“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Chinua Achebe
In 1997, a group of young entrepreneurs rescued a Nigerian bank that was on the verge of collapse, aiming to reverse its fortunes and create significant value. Their mission, though capitalist in nature, had an unexpected but important social effect: the democratisation of the banking sector in Nigeria and across Africa.
Today that bank, now the United Bank for Africa Plc. (UBA), operates in 20 African countries—with presence in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France, linking Africa’s economies to each other and the world. UBA serves more than 21 million customers across over 1,000 business offices and customer touch points. The bank is also connecting people and businesses across Africa through retail; commercial and corporate banking; innovative cross-border payments and remittances; trade finance and ancillary banking services.
The man who drove that team was Tony O. Elumelu, who was only 34 when he became CEO—the youngest bank CEO in Nigeria at the time—and who, after 13 years, retired in this capacity from UBA and turned his focus to Heirs Holdings in 2010. With the same passion, vision and commitment used to build UBA across Africa, Elumelu embarked on another mission. Armed with the knowledge, expertise and understanding of opportunities that existed in Africa he decided to turn what had been a family office into an African proprietary investment company designed to generate a similar impact on other strategic sectors of the economy.
Working with a small, dedicated team, he set out to leverage his knowledge and expertise in business management and turnarounds. Together, the team identified attractive economic sectors, based on commercial viability and the impact each would have on the continent’s economic development.
Today, Heirs Holdings operates businesses in Africa’s financial services, oil and gas, power, real estate, hospitality, healthcare and agribusiness sectors. Although still young, the firm has significant interests in numerous companies, presence in 20 countries across the continent, and its investee companies employ over 30,000 people, while empowering thousands more.