Tony Elumelu, Nigeria’s gender outlier, takes women to the top

Tony Elumelu, Nigeria’s gender outlier, takes women to the top
February 17
15:41 2020

In 2017, the World Economic Forum (WEF) stated via its Global Gender Gap Report that it would take the world another 170 years for it to attain gender equality. The global think tank added that equality for women in the labour force would add $28 trillion — more than 50 times Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) — to the global economy by 2025.

By 2020, political participation for women had worsened in Nigeria with only 3.4% of parliament members as women, affecting the country’s score on the global stage. But there is a spot too bright to ignore: the 2020 edition of the report ranked Nigeria as one of the top five most improved states in Africa for economic participation and opportunity.

Not only has Nigeria improved on the continent, the World Economic Forum said the country “has closed 73.8% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap and is one of the most improved countries globally on this aspect”.

A major force driving this change is Tony Elumelu, and his group of companies. 

On Tuesday, Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) announced five major appointments, which highlighted Elumelu’s commitment to gender equality — and equal or better opportunities for women within the Group he leads.  Four of the five major appointments were taken by women, who have shown a history of excellence in their respective roles. 

Clari Green, the company’s marketing and head of corporate communications, announced the appointment of Owen Omogiafo as president of Transcorp and Dupe Olusola as the new MD and CEO. Helen Iwuchukwu was named the company’s chief operating officer, while  Okaima Ohizua took the helm as the executive director/chief operating officer of Transcorp Power Ltd.

One may be tempted to say this is one-off, the system is still rigged to favour men. But a simple analysis of Elumelu’s top team is all that is needed to convince anyone that the billionaire is focused on identifying excellent trailblazers and supporting them through a largely patriarchal society. 


Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu was named chief executive officer of Tony Elumelu Foundation in April 2019

When you hear the name Tony Elumelu, you would almost say “Foundation” as a third name. This is simply because the entrepreneur is best known for raising a generation of entrepreneurs driving Africapitalism, which is one of his major brainchild. Through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the philanthropist has raised and supported over 7,000 African entrepreneurs with funds and technical assistance for growth — this is part of his legacy. In this legacy is enshrined that focus on gender equality. In 2019, the foundation received nearly 90,000 applications from female entrepreneurs — representing a 45% increase in female-driven applications. This reflects the Foundation’s deliberate strategy to achieve greater gender balance.

As a testament to that push, the foundation appointed Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu as chief executive officer in April 2019, to replace another female CEO, who steered the foundation since 2017. No doubt, this Africapitalism is focused on identifying excellent female leaders and supporting them to succeed. 


Omogiafor is the new President/GCEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc

The success of the companies within the Elumelu dynasty is clearly planned. The businessman strongly believes in mapping and executing a strong succession plan. If you observe the most recent appointments, you will notice that all those appointed have served with the lines of business, receiving mentorship and exhibiting excellence.

Owen Omogiafo, who was appointed as President/GCEO of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, has been in the Elumelu system prior to this appointment. She previously served as the MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc and has over two decades of corporate experience in organisational development, human capital management, banking, change management and hospitality. She had received multiple awards and been named as one of Africa’s top 100 Female CEOs.

Dupe Olusola, the newly-appointed MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc, was until now the group head, marketing at United Bank for Africa Plc. She has over 21 years of corporate experience including MD/CEO of Teragro Juice Concentrate Plant. She has received numerous awards and was named by the Ventures Africa’s as one of the 10 Most Influential Nigerian CEOs of 2015.

Helen Iwuchukwu, who was named executive director/chief operating officer of Transcorp Hotels Plc, also served as the group company secretary of Transcorp Plc. She has over 25 years in legal advisory, corporate law, corporate governance, administration, human capital management and government relationship management.

Okaima Ohizua, who was appointed as executive director/chief operating officer of Transcorp Power Ltd, was also a part of the company’s fabric; until now, she served as executive director, customer services at Transcorp Hotels Plc. She joined the company’s board as far back as 2013 and has been a part of the culture since then. 

It is with this confidence in a clear succession plan that Elumelu says “these appointments demonstrate our commitment to nurturing talent and rewarding success. 

“We remain committed to diversity and inclusion; are delighted by the depth and quality of experience that this leadership team brings to our group. These appointments further indicate our internal succession capacity and strong corporate governance practices”. 


Dupe Olusola is the MD/CEO of Transcorp Hotels Plc

Upon the passing of legendary American basketballer  Kobe Bryant, there was a global trend of the #GirlDad eulogising the role fathers play in the lives of their daughters, and how special girl dads are. Elumelu is proud to be one of those girl dads. The billionaire businessman is a father of five girls and he believes every lady should be given the same opportunity afforded men to succeed, and this pattern is clear across his businesses — a majority of companies owned by Tony Elumelu are managed by women.

At the United Bank for Africa  (UBA), the board of directors and executive management committee has 11 women. Foluke K. Abdul-Razaq, Owanari Duke, Erelu Angela Adebayo, and Angela Aneke all serve as non-executive directors at the bank. Many of the bank’s operations across the world are also led by women. 

Noellie Tiendrebeogo is CEO, UBA Burkina Faso, Sarata Kone serves as CEO, UBA Cote D’Ivoire, while Chioma Mang, Nkechi Arizor, and Adesola Yomi-Ajayi sit as CEOs of the bank in Gabon, Liberia and New York.

As of today, Bola Atta, Dupe Olusola, and Patricia Aderibigbe, amazons in the business place, lead teams at UBA as group head, corporate communications, group head, marketing, and group head, human resources, respectively. The regional CEOs of the bank in West Africa, Amie Ndiaye Sow and Abiola Bawuah, are also power women.

Elumelu’s other business interests, including Africa Prudential, Afriland Properties, Transcorp Plc, Avon HMO, Avon Medical Practice, all have one thing in common — strong female leadership.

In a deeply patriarchal country like Nigeria, Elumelu has taken the lead as a gender outlier, making deliberate efforts to train, support, and set up outstanding women in leadership positions. With many more like him, Nigeria’s place on the global index for women’s economic empowerment would compete in the World’s best ten in the years ahead.


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