AfricaLive interviews Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo, Founder and Managing Director of Boskel regarding his entrepreneurial journey and the future for Boskel as the company seeks expansion outside of its native Nigeria.
AfricaLive: Please give readers a bit of background of your company?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: I started this company thirty years ago to develop solutions to process industry problems in Nigeria. I wanted my company to be the one that finds homemade solutions to our issues while also achieving international standards. Within a year of my independent foray into the oil and gas industry, we identified a significant problem that was affecting the environment. The flaring in the sector was quite smoky, and it was ruining the environment. The top player in the industry at the time was Shell Petroleum Nigeria. I approached them with a solution to the problem and was pleased with their open-minded attitude. My answers needed some collaborative efforts to work, and after some tests, a major commercial trial went live. The trial went successfully, and the door to many more partnerships with Shell stayed open. Our interaction with Shell way back then embodied what we are all about, which is developing solutions for the industry. We have taken an interest more recently in waste management. The waste management industry in Nigeria is still in its infancy and needs a significant boost. Boskel has stepped in to develop and propose solutions to better the situation. Our company has made great strides and achieved milestones in Nigeria; we want to do the same beyond our borders.
AfricaLive: Have you established a presence in any other countries on the continent?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: We are yet to have a footprint outside Nigeria, but we have made contact with Gabon. About two years ago, we set out to do a joint venture with some Gabonese partners for the setting up of an industrial waste management plant. The language barrier was a huge stumbling block, but we were able to get around that and have a deal in place. The project is yet to take off, but the groundwork is complete. Partners like the ones we intend to work with, in Gabon trust us because of the value proposition we present. We are hopeful that more joint venture opportunities will come up. We recently got contacted by a company in Mauritania which is a significant lead, and we have also made contact with a group of investors in Ghana. Our ability to design and build equipment used in waste management and mining projects is appealing to African companies. Companies in the continent stand to gain from locally made material designed to handle the terrain and unique challenges of the continent.
AfricaLive: How Is Boskel fueling economic growth and positively impacting the lives of Africans?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: The very first impact on the economy we are bringing is the ability to hire over a hundred Nigerians. At Boskel, we believe in building our equipment and tools, a stance which is much appreciated by our government. It saves the country money that could have otherwise been spent importing the equipment. Thirdly, our work provides opportunities for training engineers and scientists while exposing them to a world of experience. We are also proud to have inspired other Nigerians in the same field to take action and create businesses as well. When locals see their compatriots succeeding in an area, they want to try it themselves, which is a good thing. Boskel has positively impacted the economy by providing employment, skills, as well as the sprouting of new organisations.
AfricaLive: You have been in operation since 1989. Does the future Nigeria you envisioned back then match the Nigeria you are experiencing today?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: The dreams I had for Nigeria thirty years ago are yet to materialise in many ways. Progress has no doubt been made, but there is more room for improvement than I hoped there would be back then. I expected us to have surpassed or at least caught up with South Africa in terms of development by now. The slow pace of growth in our country has a silver lining though. Our developing economy presents opportunities for entrepreneurs to look around and identify the gaps. Business people can then offer the products and services required to satisfy the market.
AfricaLive: I am glad you brought up entrepreneurship because we find that two-thirds of start-ups on the continent fail within the first three years since starting. What measures will ensure the creation of an enabling environment for business survival and prosperity?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: I will answer by highlighting a few personal experiences. Back in the day, I used to work for Nigeria’s premier steel manufacturing corporation. After nine years of service, I left to create Boskel despite the many challenges I had to navigate through. I faced difficulty in accessing funding because investors did not want to back a new company with no significant experience. Underdeveloped infrastructure was another major headache as I strived to get my business off the ground. I also had to do what new businesses have to do, which is financing their security, and infrastructure systems. All these challenges are off the back of an inadequate education system in the first place. My previous industry experience gave me an advantage over the graduates in my field, though. Many budding business people face all these challenges. Some problems go beyond funding, training, and lack of infrastructure. We have security lapses in some parts of the country which work against business people. A more serious challenge is the lack of faith in our people. We have had to implement a ‘No cure, No pay’ warranty policy to win contracts. This warranty arrangement was necessary because a lot of our people did not believe that locals could deliver a decent product. The ‘No cure, No pay’ warranty reassures potential customers and holds their attention. Fixing all these issues will create an enabling environment for business survival and prosperity.
AfricaLive: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: I would encourage them to be resilient despite the challenges they may face. Someone wise once said that a mountain would be impossible to climb if it wasn’t for its rough edges. Those words are profound because it justifies the need for struggle to build strength and wisdom. Local entrepreneurs should have a positive outlook because Africa has so much to offer. Aspiring local businessmen and women should know that compared to other parts of the world, Africa is still mostly virgin ground with lots of opportunities.
AfricaLive: You are a successful CEO and business leader with thirty years of experience. In your view, what qualities should a successful aspiring entrepreneur possess?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: Discipline and creativity are paramount for them to succeed. Discipline helps you to follow through, and creativity enables you to manoeuvre through the challenges. Once the person has established himself as an entrepreneur, they should go ahead and set up a personal leadership strategy. Being a good leader helps you produce new leaders and a lasting legacy.
AfricaLive: Our publication focuses on educating international readers on the realities of doing business in Africa. What message of confidence do you wish to convey to foreign investors that are curious about Africa?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: They should rest assured that Africa presents more opportunities than anywhere else. Yes, we do have security and stability challenges in some parts of the continent, but the rest of Africa is peaceful and stable.
AfricaLive: In the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, do you think African nations can rise to the occasion and provide the infrastructure for that to flourish?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: I certainly believe Africa can rise to the occasion and do right by its people in terms of technology. We, however, have to go slow on technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). The sheer number of unemployed people here means that we are not ready for robots to replace human labor. AI can work in some sectors like agriculture, but I don’t think we are ready for an AI dominated workplace.
AfricaLive: What makes you proud to be African, and what do you think the future of the continent looks like?
Mr Chukwukeluo Bosah Chukwuogo: I am proud of my heritage. The opportunity the continent presents also gives me a sense of pride and excitement. I see Africa coming of age in all areas of activity within a few short decades.