Nigeria’s Top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 – Iniabasi Akpan
Country Manager, Opay
Mr. Iniabasi Akpan, Country Manager, Opay, heads a company that offers unique payment solutions for businesses and retail customers in Nigeria, Kenya and across Africa. The company was founded by Opera Norway AS group in 2018 and was launched as a product in Nigeria the same year in August. From the one small step of its entry into Nigeria, it has been giant steps ahead for the company on the path of growth.
Opay is licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria for financial inclusion. In four months of operations, it processed transactions volume of N11 billion across 5,000 agents. The company is a one-stop mobile-based platform for payment, transportation, food and grocery delivery and other important services in everyday life.
Akpan was on an indirect journey to Opay when in 2010 he spearheaded the establishment and incubation of PayCom Nigeria Limited, which obtained a mobile money license in 2011. Akpan provided oversight for the company’s operations for seven years within the Telnet Group until Opay Digital Services Limited acquired the company in 2017. He then retired from Telnet after 23 years of service to join Opay as country manager for Nigeria.
Opay’s country manager is the man behind the army of the green helmet-clad ‘Opay’ motorcyclists that stream the length and breadth of Lagos State. What he does is bridging an important gap in Nigeria’s high-tech service space.
He built up the capacity for the task from 23 years he was in charge of the sale and management of several multi-million-dollar transformational projects as managing director at SoftWorks Limited, a subsidiary of the Telnet Group. Some of these include the sale and management of several multi-million-dollar transformational projects including the first public key infrastructure and two-factor authentication project in Nigeria which was a security project for the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He anchored the supply, installation and support of thousands of automated teller machines for banks. He also handled the design, implementation and support of online tax registration and collections portal for the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). He is also the brain behind the implementation of the unique tax identification number system for the Joint Tax Board as well as integrated tax administration system for FIRS.
The company is in charge of a technology driven, on-demand motorbike ride-hailing service – ORide that caters for a range of lifestyle demands, including food order and delivery, utility bills payment, cash access and more. The service meets demands for both long distance trip requests as well as intra-city coverage. It flagged off in Lagos in May 2019 and is expanding to other cities.
The service is a positive response to Nigeria’s transportation challenges that impede people’s movement, waste man hours and build losses. Akpan is out to find a solution to the challenge of having about 30 percent of Nigeria’s adult population uneducated, impoverished and without access to financial services.
These people lack the capacity to access the most basic financial services; to invest in education and build businesses and therefore operate at a fraction of their full potentials. Empowering people through access to participate in the economy is the business that Akpan is behind the driving wheel. “As a business, we exist to remove the barriers to financial services and access to a better quality of life for the underprivileged and the financially excluded”, he said.
It is a service that combines improved skills and technology to create conveniences for getting people and goods to destinations safely and timely. His purpose is to provide opportunities for operators and users in the less formal and informal sectors to access the tools of modern living, training, skills and finance they need to improve their lives.
The service leverages the use of mobile phones and technology – which he considers effective channels for linking low-income families back into the productive process of the economy. It provides links across physical borders, boundaries and even social barriers to bring in the socially and financially excluded.
With ORide, Akpan sees the potential of creating more than 100,000 tax paying jobs, easing the movement of people and goods and boosting commerce and entrepreneurship. He places great emphasis on driver training and safety in order to maintain a service standard that achieves the goals at low risk.
Motorbike riders are trained by safety professionals and reinforcement classes are held for them monthly. The motorbikes come with a pre-adjusted speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour with online, real time tracking devices. Riders and passengers are covered by comprehensive insurance and have access to 24-hour customer support service. Riders also have access to healthcare facilities.
Lifting people out of poverty is the mission that Akpan is set to accomplish. “Many people die because they are poor and do not have access to opportunities and financial services that can help them to live a better life”, he said. Helping people to overcome these barriers is the big idea behind Opay. He is hopeful to realize the mission – to employ technology-enabled solutions to make a difference in the lives of people in Nigeria and across Africa.
Akpan is in a business that is still at its infancy and has a long future ahead. Opay is one of upcoming institutions that have begun to give focused attention to the under-banked.
The licensing of telecommunication companies and other institutions to run in the financial inclusion terrain is believed to have let open the gates to great innovations in financial services delivery. The chapter of digital banking has just begun and Opay is one of the early birds in a brand-new market that is bound to set astir the brick and mortar banking space.
For his great accomplishments in lifting the informal sector operators into the digital end of the financial markets, creating opportunities that link the excluded back into the productive chain and lifting people out of poverty, Akpan is named one of the top 10 CEOs of the year, 2019 byThe Top 10 Magazine.