Gist: Forbes - Meet the 35-year-old entrepreneur who owns Nigeria's 2nd largest rice farm  (Read 980 times)

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Forbes - Meet the 35-year-old entrepreneur who owns Nigeria's 2nd largest rice farm

Forbes writer Nsehe Mfonobong interviewed former journalist turned entrepreneur Rotimi Williams who owns the second largest rice farm in Nigeria. Read the feature below...
Nigerians consume more than 5 million metric tons of rice every year, with a significant portion of its consumption needs sourced from imports. Rotimi Williams WMB -4.95%, an ambitious 35 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur and rice farmer, is on a quest to change that.
Williams, a former Journalist, is the owner of Kereksuk Rice Farm, the 2nd largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria by land size. His farm, which  is situated in Nasarawa state in northern Nigeria, currently sits on  45,000 hectares and employs more than 600 indigenes of Nasarawa.
 I recently caught up with the budding entrepreneur in Lagos, and had a  brief chat with him where he recounted his journey and mused on how  Nigeria can attain self-sufficiency in rice production in the near  future.

 What’s your educational and professional background?
 I attended King’s College in Lagos. After attending secondary school  at King’s College I proceeded to obtain my first degree at University of  Aberdeen where I graduated with a degree in Economics. I also obtained a  Master’s Degree in Economics from the same institution. My quest for  more knowledge led me to enroll for yet another Master’s Degree at the  School of Oriental and African Studies, London where I gained an MSc. in  Finance and Development Studies.
  Upon graduation, I landed a role as an analyst at the European  Economics and Financial Centre in London. Afterwards, Euromoney  Magazine- employed me where I covered the African space.
 I would say that this is where my journey truly started.

Given your background as a journalist, what informed your decision to venture into rice farming?
 While at Euromoney, I had the opportunity to travel around a few  African countries. These trips exposed me to countries like Kenya,  Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Ghana. A common thread amongst  the aforementioned nations is agriculture. Agriculture is at the very  core of these countries and this got me thinking. After a few more  trips, I decided to move back to Nigeria and sink my teeth into the  agricultural space. Nigeria remains the largest economy in Africa from  both a GDP perspective and also the strength of the size of our  population.
 Upon my arrival back in Nigeria, I got a job at a premier Bank where I  was promised to sit on the agriculture desk – my hope was that I would  gain enough knowledge of the Nigerian agricultural industry and develop  myself from there.

Unfortunately, the agricultural desk at the Bank never quite achieved  its set goals. I pushed hard for the Bank to adopt policies and gain  inroads into the agricultural industry but my attempts were somewhat  frustrated. I sincerely feel that the bank wasn’t quite ready to launch  fully into the agricultural space.
 As my frustration grew, I decided to quit banking and planned to go  it alone into agriculture. Frankly, my decision led to a challenging  sojourn as attempts to raise funding with my partner proved difficult.  We started a Structured Trade and Commodity Finance company. After a  while I started consulting for small agriculture companies seeking to  raise capital both locally and internationally.
You currently own the second (2nd) largest rice  farm in Nigeria with 45,000 hectares in Nasarawa, Nigeria. What’s the  story behind your acquisition of such vast land, and what are some of  the challenges you’ve encountered in farming in the volatile northern  region?
 Two years had past and we still had no funds, so I made an offer to  the farm owner, that with a 50-50 split, I would develop the farm with  both personal funds and external funding. He agreed and that’s how I  became part owner of 17,296 hectares of farmland. Knowing that  agriculture would become the integral area of focus in Nigeria, I was  bullish and ramped up the land to 55,000 hectares. I later parted with  my partner as a result of unaligned views and strategy. I maintained  45,000 hectares for myself and today we have started producing, with our  quality paddy being sold to major milling companies in Nigeria.  However, I must add the following, I often have people ask how I learned  abut farming, as everyone thinks you need a special degree in  agriculture to be a farmer, but I always tell them the truth, I learnt  it all on Google GOOGL +1.11%.   I downloaded every article I could find on rice production, consumed it and then practiced it in the fields.

 Frankly, my experience working alongside indigenes of Nasarawa state  has been exceptional. I have learnt over the years that if you approach  people with respect even more so while one seeks to set up a business  venture. Having a healthy sense of community makes all the difference in  attaining one’s set objectives. I lean heavily on the wisdom and  cultural approach of the indigenes to carry out farming on such a scale  here in Nasarawa.

Read the rest of the interview here
Source: Forbes - Meet the 35-year-old entrepreneur who owns Nigeria's 2nd largest rice farm


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