‘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.
Femi Oyetunji, managing director, Continental Reinsurance (Nigeria)
1. What was your first job?
When I was a student at the University of Manchester I used to spend my summer holidays in London and I got a job collecting tickets at a theme park. It was in July and it was so cold. After one week I quit the job. Whatever they were paying me was not worth the cold.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
That would be Chief Ajibola Ogunsola who was the first African outside South Africa to qualify as an actuary in 1973. He was my uncle’s classmate and that is how I got to know about actuarial science. He mentored me through my career and we are still friends.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I worry about large claims. You can have a loss that can affect the business badly, especially if you have not built up enough reserves.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I have always found myself at the right place at the right time. I studied a lot of things in actuarial science, which made me forward looking and this is important in planning.
5. What are the best things about Nigeria?
The best thing about Nigeria is the diversity. We are so different. We are also very ambitious people.
6. And the worst?
That would still be the diversity. I would hate to be the president of Nigeria because there are so many people that believe they are the best in the world. How do you manage that? Sometimes we are a bit selfish in our ambition.
7. Your future career plans?
Once Continental Re becomes ‘A’ rated it will be time for me to have a place in Acapulco, sip my cocktails and watch the sunset.
8. How do you relax?
I enjoy listening to music and having my good cocktails. Jazz is my favourite music. I enjoy listening to Bob James.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
I find that the youth are in too much of a hurry. Successful businesses are built one step at a time. You can’t take shortcuts. It may look foolish, but honesty really is the best policy. The youth need to be focused and do things properly. They don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
I believe we have exported a lot of our best people. We have to bring them back for us to truly realise our potential. It is not about money, it is about providing an enabling environment for them here. We have a lot to catch up on and we don’t have the 200 years of industrial revolution to learn from. Therefore, the only way we can learn is to send our people abroad, but they need to come back. It is a good thing for us to go out, learn the skills and then leapfrog Africa to the 21st century. We also need corporate governance at the business and political levels.
Femi Oyetunji is the managing director of Continental Re, the largest Nigerian reinsurance firm providing coverage to insurance companies across the continent. The firm is headquartered in Lagos, with regional offices in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Kenya.