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Interview courtesy David
Yinka Folawiyo Group Director General, Tijani Babatunde Folawiyo, is the winner of the 2010 African Business Leadership Award. The prize was awarded to him on May 25, 2010, by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, on the sidelines of the institution’s Annual Meetings taking place in Abidjan, from May 26-27, 2010.
Question: What is your reaction following this award?
Answer: It is with profound humility, great joy as well as great pleasure that I accept the 2010 African Business Leadership Award. I'm surprised, but happy to know that my job as head of the Yinka Folawiyo Group, MTN Nigeria, and as a member of the board of directors of the new Access Bank, has been recognized.
Question: Can Africa raise its head higher with talents like you?
Answer: We have always applied the rules of ethics and advocated values, which has led to this success. There are obviously businesspeople who try to succeed outside these rules. They sometimes manage to reach the top, but don’t last long up there. In my company situation, we have always wanted to do what is right and moral.
This kind of event where we recognize the work of our peers, where Africans recognize their merits, raises awareness. We must do what is necessary within the rules of ethics. Once Africa understands this, the values of integrity will become the norm, and will promote private sector development.
Question: Who, in your view, has made the difference compared to other leaders?
Answer: What characterizes my company is our determination to create the best possible company. If some people believe that this model deserves to be rewarded, then that’s fine. Of course, my primary goal is not to be recognized by my peers. However, I am pleased to know that others have taken note of my commitment, by rewarding business creation efforts, by underscoring the type of management that lead to such success.
Question: What is your view about Africa’s unfavorable business environment?
Answer: The situation has improved. Fifteen years ago, when we started, all Nigerian banks put together could not finance an investment of more than USD 50 million. Today, one Nigerian bank can fund such an investment.
While companies are still experiencing financial difficulties, the conditions are now much better today. In the financial world, there are also new actors, fund management companies in particular, which provide capital to African businesses. Of course, the business environment remains difficult at the legal and fiscal levels, but there has been a significant improvement. Many African leaders have realized they can no longer be the "adversaries" of the private sector. They must work with entrepreneurs. A lot of efforts have therefore been made to improve the regulatory framework at different levels.
Question: What advice do you have for African youths?
Answer: Work is hard, but it is more recognized now than before. Young people must learn that there is a good and wrong way to succeed. If they start to take shortcuts, to engage in unsavory practices, they will not succeed in the long term. It is therefore necessary to create models of success and to act within rules and with integrity.