By Ajong Mbapndah L
Africa’s agricultural potential is unmatched in the world and yet severely underutilised, says Dozy Mmobuosi CEO of the continent’s leading Agri-fintech company Tingo. I believe African farmers can feed the world and simultaneously, stimulate economies and lift the entire continent out of poverty, an issue which has plagued it for too long, says Dozy Mmobuosi as he seeks to replicate the success of Tingo in Nigeria in other African countries and beyond.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PAV, Dozy Mmobuosi says Tingo is on course to triple its user base in Nigeria with plans firmly afoot for expansion into new markets in Tanzania, Malawi, Chad, and Uganda among many others.
Buoyed by the success of Tingo and other personal live experiences, Dozy Mmobuosi is giving back to the community in a big way with the foundation that bears his name doing ground-breaking work on the health sector and a football tournament involving the traditional four clubs of the NPFL with unprecedented prize money up for grabs.
Though he stays out of partisan politics, Dozy Mmobuosi is however watching the ongoing presidential race closely and believes that for Nigeria to solve its cascade of problems, it needs a leader who can take difficult decisions which may be hard in the short term but produce long-term results.
For many in the corporate world, the name Dozy Mmobuosi is firmly associated with the Agri-Fintech companies Tingo Mobile Limited, Tingo, Inc. and his investment firm Tingo International Holdings, Inc., could you start with an introduction of these entities for us?
Dozy Mmobuosi: First of all, thank you for inviting me for this interview – it is a great honour to be here. Tingo Mobile has existed in many forms for over two decades. It has been an e-publishing company, a software development company, a mobile phone manufacturing company and even for a bit we were a domain name and server hosting company. As with every business there is no straight-line trajectory, we have continued to adapt and evolve to new markets and opportunities and will continue to do so.
Tingo is an Agri-Fintech company. At its core, the mission of Tingo is to utilise technology to solve problems. Right now, Tingo focuses on providing opportunities for rural farmers all over Nigeria and Ghana, with further expansion planned in the coming months.
Tingo provides them with a marketplace platform that enables the sale of their produce at the best possible price, as well as the ability to carry out other necessary activities such as airtime top-up, bill-pay services, access credit and insurance products and more.
A very important role Tingo plays in the agricultural sector is to provide micro-finance to rural farmers which enables them to fund their operations. It is very difficult to access finance in our part of the world and Tingo helps bridge that gap. We also partner with governments and other agencies to provide solutions and innovations everywhere we see the need.
May we know the current geographical spread of Tingo Inc which is now considered by many as Africa’s leading Agri-fintech firm?
Dozy Mmobuosi: Tingo primarily operates in Nigeria, where we currently support over 10 million customers. We have recently signed an agreement with the All-Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), the umbrella body of the 56 recognised commodities and agricultural associations in Nigeria. This partnership will bring a minimum of 20 million new subscribers to Tingo Mobile, which would more than triple our existing customer base.
We recently launched full operations in Ghana and signed a significant deal with The Ashanti Investment Trust, which guarantees us at least 2 million new subscribers within three months.
My team and I are actively exploring additional new markets such as Tanzania, Malawi, Chad, and Uganda among many others.
We are also considering a continent-wide expansion targeting at least 19 countries initially and then building on from there.
What do you make of the agricultural potential in Nigeria and Africa, how are firms like Tingo helping to turn things around?
Dozy Mmobuosi: Africa’s agricultural potential is unmatched in the world and yet severely underutilised. I believe African farmers can feed the world and simultaneously, stimulate economies and lift the entire continent out of poverty, an issue which has plagued it for too long!
Tingo primarily helps by providing a marketplace for farmers to sell their produce quickly and efficiently. Our Nwassa platform is the leading digital agriculture ecosystem on the continent. It empowers rural farmers and agri-businesses by providing them with ready access to markets and buyers for their products. We can ship farm produce from farms across Africa to any part of the world, in both retail and wholesale quantities. This is a huge step in ensuring farmers receive value for their produce and hard work.
Again, Tingo Mobile helps secure financing for many farmers who might have given up on their profession without the proper funding.
We also provide farmers access to buy seed, fertiliser, equipment, and other necessary inputs.
Earlier in the year, Tingo announced it may embark on moves to raise $500 million as part of plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange, what progress has been made on this front and what impact has it had on the fortunes of Tingo?
Dozy Mmobuosi: In business you must explore all opportunities and as such, we delayed the capital raise. We have now moved forward and completed a merger with a Nasdaq listed company MICT, which is a financial technology business principally focused on the growth and development of a suite of consumer fintech services across Asia. The deal was recently concluded and at current run rate we will generate more than $1.0 billion in annualised revenue in 2022. With the new partnerships and markets I previously mentioned, we expect to considerably outperform this in 2023.
We may seek to revisit our capital raise in 2023 to fund our ambitious expansion strategy.
How challenging has it been for you growing the Tingo brand to what it is today, and any concrete plans to broaden its reach across Africa?
Dozy Mmobuosi: Our merger is a step in making sure we are a truly global brand. As already mentioned, we have expanded outside of Nigeria and plans are advanced in expanding the company across Africa. We also see opportunities in countries with high rural farming communities and our merger with MICT enables us to explore expanding our operations across Asia, and we plan to take full advantage of that.
For young people who see you as a role model to emulate, what are sort of advice would you give with them?
Dozy Mmobuosi: One lesson I that I learned early in my entrepreneurial journey was the need to be patient in decision-making instead of jumping headfirst into every decision. There are times to move and times to be still, knowing the when will take you far. I was a very brash young man and believed I knew everything but that led me to make mistakes which I have learned from. So, I would encourage the youth to work hard and stay humble, be willing to listen and learn from others, build important connections and lastly, be measured in making decisions.
Could you share insights into the Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation launched recently by you in London with a pledge to commit 10% of your net worth to it?
Dozy Mmobuosi: I started the Dozy Mmobuosi Foundation to find other ways to fulfil goals I am already trying to achieve with my businesses like Tingo Mobile. Goals such as providing opportunities to Africans and creating an environment to help them thrive. The foundation’s main areas of focus include Healthcare, Education, Entrepreneurship, and Information Technology Development. We aim to facilitate social empowerment by solving key structural challenges present on this great continent of ours.
The pledge to donate 10% of my net worth is a way to ensure the financial stability of the Foundation. The Foundation does not seek nor accept donations.
In the course of the year the DM Foundation launched a $10 million, free mobile prostate cancer screening service in Lagos can you shed some light on this?
Dozy Mmobuosi: I have spoken about this before, but I almost lost my father to prostate cancer, which was a key driver for my motivation to come up with this mobile cancer screening service. One of the best tools we have against prostate cancer is early detection and that is what we wish to achieve with this initiative. The mobile prostate cancer screening service is proceeding smoothly and efficiently. We have had hundreds of successful early detections and a large number of these have had successful surgeries. This news fills me with pride, but I know there is still much work to be done.
Of course, it will take a while to garner data on what difference it is making in Nigerian society, but we are very proud of the initiative and optimistic it will save many lives.
Earlier in the year, we also heard of plans to launch the Dozy Mmobuosi Super Cup, which will feature several elite clubs from Africa’s top leagues, any progress, or insights you want to share on this?
Dozy Mmobuosi: Yes, plans are in full swing to hold the inaugural Dozy Mmobuosi Super Cup. The dates are from December 6th to 9th at the Mobalaji Stadium, Onikan in Lagos.
We are providing an unprecedented, N100m prize money for the competition, which involves the traditional four clubs of the NPFL namely Shooting Stars Sports Club, Enugu Rangers, Enyimba and Bendel Insurance.
The top scorer and best player of the tournament will also receive N1m each. As you can see, we plan to make this very memorable!
You were recently appointed as a member of the Global Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council (CWEIC), which is the official Commonwealth’s business network, what does this mean to you and how do you expect to make a difference?
Dozy Mmobuosi: I plan to bring my experience in operating business across several countries and continents, honed by two decades of being an entrepreneur at the highest level, to help achieve the main goals of the CWEIC, which is mainly to drive trade and investment.
Particularly, I hope to bring my experience in the Agri-fintech sector and bring a new perspective to the council. Joining my skills, knowledge, and experience with that of the other great members of the advisory council will surely yield positive results for the organisation.
The race to replace President Buhari is on in Nigeria, what legacy do you think he is leaving behind for Nigeria, and what is the ideal profile of the next President Nigeria needs from your perspective?
Dozy Mmobuosi: The world is in a very difficult moment, with multiple countries still reeling from the lasting effects of the Covid pandemic as well as the shocks of the Russian-Ukraine war. Nigeria is no exception. Above all else, Nigeria needs a President who is prepared to make difficult decisions needed to solve the myriad of problems we face.
As a leader, a decision may not be the most popular but still the best course of action. We need a leader who can take difficult decisions which may be hard in the short term, so long as it will produce long-term results. I believe that effective communication to the people of Nigeria is key through this process, as long as they understand they will be willing to make short term sacrifice for long term gain.
Of the leading candidates in the race now, is there anyone you are supporting?
Dozy Mmobuosi: It has been an interesting race, but I keep out of politics.
A last question on the upcoming USA-African Leaders Summit coming up in Washington, what are some of the issues you think the leaders should address or focus on?
Dozy Mmobuosi: Africa has many challenges and I sincerely hope our leaders will have fruitful discussions. If I could choose areas for them to focus on, I would say safety and security, climate change and agriculture, which I am clearly passionate about, and also to brainstorm on ideas to build more industries to create value-added products to minimise our dependence on imports.
Those are just a few I can come up with off the top of my head, although I am aware there are many other problems Africa is faced with which require brave solutions.