Six Nigerian tech entrepreneurs to receive the highest national awards

President Buhari will confer national awards on Paystack's co-founders; Ezra Olubi & Shola Akinlade, Co-founder at Flutterwave & Andela, Iyin Aboyeji and Ola Brown of FDHI, Funke Opeke of MainOne and Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder and CEO of Flutterwave.

Six Nigerian tech entrepreneurs to receive the highest national awards
L-R: Ola Brown, Iyin Aboyeji, Funke Opeke, Shola Akinlade, Ezra Olubi and Olugbenga Agboola 

As Nigeria marks its 62nd independence day, President Muhammadu Buhari will confer National Honours Award to 437 Nigerians on October 11, 2022, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

The award recognises notable Nigerians and friends of Nigeria who have rendered service to the benefit of the nation. For the 2022 batch, six ecosystem players in the Nigerian tech ecosystem were listed as awardees, according to a list seen by Benjamindada.com.

The tech entrepreneurs who are also among the awardees include: Paystack's co-founders; Ezra Olubi & Shola Akinlade, co-founder at Flutterwave & Andela, Iyin Aboyeji, Ola Brown of Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment, Funke Opeke, founder and CEO of MainOne and Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder and CEO of Flutterwave.

The award is coming a few weeks after Atiku Bagudu, the Governor of Kebbi state during an address at the Progressive Young Leaders Summit in Abuja claimed that the success of Paystack and Flutterwave is a reflection of President Buhari's efforts to stabilise the economy.

🏅
Instituted by the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964, the Nigerian National Honours are a set of orders and decorations conferred upon Nigerians and friends of Nigeria annually. 

This list includes other notable Nigerians (non-tech entrepreneurs) like: the United Nations' deputy secretary general, Amina Muhammed; director general of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Zenith Bank's founder, Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu, board chair at the United Bank of Africa (UBA).

Meet the six Nigerian tech entrepreneurs

In the next paragraphs, we curated a few of the impacts that these entrepreneurs— Ezra Olubi, Shola Akinlade, Iyin Aboyeji, Ola Brown, Olugbenga Agboola and Funke Opeke—have made in the Nigerian tech ecosystem.

Shola Akinlade & Ezra Olubi—co-founders, Paystack

To be conferred with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) is Shola Akinlade (CEO) and Ezra Olubi (CTO), Paystack's co-founders. In 2015, the duo co-founded Paystack to unblock the Nigerian digital economy by offering businesses and individuals new ways to transact online.

In November 2015, Paystack became the first Nigerian startup to participate in the Y Combinator accelerator program, helping to propel it on its journey toward becoming one of Africa's most prominent tech companies.

In 2020, U.S. fintech giant Stripe acquired Paystack for $200 million. Since then Paystack has made small and major moves including becoming the first African payment gateway partner for Apple Pay and expanding to South Africa.

Prior to Paystack, Shola co-founded Precurio, an open-source collaboration software for businesses in emerging markets which was downloaded over 150,000 times and made available in 6 languages. Shola holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Babcock University.

Meanwhile, Ezra's developed Eyowo, an online payment product. Afterwards, he served as CTO of Jobberman, one of Nigeria's largest online job boards, and then worked at Delivery Science, a logistics software and analytics company. Ezra holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Babcock University.


Ezra Olubi & Shola Akinlade. Credit: Paystack

Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji—Co-founder at Andela and Flutterwave

At 23, Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji co-founded Andela in 2014 to train and provide job placement for tech talents in Africa, starting with Nigeria. He later co-founded, a payments company, Flutterwave where he served as the CEO, both companies are unicorns valued at billions of dollars. Iyin has currently exited both companies.

He founded Future Africa, a venture capital fund focused on early-stage tech startups in Africa—the fund is backed by the founders of Andela, Paystack, Jumpbike and investors at LocalGlobe. In our first fund, which kicked off in 2015, we invested $1.5 million dollars across 19 companies including some of Africa’s fastest-growing tech startups such as Andela, Flutterwave, 54Gene, Kobo360, and Lori Systems," a statement on the firm's website reads.

E also founded Talent City, a futuristic charter city for tech professionals. At this year's National Honours Award, he will be conferred with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).

Dr Ola Brown—Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment

President Buhari will confer Ola Brown, the founder of  Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment (FDHIC) with the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR)—another national honours award.

FDHIC is a sector-specific company that makes venture capital and private investments in healthcare, the company also invests in and operates larger healthcare infrastructure projects.

Dr Ola also co-founded an early-stage venture capital firm, Greentree investment company which provides growth capital to African startups. She was one of the early investors in Paystack.

Aside from her investment firms, She also facilitates trade between Nigeria, the United States and the UK, as a committee member at British Business Group (Lagos) and as the Chairperson of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Healthcare Business Forum.

Funke Opeke—founder and CEO, MainOne

To be conferred with the Member of the Order of the Niger is Funke Opeke, is founder and CEO of MainOne, formerly Main One Cable Company. Last year, Equinix announced that it will acquire MainOne in a $320 million deal, as part of its African expansion strategy.

MainOne is West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider that built West Africa’s first privately owned, open access 7,000-kilometre undersea high capacity cable submarine, a $240-million-dollar project that was completed in time and on the budget in 2010.

MainOne also built West Africa’s largest Tier III Data Center, MDX-i’s Lekki Data Center, a $40 million investment with a capacity for 600 racks. Opeke is an experienced telecommunications executive who returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN after a twenty-year career in the United States.

Olugbenga Agboola, co-founder and CEO at Flutterwave

Olugbenga Agboola is the co-Founder and CEO of Flutterwave. He previously worked at Africa Fintech Foundry as a Senior Entrepreneur In Residence. Olugbenga Agboola attended MIT Sloan School of Management.


Editor's Note:

  • We curated these bios via verified open-sourced data including Paystack, MainOne's official websites and Rest of World 100 Global Tech Changemakers.
  • We updated the list with the name of Funke Opeke, founder and CEO of MainOne (Oct. 2, 2022 — 16:00 WAT).
  • Flutterwave CEO, Olugbenga Agboola was also conferred with the national award. (Oct. 11, 2022 — 13:00 WAT).