Meet Obinwanne Okeke, the CEO and Managing Director of Invictus Group.
Obinwanne Okeke is a 29-year-old Nigerian and an entrepreneur. His academic background is based in politics and he has a Bachelor of Arts (Forensic Criminology & International Relations) degree and Masters in International Relations & Counter Terrorism. Both qualifications are from Monash University. Although his academic background is mainly in politics, he has always had an eye and passion for business, so he started a business in pursuit of his passion.
Nothing inspires me more than my passion for business, and a hunger to achieve. Every morning I wake, I tell myself that I could be a more successful person than I was yesterday.
2. Could you describe what you do, your role?
I am the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of Invictus Group. Invictus Group is an investment holding company with a diverse portfolio with its key holdings in Construction & Infrastructure, Agriculture and Oil & Gas (downstream). I also see myself as an investment expert, especially when it comes to the economic imagination of the African continent. In essence, I also see my role as someone who not only understands what it means to do business in Africa but also, as someone who has to be part of different business and intellectual forum to really say what the realities are. Last year I spoke at 4 different events of that nature, which included a business summit in Austria and Germany. This year, I’ve spoken at the Forbes U-30 Summit in Tel Aviv. I was also on a panel with Nigeria’s former CBN Governor, Prof. Soludo to discuss in a Law and Economics Summit organised by Law Students of the University of Nigeria.
4. At 40 what do you hope to achieve?
I would still be an entrepreneur for sure. I think I most definitely would be involved in other businesses than I am now. I would also be looking to partner with young, talented Nigerian entrepreneurs with ideas that are most likely to work in our market. I know the difficulties I had trying to find money to start a business. I hope to partner with as many brilliant ideas before hitting the 40 mark.
5. 5 years back did you see yourself where you are today?
To be frank, I knew and believed that I was heading towards something special, but I wasn’t sure when it would be or how soon it would come. Five years ago, I was still in Australia just finishing up my Master’s study in International Relations and Terrorism. And most of my friends could not understand why I had plans of leaving beautiful Australia behind and going back to Nigeria. But I did. When I arrived Abuja, the difficulties I witnessed in finding a good house at a reasonable price made me understand that there was a housing problem in the city. So I took out all my saving, got a little more money from friends and folks who believed in my vision, and then embarked on what would be my first building. Surprisingly, that building was sold before its completion. It was a success. The Real Estate Development arm of my business took off from there and many good things have happened since then.
6. Tell us more about your journey
I have always seen myself as an entrepreneur right from when I was young. But it wasn’t up until I enrolled as a university student in 2008 did I think about registering my business under a name I believe represents me and my business. So I first registered my event company with the name “Invictus” on it due to my exposure to the Invictus Poem written by William Ernest Henley about an undefeated and unconquerable soul. This had been a generally tough time in my life when I was worried about how to pay my feed and cater to my living expenses in South Africa. The entertainment company was relatively successful and helped me find my feet. And then I went off to Australia for my Master’s study and returned to Nigeria in 2013 and registered the Invictus Group of Companies Limited, and from there I basically went into different business that worked, from real estate development, to oil and gas, agriculture, etc. Right now I’m looking to partner with people with bright ideas that can work in the Nigerian market and I’ll find ways to fund those ideas.
7. Who is your role model?
Aliko Dangote. Dangote has shown that it is possible to invest in different African economies, the same ones that are often portrayed in Western media as weak and volatile. But he’s investing there and he’s getting the benefits. He’s role model to many young African entrepreneurs. It’s also why apart from Nigeria, I have my company operating in South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia.
8. What is your career highlight so far?
I am still 29 at the moment, so I feel it is maybe a little early to talk about career highlights. This is not to underplay some of my existing achievements but I feel there is a whole lot more bigger things that would make for a befitting highlight in the future. At any rate, being on the cover of Forbes Africa in 2016 was a moment that I enjoyed. It was quite surreal, and it helped me measure how far I’ve come. More recently, actually on May 31, 2017, my company INVUCTUS GROUP won the award for Africa Most Innovative Company at the African Brand Leadership Merit Awards. That was a great moment to enjoy as well.
9. What is fascinating about your job?
The flexibility. I am currently working out of my Johannesburg site office in South Africa while skyping with some of my staff at my main office in Abuja. The idea that I could be working out of any country or continent at any time is an exciting part of my job. I’m also fascinated by the possibilities of meeting interesting young people full of ideas that can transform society. When I attend business symposiums or conferences, either in the continent or oversea and see young entrepreneurs with who have a grasp of markets, I am genuinely thrilled. Recently, I was in Israel where I spoke at the Forbes Under-30 Summit, and I couldn’t believe how many venture capitalists, all under 30 managing investment portfolios worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In this way, my job inspires me. However, I would say that I’m more fascinated about the idea of entrepreneurship itself, in the sense that there are always new discussions in the global and local market. The fact that if you don’t always pay close attention, you wouldn’t be able to notice the new opportunities and business fronts that have opened up.
10. What can you tell young people who are still struggling to find their vision?
I know this may sound cliché, but it’s important. Perseverance and focus are key. I say this because after dreams and hard work, without perseverance I would have given up a long time ago, I remember by age 18, I had already ran and closed many businesses, but I didn’t give up because I wanted to succeed and that meant I had to persevere, I had to hang in there, because I knew if my hunger to achieve did not wane, I would eventually succeed.
Where can one find you?
Facebook: Obinwanne Okeke