CWG boss, Austin Okere, speaks at Columbia
By Martin Ekpeke, Lagos
It was a day of triumph for Nigerian entrepreneur when the Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of the Computer Warehouse Group, Austin Okere was invited to give a talk at the Columbia Business School (CBS) during an MBA class on the CWG case study recently.
Mr. Okere shared insights on what informed the decision of the company to go public, which according to him was to achieve a deeper culture of transparency through more complete regulatory reporting, enhance the company’s credibility with stakeholders and thus enhance revenue growth, provide the opportunity to raise capital for growth and expansion, and provide stakeholders a means of achieving stock liquidity at fair value amongst others.
It will be recalled that the Columbia Business School published a case study on the Computer Warehouse Group early 2008, which received sterling reviews from the Financial Times of London in the Business Education section of the February 18, 2008 edition.
According to Ryan Peterson, one of the anchors of the case development, CBS took the initiative to write case studies on successful entrepreneurial businesses on the continent to dispel the myth that there are no sophisticated businesses on the African continent — or worse, that businesses there can only get ahead through corruption.
He observed that over the past decade, leading African business schools have adopted the traditional case method, but that a majority of the cases being American or European based did not provide much practical learning for the African students or any familiar role model figures that they can aspire to.
In Ryan’s words, “As it turned out, we couldn’t have picked a better company to lay these stereotypes to rest. The company has thrived in difficult circumstances because of an entrepreneurial culture that embodies the work ethic, personal responsibility and integrity of its founder. The firm has distinguished itself from the competition by consistently delivering on promises to customers and is one of Nigeria’s 50 fastest growing companies”.
“A rep from Cisco told us that the firm is ‘probably the most entrepreneurial company in Nigeria, certainly the most entrepreneurial in the IT sector’. The founder of a competing firm, who has since sold his business to a larger international player, expressed similar respect for his former rival at CWG”, Mr. Petersen added.
Okere’s message to the MBA class at Columbia Business School received overwhelming reviews from both students and faculty alike. Mr. Maurice Lam Pak Ng, Chairman, Board of investments, Mauritius, commented as follows, “It was indeed very refreshing and informative to listen to Austin’s presentation this morning. He is a great example that domestic entrepreneurs can be a success in spite of all the difficulties of doing business in Africa”.
The comments of Prof. Murray Low, Director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurial Center at CBS to Mr. Okere, perhaps best summarized the overwhelming reception to the case study; “By the way, I have used the case along with the video in both Tanzania and Kenya for audiences of entrepreneurs, faculty and MBA students. They all find it VERY inspiring!! It is a real pleasure to have you with us at Columbia”. Mr. Okere has been invited to give similar talks at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi and the London Business School in the coming months.