BRICs economist Jim O’Neill invests in Nigerian mobile payments company

Former Goldman Sachs executive and the person responsible for the ‘BRIC’ acronym, Jim O’Neill, has put his money where his mouth is by investing in a Nigerian mobile payments company.

Jim O’Neill

Jim O’Neill

O’Neill, previously chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, first coined the BRIC acronym in 2001 to highlight the future economic importance of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

This week it was announced that O’Neill has made a private investment in a Nigerian mobile payments service Paga. Founded in 2009, Paga claims to have over 1.3m users.

Of course, Nigeria has been on O’Neill’s mind as of late. Just last year he identified the MINTs (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) – a new group of countries with the potential to become future economic giants.

In fact, O’Neill first met Paga founder and CEO Tay Oviosu when he interviewed him for a BBC Radio documentary series on the MINT countries.

In the radio programme, O’Neill said Oviosu epitomises the can-do positive spirit of Nigerians and their ability to ‘think big’.

It seems as though O’Neill did his homework thoroughly before making the investment. Oviosu last night told How we made it in Africa that the due diligence process was “not too dissimilar from what you’d expect from a professional investor”.

Paga already has a string of other backers, including the Acumen Fund, Adlevo Capital, the Omidyar Network and angel investor Tim Draper, to name a few.

According to Oviosu, O’Neill is not just brining money to the table and has indicated that he wants to be involved in the business in other ways. He says O’Neill is “well connected” and has already introduced him to many valuable people.

In a statement released by Paga, O’Neill was quoted as saying Nigeria has significant potential for economic growth and that the country needs payments systems that work for both individuals and businesses. He added that he was impressed by the ability of Paga’s team to execute on their vision to become “the number one way to pay and get paid in Nigeria”.