Magazine article African Business

Bringing Order to Nigeria's Licensing Chaos: Nigerian Entrepreneur Bola Akindele Is Finally Taming the Unruly Monster of Nigeria's Vehicle Registration and Licensing System by the Intelligent Application of Technology. Anver Versi Tells the Story of an Outstanding Business Achievement

Magazine article African Business

Bringing Order to Nigeria's Licensing Chaos: Nigerian Entrepreneur Bola Akindele Is Finally Taming the Unruly Monster of Nigeria's Vehicle Registration and Licensing System by the Intelligent Application of Technology. Anver Versi Tells the Story of an Outstanding Business Achievement

Article excerpt

The best business ideas are always those that provide simple solutions to seemingly complex problems. Once the solution arrives, the reaction is often "Of course! Why didn't we think of that before!"

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While the solutions may appear simple - like the invention of the light switch or cat's-eyes on the road - the thinking behind the solution and processes involved can be complex and often require a flash of inspiration or even genius.

Take the matter of registering, licensing and insuring vehicles in a country like Nigeria. On the sun face, it should be a straight0-forward matter as long as all the various components necessary for the procedure are aligned and in synch.

That is theory. In practice, as any Nigerian will tell you, it has been a mess. It used to cost an enormous amount of time, energy and shredded nerves and at the end of it all, you could end up with the wrong type oflicence or a forged document not worth the paper it is printed on. Ditto for insurance.

The system, run by the local city councils, was always rickety but when vehicle numbers crossed the three-million mark in Lagos alone, it was overwhelmed. An urgent solution was desperately needed.

Enter Bola Akindele. He is one of those restless businessmen brimming with ideas and bursting with energy and enthusiasm to see good ideas through. I met him in Lon don in company with a powerful delegation exploring how the Olympics in London this summer can be leveraged in favour of African and Caribbean enterprises.

Given the fact that all eyes will be on London - including those of thousands of international journalists - Bin Ekong, Director of the African and Caribbean Business Experience, saw this as a golden opportunity to present a positive case for more investment and trade for the two regions. The aim is to create a major expo and a business-to-business event at the Grosvenor House Hotel during the Olympics. This would bring companies from around the world together with African and Caribbean entrepreneurs, which could be the start of very exciting developments in the future.

While in Nigeria on a trip to sell the idea, she met Bob Akindele, the managing director and CEO of Courteville Business Solutions Plc. "We hit it off instantly," says Ekong. His vision tallied perfectly with our vision." Akindele's company, Courteville, will sponsor the event, removing a huge financial load off Ekong's shoulders.

"My business is finding solutions," says Akindele. "Our companies need to reach out to the world - we have a great deal to offer The London event during the Olympics will provide the perfect opportunity."

Intelligent deployment of IT

It was this same passion to find answers that inspired Akindele's now historic solution to the quagmire surrounding vehicle licensing and insurance back home in Nigeria.

"It was clear to me that the solution lay in the intelligent deployment of IT. What was needed was a large enough database and an automated system. If we could bypass all the bureaucratic nonsense, the dilapidated filing systems and the handwritten chits then in use, we could deliver the same service far more rapidly, efficiently, securely, verifiably and profitably. Everybody would win - the vehicle owners, the councils, the insurers."

While many others in his position would have looked abroad for the management of the database, Akindele turned to the large pool of talented technocrats in Nigeria. "Everything about this business is home-grown," he says proudly. "We did not buy any proprietary software. We design, develop and deliver everything locally."

The penchant for Africans to turn to foreign 'experts' at the first chance is one of the things that irks him most. "I get calls from some states asking who our promoters are and if we are representing foreign firms because they cannot believe that what we do can be done solely by Nigerians. …

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