King’s College-educated Hakeem Belo-Osagie lives by one major rule: Give! Giving financial resources, financial, business or life knowledge, time and other valuable means to generations form the core of Hakeem, fondly called ‘Keem’s existence. He has been involved in the cultivation of young minds from the African continent who will turn the world around, beaming the bright torches of excellence in business, public service, technology, education and other spheres of humanity.
He strongly holds on the words of his father as milk for sustenance. Hakeem, a scion of renowned gynaecologist and medical practitioner to at least two Nigerian presidents, Prof. Tiamiyu Belo-Osagie, and of the famous Osagie dynasty in Edo State, has imbibed the philosophies of his ancestors in his quest for a desired future where knowledge and opportunity gaps are shortened to create social interactions for growth.
“One of the things my father always used to tell us: Don’t think that you’re successful just because you’re bright, or just because you’ve worked very hard. You’re successful because- yes, you’re working hard- you have been given the opportunities to be successful. And it is important that as an act of fairness that you try to provide others with the opportunities that you- yourself- have been given.”
Hakeem Belo-Osagie lives by those principles of shared aspirations, humanity, charity, communality. For one who, you may say, was born into privilege, and had the best opportunities at his disposal to make dreams a reality; he is focused on creating platforms for the ‘have-nots’ to have their circumstances shifted to a better one where dreams are not mere sky-bound horse rides.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie dismisses the popularly held notion that the economically disadvantaged continue to wallow in their terrible conditions because they want to; that their poverty (either of financial resources or knowledge) must be blamed on the bearer of such squalor. He continues to dismiss these narratives, mostly propagated by the ‘haves’, who attribute all their achievements to their own hands. This could be true in parts; but in whole, it misses the mark. Like the father of Economics, Adam Smith, once attributed “invisible hand”. Or, to borrow from Michael Porter’s Diamond Theory on International Trade—Chance. This invisible hand or chance factor is the opportunities provided for the ‘have-nots’ or the dreamers to relocate from the undesirable to a place where dreaming is conducive and not stifled.
The wisdom his father passed on to him has been taken from mere letters from a ‘grey-vine’ to philanthropic projects. A man worth over N200 billion ($600 million) and whom Forbes called ‘self-made’ isn’t obligated to part with hard-earned resources to look good in-front of the cameras perhaps in an award-snatching humanitarian moment. But, Hakeem negates this assumption. He has invested over $1 million in education of the next generation of African leaders in business, politics, public service, social services; and in training a generation that, through innovation and technology, will solve the growing developmental problems of the continent. Africa is burden with poverty, hunger, illiteracy, diseases, poorly managed infrastructure, high illiteracy, poor market competitiveness, etc.; and the best way to tackling is grooming the next generation (or millennials) to rise above the challenges with ideas that will change destinies.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie-funded African Leadership Academy (ALA) seeks to transform the continent and place it on an enviable status for international reckoning and not one for album pages of Summer tourists and camera rolls for pseudo-NGOs and bed for Euro-celebrities’ child-adoption fetish. The academy, whose curriculum is based on African studies and entrepreneurial leadership, focuses on innovative solutions to healthcare, hunger, economic growth and conflict resolution. This hub has trained hundreds of leaders for the future who will take their place in the new Africa.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie believes that legacy extends beyond individual successes, achievements, laurels, but reaches communities—a success that is larger than one’s self and intended for social good. As he once quipped at a university gathering: “[…] legacy and the impression that we have left, in the memories of our friends, the contributions of our children and the way that we have contributed to society.” His philanthropy has seen him establish a scholarship for bright minds, and he continues to give towards projects in and outside Nigeria.
Inclusion and diversity are strong on Hakeem’s heart and he has made sure, in the organizations he has/has chaired, women-inclusion, youth-inclusion, pro-poor policies, ethnic-diversity are part of the organization’s core values.
60 year old Hakeem Belo-Osagie’s educational background has had great impact on his career and social philosophies. The KC-alumnus was educated in Atlantic College (Wales), Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Harvard Business School—earning degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Law, and Business Administration.
Before his rise to becoming Chairman of UBA (a bank he had about 51 percent shares) and Chairman of Nigeria’s fastest-growing telecommunication company, Etisalat Nigeria (Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Ltd.); Hakeem had stints in public service. He worked with then president Shehu Shagari-administration as a Special Assistant to the Presidential Adviser on Petroleum and Energy, Alhaji Yahaya Dikko, and later Secretary of the Oil Policy Review and LNG Committees. Hakeem Belo-Osagie’s drive for public service saw him give his wealth of knowledge to the government, and he worked assiduously to make things run smoothly in his ‘small’ capacity.
Hakeem held these public positions before seeking out his own turf with the establishment of KMC, a financial services company. The failure of the company is one Hakeem is willing to share to young entrepreneurs and start-ups. So, speaking at a business summit he said, “I think that one of the key factors for success in business is you must have that mental attitude to walk boldly through the fog of uncertainty that is an inevitable part of business. There are some individuals who cannot make a decision until every fact is in, who cannot live with uncertainty. By the time every single fact is in, you are inevitably too late for the opportunity.”
Hakeem believes that though failures are bound to happen at one period or the other a strong ‘can-do’ spirit and optimism are needed drivers for business and life growth. He is not ashamed to share his failures as he considers such a disservice to the young generation of industry leaders if they are not told that failures do happen. He is keen to transfer his knowledge to the next generation; business ideas, strategies, alike.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie’s business successes in finance, consulting, energy, banking and even music has displayed his brilliance; his involvements in philanthropy and transfer of knowledge in small circles or large audiences of entrepreneurs and start-up leaders has made him a model for the young generation to tap into. He continues to give every resource nature and opportunities have placed within his reach.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie is The Sheet NG Man of The Week.
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