Over the last 15 years, Africa has seen significant mobile telecoms growth and now data is being viewed as the ‘new oil’ on the continent.
Founder of the Terragon Group, Elo Umeh, a 35-year-old Nigerian with a knack for mobile, digital innovation and creative solutions, has made overcoming data access and reach on Africa’s most pervasive device the mission of the company he founded 8 years ago. With a vast amount of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry having worked in different countries in Africa – Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – Umeh has consulted widely for various organisations in the telecommunications and banking sectors, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on management of rural telephony initiatives, mobile payments in West Africa and the deployment of new products.
A keynote speaker at TMT Finance Africa which recently took place in London, Elo Umeh is the current co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association in Nigeria. He talks to me about being a significant player in a fast-growing market.
What has fuelled your entrepreneurial drive?
My love for digital has come from the iPhone. As an undergraduate in Lagos people couldn’t communicate unless they queued along with 30 or 40 people for hours to use a public phone. The government held a monopoly on phone lines and provided relatively substandard service, so not much was happening from a commercial standpoint. The development of mobile communications was a real gamechanger and from the beginning it began to make a significant impact across the continent. I realized it was going to change everything.
Why create a technology business?
I saw the potential of reaching an untapped market, that struggled due to the lack of basic infrastructure, therefore, development of communications, transportation, power and could be bridged through the innovation that potentially was being heralded by the launch of the smartphone in 2007.