United capital Group CEO, Peter Ashade

Exploring Post-Pandemic Opportunities in Africa: Interview with Peter Ashade, CEO United Capital

The Tony Elumelu Foundation catches up with Peter Ashade, the CEO of United Capital Plc, leading financial services Group in Africa focused on leveraging technology to empower businesses, individuals and governments. With a remarkable start to the year, United Capital recorded 3.13 point one trillion billion in the first quarter of 2021.

We just want to know, how was United Capital able to achieve this?

United Capital operates within the global and local scenes, and operating environments have changed significantly in the past two years. Looking at the impact of the pandemic in Nigeria, how it has significantly affected small and medium enterprises that account for 50% of the industrial jobs, contributing on average, up to 49% of GDP, what United Capital simply did in Q1, was to leverage on the opportunities created by Covid. We changed our approach and took advantage of the situation to the interest of United Capital.

United Capital is part of the Heirs Holdings group and Heirs Holdings has a strong philanthropic footprint through the Tony Elumelu Foundation & UBA Foundation. What defines impact for United Capital?

For us, what defines impact is significance. The outlook of Tony Elumelu Foundation is a clear testament for how we Africans can grow rather than waiting for the foreign or developed economy. How Africans can take part in changing the narratives of Africa.

Impact is in our central objective to help develop African businesses that will permeate in actualising the vision of Africapitalism. Impact is in how we develop start-ups that will create employment across the lines of different sectors and grow into bigger organisations.

What are three leadership traits that entrepreneurs must have to succeed?

  • Integrity: When you talk about leadership virtues, integrity is number one. It speaks volumes no matter who you are or what your business is doing. Let people believe your word is our bond. As a leader, people should be able to take your word to the bank.

  • Excellence: As a leader, you must be able see things but have the mind of doing it differently. For you to excel, you must challenge the status quo. I believe in the saying that an extraordinary person is an ordinary person with an extraordinary amount of determination. Excellence has a lot to do with determination; it is a major leadership trait that has helped my career this far. Anywhere I have had footprints in my career, I always strive to leave the place better than I found it.

  • Consistency: You must be consistent in your activities and how you deal with people. You must be very realistic in your approach. Even the act of consistency makes you a champion.

What is the Outlook For The Rest Of The Year For United Capital?

United Capital is at the forefront of delivering leading and innovative financial solutions and services.At the beginning of the year, we started implementing some strategic directions in the life and history of United Capital: an Africa rollout. Now, we have United Capital in Ghana which commenced full operation in March.

When we look at the future, given how far we have gone in the execution of the strategies and what we have achieved in Q1, we are quite optimistic that the outlook for the remaining part of the year looks great. For us, the game has just begun, and we are positive about the outlook on fortifying our position in Nigeria. We have been able to identify so many opportunities we hope to explore.  We are very dogged in our resilience to ensure these opportunities bring value to us as a group.

Whats Advice or Tips Do You Have For African Entrepreneurs To Achieve Success Through The Pandemic?

The next frontier for the development of Nigeria is the SMEs. I commend what the Tony Elumelu Foundation is doing to support SMEs – not leaving everything to the government. I believe this will lead to a convergence, which will transcend to an exponential development of the nation and beyond.

So my advice is this:

  • Ensure that there is a market for your solution. You must focus on remodelling your distribution channel while you continue to tap into the opportunities created by the pandemic. You need to identify the changes that have occurred as a result of Covid-19 in your business line and leverage it.

  • You need to manage your operating expense. I know in this part of the world, the cost of business is quite high but that will not be an excuse if you must succeed. Reducing operating expenses and introducing new product solutions to address your market is very key.

  • There is a need for you to be resilient. If you must succeed, you should not be frightened because of the giants that exist in the market. If you must drive volume in that market, you cannot be mediocre. You need to play strong and be resilient in that market, get additional knowledge and be able to tap into that and make impact as far as the market is concerned.

  • You need to remodel your communications. In everything, feedback is very important. If you must succeed, it is very key to consistently get feedback from your clients no matter how few they might be. That feedback helps you in product development, process adjustment, growth, and product perfection.

  • When you examine the growth of most businesses like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, most of what is happening is not within the enclave of that business. Partnerships play a role here and there. It is very key to look at how you can exploit profitable partnerships to extend your sales and distribution without increasing your costs significantly. Rather than taking a full swing of a process, ask if there are current players who can take on some part of the process. Partnerships bring into bearing, the ingenuity of the other party with yours.

  • You must understand government policies and decisions regarding your environment and how it affects your business. You need to read more, understand and educate yourself about what is happening in your environment. A lot of SMEs are not aware that there are interventions by CBN that could really assist them. Some are not aware of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. Seed capital is just a seed in today’s world, but you cannot have a harvest without first sowing a seed. You must continually investigate, empower your knowledge for opportunities to take advantage, upskill yourself, so that at the end of the day, you will be able to act. Your knowledge will really go a long way to assist you.

  • Regardless of the state or situation you find yourself in your business life cycle, continue to believe in yourself. Rome was not built in a day. You must pay the price for success and that is why winners never quit. Keep up and you will be a winner.
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