“…Every big African business dies with the owner because they do business within the personalities of the owners and without credit facilities.” – Dada Ganiyu, US-based Nigerian finance expert.
Mr Ganiyu Ademola Dada is known around Nigeria today as a specialist in leveraging financing for export-import business between the United States of America and some African countries. In May this year, he was part of a team from Dredging Supply Company ( USA) which delivered a 20-inch dredger to Ibile Holdings in Lagos. DDH gathers that some more of such orders are due to be accomplished before year’s end. Dada started his working life as a banker in Nigeria before traveling to the USA where he obtained a B.Sc in accounting in 1978 ( University of Illinois) and an MBA from Roosevelt University in 1982. He also trained in computer studies and qualified as an IT-Oracle Applications Consultant, working with Computech Inc, of Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s. However, today, as President of Continental African Chamber of Commerce ( USA), Mr Dada is one Nigerian in the US state of Illinois who cannot hide. As an acclaimed Nigerian leader operating in the city of Chicago, he is constantly relating with the Mayor’s office, either to confirm the identity of a visiting top Nigerian public-sector or business visitor. At other times, he is on call by fellow Nigerians who want his presence at functions, village meetings, professional associations or other groupings. But away from high-society get-togethers, Mr. Dada is a reference point right now for many Nigerians who buy US-made goods for export to Nigeria. For some of them, he arranges financing by liaising with US Banks via Kofa International Company, his consultancy firm. Dada is the president of this company. He says there is now about $400m pre-approved financing package available for qualified Nigerian buyers of US-made goods, like dredgers or other heavy machinery. Presently, Dredging Supply Company (DSC) is one of the US companies being represented by Dada in Nigeria and which use his consultancy services to vet prospective customers before going into more intensive interactions. As DDH gathered during a visit to Chicago in the course of this special focus on DSC’s dredgers, the volume of such businesses is now on a rise. With the increasing need for dredgers and similar machines for Nigeria’s developmental needs, it appears Mr Dada’s role is set to rise as well. And this is very well in keeping with the activities of Continental African Chamber of Commerce USA, whose presidency Dada has held for the past five years. Other transactions he wants to facilitate now include various Caterpillar machinery; quarry, oil and gas (barges, supply crafts) equipment; agricultural machinery and manufacturing equipment for CO 2, water treatment, etc. So long as they are US-made and shipped from the US, he says they qualify for EXIM Bank and similar financing programmes which his firm can facilitate. In the following interview, Mr Dada speaks more on how such financing is accessed. Excerpts:
DDH: What is the role of Kofa International in the business relationship between the USA and Africa?
Dada: Kofar International was incorporated in the State of Illinois (USA) with the sole objective of promoting American trade and investment abroad but with core concentration in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria. Nigeria being the largest country in Africa, with a big market, one out of five of black men is a Nigerian, we want to use Nigeria as our testing ground, whereby when we can succeed in Nigeria, we can succeed in any part of Africa. So we want to be exporting western capital, in terms of technology, equipment and finance, to develop Africa. This is our sole mission and objective. The other side of it is that Kofar wants to use its service and knowledge of America to turn African trade and Nigerian trade to credit-based as opposed to cash-based, so that we can level the playing field between the western world and the African continent.
DDH: Can you expatiate about the financing bit?
Dada: It’s been my ambition from youth, when I left school here, I worked in the bank in Nigeria for about five years. Then from there to the USA to study business, and ever since I have been in business promoting US trade and investment in Africa. I discovered that that African businesses die with the owners. But what I discovered in the USA in particular is that you have first generation, second generation and third generation businesses because the first and second generation businesses have created credit lines for that business. And subsequent generations just assume positions to manage credit and growth. But here I can give examples in Nigeria, in Benin (Republic), in Ghana, everywhere (in Africa), every big African businesses die with the owners because they do businesses within the personalities of the owners and without credit facilities. So I discovered that there are two things we have to have…access to low cost capital just like Western Europe, Asians, the South Americans and the Americans. Secondly, we have to create credit culture, whereby we don’t have to be duping people, rather, we have to create relationship with the big suppliers and customers. So that once you have the credit culture, we can take our credit rating from the USA to London, to China, to Germany and other places. And once it is in the database, then people will be giving you credit everywhere you go. But without credit culture, you can never compete with the rest of the world. So the goal is to be able to have credit culture and to be able to have access to low-cost capital. That is the main goal of Kofa International.
DDH: You mentioned the Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce, what is your relationship with them?
Dada: Apparently, I am the president of Kofa International Company, I was elected the president of Continental African Chamber of Commerce, USA, based in Chicago since 2003. As a result of that, Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) is in partnership with Continental African Chamber of Commerce (CACC). So, because of our success in Kofa, when I became the president and am now working with the CACC to promote American trade and investment in Nigeria through and in collaboration with NACC.
DDH: Now, what kind of financing do you do?
Dada: Well, we have more than 100 financial platforms. The king of them is EXIM, which is open to Nigerian market, particularly oil and gas, agricultural processing, mining, name it, anything you want to use it for or buy, either fixed assets or raw material, spare parts, EXIM covers everything. Under the EXIM alone, there are more than 12 financial products. Then we have Commodity Credit Corporation of America, which is agro-related. That one too has more than 10 financial products. You have SBA, MIGA, IFC, USAID and the list goes on. So when people come to us and they say they have any projects be it estate development, setting up of industries, etc we match different demands to different financial products. Meaning that regardless of what your needs are, you always have a financial product to back you. For your information, the US Government is looking for African immigrants to channel their money to Africa and particularly Nigeria. But people have to have the know-how, people have to distinguish themselves that they are not agents of 419 (a Nigerian cliché for dupes). So that they can trust who they are dealing with. Otherwise, the opportunity for business to Nigeria today is unlimited. And the Chinese and Indians’ involvement today have created serious competition, which is good for Africa, which is good for America.
DDH: Now, in terms of the range of materials or equipment that Kofa can finance for Nigerians…?
Dada: Kofa is currently facilitating a large range of services. For example, in EXIM, we have been able to facilitate dredge equipment for oil and gas, we have been able to do Caterpillar equipment, used Caterpillar equipment for construction companies as well as oil and gas. We are working on preservation, carbon dioxide manufacture here in Lagos; we are working on water treatment plant in Kaduna State, we are working on dairy processing. So as I said, by so doing we have a large range. The list of successes is long. We have good track record and we have something we can show.
DDH: On Ibile Holdings dredger which has just been delivered to Lagos, what was the involvement of Kofa International?
Dada: Usually we want to add value to any entity. What we did was they had a need for dredge equipment, to dredge the coastal area or to do the housing estate, initially that was the plan. They said they didn’t have money. We said okay if you have good financial statement, we will facilitate money. So we discovered DSC that had the kind of equipment they needed, according to their specification. And then we went to M & T Bank to finance it. They brought their own bank to represent them because EXIM is not open to government in Nigeria. But it is open to government that can convince a local bank to represent them. So they brought a bank (EIB), today called Skye Bank, to represent them and the deal was done. And today they have asset. That is what we want to do for every parastatal, for every government, every individual that are qualified to benefit. For your information, EXIM has given about USD360m allocation pre-approved for 16 Nigerian banks. This is what people like us on the field are using.
DDH: So who is qualified to access this fund?
Dada: The qualified users of this money are Nigerian business people with good balance sheets; those who have contract either with governments or with oil and gas companies or anybody who has good banking relationships where Nigerian banks can guarantee them. Those who are super qualified may not even need bank guarantee, but that is very minimal. We always believe that every Nigerian customer will need a bank guarantee. And there are a lot of banks that are ready to guarantee because they are not using their money. They would be having all the proceeds on behalf of US banks. So, in actual fact, it’s to the mutual benefit of everybody.
DDH: So if somebody is reading this and is interested, what should he do?
Dada: Anybody who believes he is qualified can always reach out to our office. We will give him all the requirements. Or go to our website, we will put all the requirements there. And then he can contact us, tell us what they want to buy from the USA. We are in the business of procurement and finance, so we will find qualified supplier because you have to buy from qualified supplier too. Not just a qualified buyer, the US supplier must be a qualified supplier. So we will find a qualified supplier and we will find a bank that is ready to lend to Nigeria and we will find a Nigerian bank that is ready to guarantee. That is what Kofa does. Kofa procures, finances, finds the bank to guarantee.
DDH: For all these services, what will it cost the applicant?
Dada: We are consultants. We have two phases of services. Kofa finances directly and also facilitates. So, depending on when we receive the order, we determine which way to go. We finance ourselves and we facilitate. Even if we facilitate, our service charge is negligible. It’s in addition to everything but that will save them more than 10% of buying locally. And the good point of our service is that we don’t finance out-of-pocket expenses but we finance our fee. So the only thing we want from our customer is to be qualified and to be ready to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Because if he has nothing committed, then he can easily walk away. The out-of-pocket expenses is the only thing we expect from the customer.
DDH: Can you explain more what is out-of-pocket expenses?
Dada: This is the cost of traveling to Nigeria, traveling to meet manufacturers, traveling to negotiate with the banks, etc, and that depends on how large the transaction is. That could be maximum of 1% and could be as low as 0.5%. And that is what we see as commitment fee, because if he is not spending anything, he can easily get all the information and walk away.
DDH: What is your concluding remarks on this initiative to Nigerian dredge operators, etc?
Dada: Well, the development of Nigeria and Africa is our main objective. We want to see many more people in Nigeria and diaspora accessing these funds. We know as a fact that Kofa cannot do everything. We are not afraid of competition because the service we are providing is competition-prone. Because we have so much money that we cannot exhaust. Others are welcome. We want to create as many Kofas as possible but they must be ready to do the job right so that we can create positive image for Nigeria and create capacity in Nigeria for our students to have a place to work when they come out of universities. That is the key, building capacity, helping industries to grow so that our graduates can have a place to work. So, let us reach out to all qualified or prospective industrialists to take advantage of what is available from America, China, from India to develop Africa.
DDH: You mentioned your contacts and travels in Equatorial Guinea and Angola, so even industrialists and businessmen having projects in these areas can contact you?
Dada: Yes. Anywhere in Africa. What we are doing in Kofa is to create associate executives in each country in Africa that we work with who can take advantage of these particular opportunities. I just read in the newspapers today that they have to create 14m jobs in Africa annually for us to come out of poverty. And if we can create opportunity for people we remove hopelessness, we will reduce crime. Hopelessness leads to crime. But if you have many things going for you, you want to stay out of trouble, you can only think of growth.