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A chat with Obinna Ukwuani, Bank of Kigali's Chief Digital Officer

In June 2020, a Nigerian serial entrepreneur, Obinna Ukwuani, was appointed as Chief Digital Officer for the Bank of Kigali, the biggest industrial bank in Rwanda. He’ll head a division set up to vamp the bank’s digital banking arm.

Whereas such pan-African appointments are not new, Ukwuani’s profession trajectory within the seven years since graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how (MIT) with a B.Sc. in Economics has been spectacular.

In 2008, Ukwuani was the valedictorian for McKinley Know-how Excessive College, a feat that attracted the eye of prime universities within the US, from which he chose MIT. Worthy of note is the truth that a few of his subsequent professional landmarks had been associated with his high school activities.

Born and raised in Washington DC and with an economics diploma from one of the world’s prime universities, one would expect Ukwuani choose a job from one of the finest corporations in North America. However, he had always set his mind on working in Nigeria.

“For whatever reason, I just really felt a desire to be a part of working in Nigeria, building up Nigeria, nation-building, creating opportunities, in my own small way. I felt I was gifted and I wanted my best work to be in a place where the impact would be maximised and closest to home,” says Ukwuani.

Ukwuani recounts how when he was 11 years old, his father briefly despatched him and his sister to a boarding college in Enugu, Nigeria. Although he insists these two years had been fairly robust, they’d impacted him to perceive his roots in Nigeria, and to seek to become a part of building the country up.

Tutoring kids in Know-How

A cursory look at Ukwuani’s profession reveals a whole lot of tutoring actions in West and East Africa. Earlier than his transfer to Africa, he engaged with the District of Columbia Public Colleges the place he taught robotics fundamentals to highschool college students.

In 2010, he turned the Vice President of Harambe Nigeria, an NGO that promotes youth involvement in agriculture and agribusiness. In January 2018, he based the Makers Robotics Academy in Rwanda and partnered with the Bank of Kigali to offer intensive robotics coaching to over 40 kids.

The seeds for this ardour that birthed platforms like Publicity Robotics and NESA by Makers, were sown throughout his transient stint in Enugu.

Ukwuani explains that after graduating from high school, he got to visit his college pals in Enugu, and told them about his entry into MIT. None of them believed him. To prove his claim, they requested him to construct an internet site from scratch on the spot.

“I just put together some HTML and CSS, did photoshop and all that stuff, I actually built a website, sat down for hours and just did it and I guess they were amazed. And I began to talk to them about opportunities, their aspirations, and things like agriculture and all of that, ” he recounts.

Ukwuani believes that the conversations he had with his friends in Enugu helped open their minds on the sweeping switch to a digital economy and gave them some publicity.

He says it was at that second he determined to work on ventures that focused on giving younger Nigerians publicity. And that was actually what birthed to Publicity Robotics which he launched in the summertime of 2012, while at MIT.

Ukwuani can be very happy with the affect the tutoring applications has had on the lives of the scholars. He even shared a few of them at Techpoint Impressed 2018.

“Also, the fact that I and my classmates were focused enough to do this when everyone else was at Wall Street. The Exposure Robotics program especially brought foreigners to Nigeria, also Africans in the diaspora.”

Bank of Kigali Appointment

Having beforehand partnered with the Bank of Kigali on the robotics bootcamp challenge, Ukwuani believes the success of that program, amongst different issues, in all probability stood him in good stead.

“There’s definitely so much I cannot share publicly now, but the project did help. Then I worked directly with the CEO and my predecessor, Regis Rugemanshuro, the CDO at the time. I have a number of relationships in Rwanda as well; I’ve been visiting every other month for three years to see my significant other,” he says.

In accordance with Ukwuani, the stint with Paystack, his instructional background, and numerous entrepreneurial pursuits contributed to his appointment.

“It is also worth mentioning that the leadership of Rwanda is especially keen on giving young people responsibility, and sometimes this seems super huge. I just consider myself fortunate to have been chosen to contribute.”

The Bank of Kigali is the biggest bank in Rwanda with 79 networked branches and over a thousand workers. The federal government-owned a majority stake within the bank earlier than the corporate went public.

Although it had tried increasing to different nations, the entry of Diane Karusisi as CEO shifted focus to deepen the bank’s presence in Rwanda and bring more financially-excluded people into the fee sector.

Ukwuani plans to realize inspiration from his expertise with Paystack and the fintech sector in Nigeria to develop the fee sector in Rwanda.

Obinna Ukwuani

“Nigeria’s fee sector might be probably the most developed in Africa. Based mostly on my expertise and what I’ve seen in Nigeria, I’d be seeking to assist develop the Bank of Kigali’s cell app to the extent of a fintech like Kudabank and in Nigeria, for instance.

“Achieving something like that would be an astronomical step forward for the payments space in Rwanda.”

Ukwuani believes his experiences from the past few years have considerably prepared him for his new position, and he hopes to make Nigeria proud with the work he’s doing in Rwanda.

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