Which line of business has the largest weight in Doyin Group's portfolio today?
I started in the agriculture business by growing and selling maize when I was 12. It cost me GBP48 at the time to start this business. Today, we are involved in all sectors of the economy, from agriculture to manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. We focus mainly on the food industry, the hospitality industry, and agro business. Agriculture is a major part of the government's policy to diversify the economy. Our products include what we can sell to department stores and exportable products. These include sesame seeds, cashew nuts, and ginger, which we grow and sell locally. Exportable products made Nigeria rich before independence because there was no oil at that time. For Nigerians, the land is God's gift, as is grain. When we were young, people used to plant large amounts of cotton and other products. When oil came, everyone left agriculture and cities grew. Agriculture has not been done in a modern way until now. It is much better for agriculturists to farm now. Furthermore, universities have begun to teach the subject, which they were not doing before. Agriculture is the only alternative to oil right now. There is definitely an incentive to go into agriculture. We will not need to import many varieties of food as they can be grown in the country. We are currently exporting some agricultural products, such as cassava. Many know they can earn more in foreign exchange in the form of exporting agriculture, which can be used to import raw materials for industries. Rice is one of the products Nigeria is talking about in terms of achieving self-sufficiency.
How challenging is it for a company to initiate development solely with local capital and labor?
My own determination is, in a sense, a part of how this company began without relying on foreign labor or capital. Nigerians should believe in themselves. What can be done anywhere in the world can be done here. There are enough brilliant people in Nigeria because many Nigerians have businesses in the US and elsewhere. We should use the technological achievements in Nigeria to develop the country so that is not dependent on foreign technology to survive. Take, for example, the Made in Nigeria brand, of which I am one of the pioneers. I believe in local resources. However, there is a perception that European goods are better than Nigerian ones.
What impact has Doyin Group had on the country's economic diversification and growth?
We have several thousand employees currently, and this is our contribution to the country's economy. Furthermore, our entire staff is Nigerian. In the hospitality and agricultural industries, I am determined to only hire Nigerians, and we are able to succeed because of that. I have been able to contribute to the country and train Nigerians—those who have left us to start their own business, those who are still with us, and those who have yet to join us.
How would you assess the economic environment today for businesses?
I see a great deal of progress in Nigeria. When I came to Lagos there was no Ikoyi or Victoria Island. There was only the island where Lagos was situated, a tiny space. In the last 50-plus years, over 100sqkm have been developed. I see many achievements.
What do you expect from 2018?
I hope to be able to bring our group more success in the relevant sectors of business. I also hope Nigeria will be able to do more by improving our skills. It is important to focus on areas that will make our country self-sufficient economically. Looking at South Africa as an example, Nigeria can do much better than any developing country if we are determined to do so.