Amidst the dearth of selfless and inspirational leadership from Nigeria’s private citizens, Sifax Group CEO Dr Taiwo Afolabi is one of those who have risen to the top from humble beginnings and is also creating opportunities for Nigerians to rise to the next level of progress and greatness. Although lesser known than his contemporaries Femi Otedola and Aliko Dangote due to his preference to stay away from the limelight, he is equally as successful in business and has generated both direct and indirect employment for thousands of Nigerians.
Speaking in Lagos, Nigeria upon his return from a short vacation from work, he has congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibajo on their victory in the February 23 presidential election, calling it a victory for integrity and hope that Nigeria will indeed rise to the next level. Dr Taiwo Afolabi also lauded Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for his support and pivotal role through which President Buhari won the election. As President Buhari’s second term begins in a few months, Dr Taiwo Afolabi’s success story and investments in different sectors of the Nigerian economy will likely serve as a springboard for the country’s progress.
Away from his acclaimed success in the maritime industry, he has ventured into the hospitality industry and his impact is by no means small. He is building the first Marriot Hotel in the country and the construction, which has been going on for over four years, is massive and slated to have 251 rooms. Sited in the heart of Ikeja GRA in Nigeria’s financial capital, the hotel spreads across two streets: Joel Ogunnaike and Oba Adejobi streets. It will be completed and opened to the public in a few months and it will be fully serviced by the iconic, globally renowned Marriot hotel chain. With over three decades of entrepreneurial experience, Dr Taiwo Afolabi is a man that many young Nigerians can learn from.
He took an interest in business from a tender age, learning from his mother Alhaja Ayisat Afolabi, who was a trader. He used to help his mother hawk her wares and from her positive contributions to the lives of people even within her limited means, he was motivated to succeed at business and also help people. At a point in his life, he took on the job of a newspaper vendor before gaining employment with Nigerian Express Agencies Limited. He rose to become the Clearing Manager and then travelled abroad to study Shipping Management. When he returned to Nigeria, he resumed work with his former employers and rose to become the company’s Head of Operations. In 1988 he set up his own company, Sifax Nigeria Limited. It began as a freight-forwarding firm and has grown into a multinational, multi sector conglomerate with presence in many countries.
Dr Taiwo Afolabi holds a Bachelors degree in Law and a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos. He was called to the bar and is an esteemed member of the legal profession. In addition to his years of experience in the maritime sector and his consultancy in that sector, he is also a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (IFFN) and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of Nigeria. He has been conferred with honorary doctorate degrees by four different universities in Nigeria, Israel and the USA. He has received over thirty awards including the 2014 Business Person of the Year by one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, Daily Sun. Perhaps the highest honour he has received was being honoured as a Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) but his laurels and accolades also include being named as the Honorary Consul-General of the Republic of Djibouti in Nigeria.
Dr Taiwo Afolabi or “Afo Guarantor” as his close friends call him is one of the most kind-hearted men you will ever meet. His reputation as a philanthropist precedes him and he is a contributor to many worthy causes. His major philanthropic drive is in the area of education and many schools have been beneficiaries of his kindness. Notable examples of this include the 1,000-seater capacity lecture theatre he donated to the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho and the brand new Toyota Hiace bus he donated to the medical students association of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Nigeria is blessed to have men and women like Dr Taiwo Afolabi contributing towards making Nigeria great in their individual fields of endeavour. It would be great to have him step into the leadership arena of Nigeria in a more definitive fashion, perhaps even by running for office or by accepting a political appointment to serve our nation. Whether he does so or not, one thing is certain and that is that there are still beacons of hope for Nigeria and that the Sifax Group CEO is one of them.