‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series, where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
Ladi Delano, CEO, Bakrie Delano Africa (Nigeria)
1. What was your first job?
My first job was as a suit salesman. It was commission-based and I loved the competition!
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It is difficult to identify one particular person; instead I’ve been influenced by a variety of different experiences, some positive, some negative. The combination of these experiences has shaped who I am career-wise today.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Any entrepreneur will probably tell you that all parts of the job keeps you awake, and I am no different. Bakrie Delano Africa is in a really key stage of its development currently so I’d be worried if I was sleeping too soundly!
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
Hard work and learning from my mistakes. Despite what some people say, you never get anywhere without hard work and whilst we all make mistakes, the even bigger error is not learning from them.
5. What are the best things about Nigeria?
I am very proud of my country’s diversity, its potential and its energy. We are a hard working population and the economic growth Nigeria is experiencing currently is tangible when you visit the country. Not only am I very excited about the growth we’ve achieved to date, but also where we’ll be in 10 to 20 years’ time.
6. And the worst?
My worst feeling will be in the future, if we fail to fulfil our country’s potential. That would be the most disappointing thing of all. However, I am confident that this will not be the case.
7. Your future career plans?
At the moment, I am 100% focused on Bakrie Delano Africa, the sectors we are focused on (mining, oil & gas and agriculture) and finding investments which will not only generate an excellent return on investment but also create jobs for Nigerians.
8. How do you relax?
There isn’t much time to relax at the moment, but when I do get the chance I like to cook and I like to run. The latter compensates for the former!
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
I’ve already spoken about the need for hard work, but I’d just add to that … keep going, keep believing and never give up. It’s an old saying but the phrase “Show me a man who has never failed and I’ll show you a man who has never succeeded” really resonates with me.
All entrepreneurs suffer periodic ups and downs and running a successful, profitable business isn’t easy. If it was, everybody would be doing it. But this is Africa’s time and the demand levels within our own continent’s domestic economy needs satisfying. This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial, hard working individuals.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
On an emotional level, Africa needs to maximize its self-confidence and believe in itself, and I see that happening every day. On an economic and political level, we need to create the economic conditions in which entrepreneurs can thrive.
This means a stable macro-economic environment, business-friendly policies and economic incentives. It also means the encouraging and responsible use of foreign direct investment (FDI), which is key. Nigeria’s establishment last year of a new Trade & Investment Ministry to manage FDI is strong evidence of this.
Ladi Delano is an entrepreneur and CEO of Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA), a joint-venture with Indonesia’s Bakrie Group to invest US$1 billion in Nigeria over the next five years.