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-I Want To Leave A Legacy Of Making My Environment A Better Place-Dr. Ope Banwo

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Worship Without Walls

Dr. Ope Banwo is what can be aptly tagged as a complete package. A revered lawyer, he has played in several other industries including entertainment. A published author with several books to his credit, he is presently in the internet business. He spoke extensively on his forthcoming African Netpreneurs Conference, and why Nigerians need to take advantage of the fortunes in internet business in this interview with Lukmon Akintola.

You always have a lot on your plate; can you tell us what you are currently working on?

We are currently working towards the 5th African Netpreneurs Conference. We are bringing together the very best of digital marketers from Africa for a 3-day event at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos. The workshop will be from October 22nd to 24th and will cover critical areas of maximising the internet for business executives, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporate bodies.

You have been frequenting Nigeria in recent times, is it because of the internet business?

My trips have had more to do with consulting for some big companies in the background, while also consulting for a couple of state governments on how to embrace digital empowerment as part of their solutions to unemployment. A couple of my trips have also been to run high-powered training retreats for VIPS on social media and business purposes.

How do you manage because you are not based here?

I have a full team and a complement of staff. I pop in now and then to oversee what is on the ground, jobs being done, mostly digital work. That’s why you see me so much in Nigeria. I will, however, be in Nigeria soon specifically for the conference.

Can you tell us specifically what this conference is all about?

Unfortunately, while most businesses, product executives, entrepreneurs, marketers and professionals know there are amazing opportunities available on the worldwide web, most of them do not know how to properly take advantage of these emerging opportunities in the global marketplace. This is why I am so excited to be organising the 5th African Netpreneurs Conference to help businesses and individuals maximise their market reach, sales, and profits using emerging technology. The African Netpreneurs Conference will hold between August 22nd and 24th at the prestigious Oriental Hotels in Lagos. The conference will showcase the very best of digital business executives and marketers from all over Africa, as they share their secrets of global digital business success with attendees.

What do corporate players have to gain from attending this conference?

With the increasing competition in virtually all businesses, it has become a survival imperative for companies and company executives to find and explore new markets beyond their immediate areas of operations. For Individuals and budding entrepreneurs, the exploding internet marketplace is also providing amazing opportunities for people who are either underemployed, unemployed or those who simply need an extra income stream to meet their financial needs, to achieve their financial dreams, without leaving the comfort of their homes or physical location. When you show up for this conference, you will learn different ways you can exploit the new internet marketplace to increase your business profits, maximize emerging technology and achieve your financial dreams. The 3-day workshop will cover critical areas of maximising the internet for business executives, entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporate bodies. Areas of focus will include: step-by-step process to profitably take your brick and mortar business to the global level using emerging internet technology, how businesses can use affiliate marketing to make more sales and how individuals can use it to recurrently create income stream, new wealth strategies for creating multiple streams of income for fully employed professionals, underemployed executives and unemployed Africans. We will also focus on how professionals, trainers, and entrepreneurs can create viable income streams with their knowledge and skills. This is indeed going to be an amazing Digital Business Conference you cannot afford to miss! Those interested in finding out more about the conference can go to  NetpreneursConference.com and get full details about why this is a must-attend for every business executive, every entrepreneur, every staff member of your company, the employed and the unemployed alike.

How do we know this is not just another internet business jamboree by supposed experts?

This conference is not just another theoretical experience. This is not one of those events where the trainers are theory merchants who have not practiced what they want to teach others about. We are going to be focusing on the practical side of things as opposed to theory. Every one of our speakers is a successful digital entrepreneur with a proven track record that date back to years. If you are really interested in learning more about how to exploit the internet to improve your brand’s reach and profitability, acquire more customers, and make more sales, or to create a sustainable income for yourself, then you do not want to miss this great workshop coming up in Lagos, Nigeria between October 22nd and 24th.

Who are the experts coming because you are blowing their trumpet?

Some of these top digital business experts who have been confirmed to speak and share their wealth of knowledge include Victory Akpomedaye, Ifiok Nkem, Stephen Akintayo, Seun Ogundele, Mayowa Owolabi, Patrick Enyum, Bisi Akintayo, and Adetunji Gbolagade. Of course, I Dr. Ope Banwo will be the conference host.

You were once quoted as saying that the next set of billionaires would emerge from internet businesses, do you still hold this position?

Yes. I am even more convinced now than ever. This is no longer a prediction, it’s already happening all around you. In an economy where brick and mortar companies backed with millions and sometimes billions of Naira are struggling and dying and unable to pay salaries, we are seeing more and more millionaires being made online with most of them practically starting with zero capital. All the speakers we have for the conference fall into these categories. They became millionaires as digital marketers without investing or borrowing money from anyone. I see new digital billionaires being made every day in Nigeria and it’s just sad that some people still don’t get it that the future is here. This phenomenon is repeating itself in virtually all industries. Omonile Lawyer probably makes more money than some SANs with his one-page blog omonilelawyer.com. He is certainly getting more land deals than most in the business. Those working on software niches will ultimately rule and there are so many of them now. The next genuine billionaires are coming from those ranks. Even Mark Zuckerberg is betting on Nigeria, and that is why he made that trip just to come and corner some bright kids in Ebute Meta who are doing awesome things in internet marketing. The digital revolution is on and woe to those who still think only yahoo yahoo when they hear internet money. By the time they wake up and want to learn the internet money game, they will be working for their former staff online.

Is this all about making money or are you giving back?

I am a proud capitalist with a capital C. I make no apologies for the rich and I don’t necessarily cry for those who remain poor despite abundant opportunities around them. So there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of any opportunity to make money as long as you are ethical. That’s my strong belief. However, everything is also not money. We all want to do stuff that has meaning and leave a legacy of making the environment a better place. I happen to have a huge heart for empowering youths because I got empowered while still very young too. I made my first multi-millions when I was between 22 and 25 years old. So, I spend a huge part of the little I make in empowering people in the area that interests me. Right now, it is Digital Business Empowerment. But it’s not just about money with me though we all must make some money to even be relevant to anyone. I believe I am still the first person in Africa to give 10,000 free scholarships to youths in Africa. I did that a few months ago. I trained thousands of youths for nine weeks for free with my Ghetto Dreamz Foundation’s digital works Africa project. I also certified them as digital consultants with a course that American Internet Business School typically sells for $997 a piece. So, I am huge on charitable gestures. If that free scholarship does not convince anyone I am a lot more than just making money, nothing will. And guess what, I am about to launch another scholarship campaign for another 10,000 people to be empowered for free with my Ghetto Dreamz Foundation’s Digital Works Africa project. Empowering the youths in digital business is a crusade for me.

You have spent a while in the internet business, is this your last stop?

I will never have a stop until I die. I have no plans to ever retire. As everyone knows, I don’t stay forever on any initiative. I used to apologise for not sticking with one thing forever, but now I realised that to whom much is given much is expected. I have come to realise God has given me the rare capacity to conceive and execute so many ideas that it will be a gross underutilisation of talent if I am focused on one. As for the internet, this is all that consumes me now. It is all I think and do and the only thing that interests me. It’s also one of the longest areas of engagement for me so far since I have been doing this for like seven years. I don’t see myself slowing down since I don’t even think I have scratched the surface at all. The Internet Business phenomenon is so deep and so multifaceted that I still can’t see the bottom much less of being bored with it. So, I can safely say I will be on this for a while though with me you can never say never. It is never how long but the impact I can leave behind when I decide to move on.

How would you evaluate the response of the Nigerian government to the opportunities in the internet business?

The people who run the Nigerian Government don’t live under a rock. Most of them travel, watch the news and are even on social media, if not directly through their many aides. So, the question is not whether they are aware of the gains of the internet or how the internet can help them solve problems in government especially dealing with the wobbling economy and unemployment. They are not investing or prioritising internet business because in their policies it’s not sexy, and it is not an area they can loot billions without anyone being aware. Many of our governors and presidents talk to us about road development even in areas where people don’t have cars because roads are billion Naira projects, and it is very difficult for you to tell if they are skimming or not. On the other hand, there is only so much you can claim a website cost before people start screaming. For the Nigerian Government, it’s easier for them to spend billions ostensibly teaching people physical skills than digital skills that cost far less and therefore has less room for corruption. I also think that they are stuck in the past with what they know. Change is not easy and the internet is very disruptive to past ways of doing things.

Let us talk about other things, at what point did you realise that you were done with the Nigerian entertainment industry?

It is not about being done with the entertainment industry. I have always said that it is not how long you spend doing something that matters, but the legacies you leave when you are done. I have left a legacy in the entertainment industry, a good one at that. I have been involved in several businesses including entertainment. Presently, my focus is on the internet business. It will interest you when I tell you that everything is converging on the internet including law, entertainment, business, government, banking, insurance and what have you. Every sector of the economy is affected by the internet.

Do you have any regret of your time in the industry?

While I enjoyed and had fun trying to promote evergreen artistes and superstars, it got to a time that I felt my investment of time, money, and energy was not producing the returns on investment that would have made it worth my while to continue. I also realised that Nigerian artistes were not ready for the kind of management style that involved investment by the record label in the career of an artiste in exchange for a share of the artiste income down the road. With exception to a very few, musicians and actresses don’t honour written contracts, it is almost like it is in their DNA not to especially when fame comes. The truth is that I was disappointed just like many of my predecessors in entertainment management. To move away from what I had realised, I had to redefine myself and my business.

Tell us about some of your fond memories while in the entertainment industry

One of the times I was fulfilled was while I was in entertainment. My two years as the Managing Director of Dove Media were some of the happiest times of my life if you take out the last two months of my stay there which were tumultuous. When I was doing Stingomania, I mean the aspect that had to do with music, it was probably one of the most fulfilling times of my life, trying to help young people achieve their potentials as musicians, regardless of the ultimate success of each of them. When we were recording videos for them, when we were having an in-house tour, those were the things I enjoyed doing. Entertainment was something I enjoyed, but like I said earlier, internet business is the new focus for me, and there are vast opportunities therein.

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