to no avail. Some banks are giving money to loan out to agricultural entrepreneurs, but you find out the basic requirements set out by the government is not what the banks are actually using. So what you just do as an entrepreneur is keep going, no matter what. Nothing is going to stop you from doing what you have at heart, not even the government. Personally, I have turned to friends and family who believe in my idea, and we make it happen. Human Capital has basically been what has seen me through.
That’s fortunate. What made you decide to focus on agriculture and agricultural entrepreneurship, what is the reason for your agricultural interest?
The reason is not so far-fetched. I, like many others, know that my country and my continent are blessed with abundant arable land as well as good resources. Food is life, agriculture is life. So when I conducted my research, I found out that the only business that can survive anytime, in any situation is agriculture. When there is a downturn in the economy, every other business may close down but people will always eat. There is nothing that affects agriculture and the competition is healthy. Looking at Africa and Nigeria with all the resources, we have a competitive advantage over the western world when it comes to agriculture and so, I decided to take the plunge.
Are you working in collaboration with other agricultural entrepreneurs as well?
Yes I am. That’s a huge part of what we do and what we plan to expand on.
In terms of moving back, what have been the positives for you?
I don’t regret moving back at all. The positive is that I have been able to see my country from a different light. I have been able to see so many opportunities in this land and I have been able to grow myself to fit into the system again.
Tell us about the real estate part of your business concerns.
It started when I moved back to Nigeria. I actually met a man who is my mentor. He is a visionary and he empowers the youth. He came up with a summit/conference last year titled for young entrepreneurs and I participated and learnt a lot from it. There were featured experts from the U.S and the UK whom I was lucky to interact with and pitch my ideas to and that was how my interest in real estate developed and was nurtured. Our real-estate service is unique to this market: It is a long-term payment system in which you can rent to own. It is not a mortgage, we would be your bank. You don’t have to put down a deposit, we work in plan with your income, which we call the affordable housing scheme.
Moving on, you were away for quite a while, how did the lifestyle change affect you when you came back to Nigeria?
I will tell you that the things were quite challenging e.g. the Lagos traffic, irregular power supply etc. So many things, but when you know what you are expecting, you plan ahead. You have to set your targets and objectives right. I knew what I was getting into, I knew what I wanted, and so these things were not stumbling blocks to me. My target was mainly for my business to grow and succeed and so, I was not carried away or overwhelmed by those challenges, because I knew this is Nigeria and I had to get down to business.
In terms of the Apfatrade brand, how and where do you see yourself going in the next five to ten years?
I hope to be a household name when it comes to Agriculture in Africa and with the team I have (young minds with great prospects), I know we are ready for the journey. Yes, it is challenging but thankfully, Nigeria has woken up. The sector itself is going places and Apfatrade will also go to places too.
Finally, regarding people who are considering moving back to Nigeria, do you have any words of wisdom for them as they embark on this journey?
The first thing I will say is that, whatever idea you have, things might not go as planned. Know that when you move back to Nigeria, you don’t only need ideas or capital; you need a strong resolve, a good team, and then you can survive in Nigeria.
In some of the previous MBTN interviews I have read, I see something similar in almost all the people interviewed, which is the willingness to go on regardless of whatever the situation is. This strong resolve is important. Like they say, if you can picture it, you can achieve it. In your mind you may not see the obstacles but when you actually practicalize it, then you start experiencing the difficulties. That willingness and resolve will not make you give up, instead it will make you tackle the problem and move ahead.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
The primary objective of MoveBackToNigeria.com is to connect Nigerian professionals with various opportunities in Nigeria, ranging from recruitment drives to information & support regarding relocation processes, financial & tax advice and much more. Move Back To Nigeria also features social interest topics such as what’s on, where to live, how-to survival tips and so on. Consistently engaging with and featuring Nigerian professionals in weekly interviews, Move Back To Nigeria regularly publishes social interest articles relevant to the general public. Everyone is welcome to their online discussions & fora and you are invited to air your views & suggestions on the topical and trending matters section. For more information and further inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org