Adia Sowho is a veteran Nigerian telecoms executive and advisor, investor, and director of startups including Thrive Agric, where she was most recently chief executive—and fintech player Migo, where she ran the Nigerian operations. She’s currently an advisor to Zimbali Networks, One Health, and venture funds Ventures Platform and Rally Cap.
What’s the biggest tech opportunity in Nigeria that’s often overlooked?
Digital infrastructure. I tend to favor constructing infrastructure digitally now, as building in Nigeria or other emerging markets is logistically challenging and thus expensive. Digital infrastructure is easier to distribute across infrastructure-light countries and populations as diverse as ours.
What’s the most common misconception about doing business in Nigeria?
That consumers at the bottom of the pyramid do not value quality products. They are actually better at identifying and rejecting a value proposition that does not deliver on promised value than a “more sophisticated” consumer.
What trend for investment in emerging and developing markets are you most excited about?
We’re seeing more exits from startup investments but the local ecosystem really needs more of those to be shared and announced to ensure a virtuous cycle of value.
Beyond funding, what key challenge for Nigerian startups are you most concerned about?
The fact that our young CXOs are building companies from scratch and may not have had the chance to learn from a more mature organization. This means they cannot tap into the well of past experience and learn each lesson on their own. It is tough on mental and physical health.
Where are the underinvested opportunities for Nigeria’s telecoms sector, particularly when it comes to the digital space?
Along with the banking infrastructure that fintechs are building, telcos have a massive opportunity to create the communications infrastructure for the digital economy. After all, value must first be communicated for it to be monetized, and telcos own and create the infrastructure for all media.
*This 3 Minutes With interview first appeared in Rest of World’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here.