TBY talks to Pascal G. Dozie, Chairman of MTN, Diamond Bank, and Kunoch Limited, on doing business in Nigeria, how the bank has evolved over the years, and the prospects for 2016.

Pascal G. Dozie
Pascal G. Dozie is the Co-Founder, Partner, and Non-Executive Partner at African Capital Alliance. He is the Founder of Kunoch Limited. He was the Founder of Diamond Bank Plc, and has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank Plc. He was President at the Nigeria Stock Exchange, and was also the President of OON. He serves as a Member of Advisory Board at Kaizen Venture Partners, and holds the position of Chairman of MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd., and Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Business Council board. He is also Chairman of Kunoch Limited, ADIC Insurance Limited, and Aluminum Extrusion Industries Plc., and has acted as the Chairman of Nigerian Economic Summit Group and on the Lagos Business School Advisory Board, as well as a Council Member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Non Executive Director of Gulf of Guinea Energy Limited, Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and Economic Adviser for Niger State Government.

How have attitudes and approaches to doing business in Nigeria changed over the years?

The main change has been getting people to embrace alternatives. In the past, for example, the private market system was quite difficult to navigate. There were also various political difficulties, including military governments. However, in the last decade we have embraced privatization and focused on developing the private sector. Regulations have been created to engender this environment, but we are still not completely there yet. There is now a different profile of people entering the private sector, as people are younger and ready to embrace new ideas, innovations, and technologies, as well as a new kind of business ethic. When we have a critical mass of these people in the economy, the future will be wide open, and that is where we are headed. Unfortunately, due to the oil industry, we have had a mentality of entitlement. But these people are on the way out, and the new paradigm is a commitment to hard work, industriousness, and creating value rather than just grabbing what is there. Things are changing for the better, and that is why I am optimistic about Nigeria's future.

In 1991, when you started with Diamond Bank, what opportunities did you see in the sector that led you to create Diamond Bank?

When we started, the banking industry was quite underdeveloped. It would take hours of waiting to just cash a check or deposit money at the bank. There were no functioning telecommunications services. Cashing a check or transferring money was an ordeal. The question was how to improve and add value to the banking sector. The problem was obvious, and a solution was needed. Applying technologies that allowed for electronic banking was inevitable. We had to improve the system of fund transfers and reduce transaction times for businesses, which is what we did. We introduced electronic fund transfers and the first debit cards. Instead of physically carrying cash from here to there, customers could do it all electronically. Now we have full mobile services, from transferring money to checking a balance. So we have been on the forefront of technological innovations, and continue to be, because that is where we saw the opportunity and the demand to increase value in the banking system and in people's lives in general, be they the average person or businessmen. This also brought about innovations in security and data. These innovations have created greater financial inclusion.

What do you think needs to be done on the part of the government to increase banking penetration in Nigeria and integrate telecom and financial services?

We need to be a little bit more daring in a sense. Regulators want to maintain system stability, but this can delay necessary changes and innovations. They are afraid the telecoms would drive the system rather than the banks. The Central Bank would want this system to be bank initiated rather than by telecoms. If it were the other way around, the Central Bank would not be completely in charge, and this does not appeal to them. Secondly, there is a lot of money out there, but we have to be bolder in terms of which money we use without being reckless, without leading to inflation.

What are your expectations for Nigeria in 2016?

The president has the right political will and leadership qualities. He has the commitment and the determination to push the policies that need to be implemented. I am hopeful for the government and the ministers that have taken office. But the president will only be as successful as his cabinet and the extent to which they can work together to take bold decisions and do what needs to be done. Success belongs to everybody and nobody, that is what the president said when he was sworn into office. The price of oil being down is one of the best things that has happened to this country. Our agriculture sector has potential, yet what percentage of arable land have we utilized, and what percentage of water resources have we utilized? What of mineral resources? All our attention has been on oil. Hopefully the drop in oil prices will enable us to focus on developing other sectors where growth and future opportunities lie.