Leo Stan as Forbes Best


The recent award of the Forbes Best of Africa Leading Tech Icon Award about Leo Stan Ekeh is more than a personal honor for Africa’s most versatile digital serial entrepreneur. It is a recognition of Nigeria’s unassailable position in the firmament of information and communication technologies, ICTs, of the continent. It indexes Nigeria’s march from tech backwaters to global calculations.

In the 1970s until the 1980s, Nigeria was not on the map of the global digital economy. Computers were rarely seen in offices, let alone homes. The nation was immersed in the culture of the analog typewriter, that chatty and noisy machine that gave off a “magical” aura at the time. In advanced climates, desktops from IBM and Apple occupied strategic places in offices. They were erasing the last memories of IBM’s mainframe, the big, cumbersome machine that took up more office space than filing cabinets.

In publishing, the analog computer machine, once considered the golden gift of publishers, was at its end on planet Earth. Nigeria, and indeed Africa, was still just a small black spot on the global tech map. Africa was waiting for a miracle. Nigeria was waiting for its own: an energetic young African-bearing graduate returning to his country after a successful academic trip to India and the UK. The arrival of Leo Stan in Nigeria in the 1980s changed the landscape. He had his mandate: to venture into the infotech business. He didn’t consider the oil and gas industry where you could easily make cheap money, sometimes slush. He didn’t like real estate and construction. He kept his eyes on the ball he’d set for himself: ICT, after being spurred on by a chance meeting with the late Apple founder Steve Jobs in the UK.

It is instructive that he started with Apple when he returned to Nigeria. And over the years, Leo-Stan single-handedly pioneered many digital businesses and expanded the frontiers of ICT in Africa.

Forbes cited his multiple pioneering roles and the continued expansion of the continent’s ICT ecosystem over a period of more than 30 years as the reasons for this recognition. The influence of its multiple ICT initiatives, from IT (hardware and software) to telecommunications, spans four continents.

Its strength is its ability to see beyond the present moment, to anticipate the future, to identify opportunities even in disappointments and to find solutions to challenges. Forbes recognized his pioneering roles in e-commerce, desktop publishing and computer graphics, wireless cloud and WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), a kind of telecommunications technology that enables the transmission of data without wire over long distances, usually from point-to-point links. to full mobile cell-type access. Don’t be terrified of the jargon. WIMAX is simply Wi-Fi over a large area – a city, state, etc. It laid the first hub in Yobe State in 2007, launched by the Minister of State for Information and Communication, Alhaji Dasuki Nakande.

He did a lot more. In 2001, he led his adventure in the world of computing to his holy grail: a complete assembly of internationally certified computer brands, Zinox, the first local computer to achieve Intel and Microsoft certifications. Forbes more than any other consideration had to pay close attention to the history and trajectory of the Zinox brand as a true African ICT identity.

Less than a decade after deploying the first assembly plant batches, Zinox has taken on its own fully integrated digital life with desktops, laptops and various handhelds making up its product mix. And much more than that, the Zinox brand has become both desired and preferred not only in schools, corporate environments, but also as the main engine and technological powerhouse of major Pan-African events held in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. foreigner.

A few cases. Between October 5 and 17, 2003, Nigeria hosted the 8th African Games under the code name COJA 2003. It was powered by Zinox among other technology brands.

Also between December 5 and 8, 2003, when Nigeria hosted the 18th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo, a huge fan of the Zinox brand, opted for Zinox products to power the top. Trust President Obasanjo and his pan-Nigerianism, he did not fail to convey to visiting heads of government the Nigerian character of the IT brand on display. Speed ​​up a bit. From April 17-22, 2004, hundreds of athletes from no less than 15 African countries gathered in Bauchi, northeast Nigeria. The event was the Pan-African University Games, a regional multisport event organized for university athletes from the continent by the African University Sports Federation (FASU). Zinox was there to animate the event.

Banjul, capital of The Gambia hosted the 7th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU). The event held from July 2-5 was hosted by Zinox from Nigeria and over 50 African government leaders attended.

Perhaps the organizers of the Forbes Awards were able to see through the prism of innovation and strategic thinking how Leo-Stan pioneered the entry of digital dispensing pumps for gas stations and stations. -service across the country. Even this has its own particular story, the story of an entrepreneur who, after being deceived by a gas station attendant using an analog dispenser, turned misfortune into fortune. It’s a story for another day, but it is dripping with moral: there is a silver lining in every dark cloud.

I also bet Forbes may have considered the role he played in Nigeria’s electoral process using the ICT instrument. It is to his credit that Nigeria is today at the crossroads of electronic transmission of election results. This is a later part of a process that began in 2006 before the 2007 elections, when INEC adopted the direct data entry machine, DDC, which helped clean up the voter register. It delivered 11,500 DDC machines in 14 days.

Before that, the voters list was a mixture of the absurd, the ugly and the good. Exotic names like Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, and many aliases were a big part of the voter register. DDC machines helped clean up the mess. Leo Stan was instrumental in the configuration, calibration and deployment of these machines. Patriotism!

He will top it all off with the introduction of card reader units, especially in the 2011 general election, when he pulled off a stunt that even multinationals involved in the same project couldn’t match. This time, it delivered 80,000 fully integrated units of DDC machines in 35 days ahead of two foreign companies, in time for the general election that year to be held, much to the relief of INEC President Professor Attahiru. Jega.

Leo Stan, a postgraduate computer science dropout, has crossed the boundaries of the complex computer market, once a monopoly of the Western world. He demystified computers and computing, establishing ICT training centers at Nigerian higher education institutions as part of an ambitious project called the Computerize Nigeria Initiative. And because of this, young Nigerians have become nerds and geeks in global geekdom. Leo Stan laid the groundwork. And it’s no wonder Forbes, the globally recognized media barometer for measuring excellence, found him worthy of the honor. He deserves it!


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