Alhaji Muazu Sambo, Minister of Transportation, has lauded SIFAX Group for its socio-economic impact on the nation and promised to support the company’s businesses in order to contribute more to the economy. He made this known during an inspection tour of Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, the flagship business of SIFAX Group at Tin Can Island Port.
According to the Minister, SIFAX Group and its subsidiaries are adding great value to the Nigerian maritime sector and by extension the economy, and as such, deserves the government’s support.
He said: “I am excited at what your company is doing. You are really doing a great job. I want to assure you that we will look into the issue of concession renewal and make sure that this is wrapped up in no time. All the challenges being faced by your business have been outlined and we have begun consulting relevant agencies to make sure that we tackle them headlong. The maritime sector is dear to my heart and with the right atmosphere it can become the major earner for government. We will make sure that this terminal will operate at maximum capacity in no time”.
While welcoming him to the terminal, John Jenkins, MD, Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, noted that the company was committed to exploring the potentials of the maritime sector, adding that SIFAX Group, the parent company, is continually investing in the terminal in order to deliver best value for all customers and grow the industry.
Captain Ibraheem Olugbade, Executive Director, SIFAX Off Dock Nigeria Limited, also highlighted SIFAX Group’s intervention in the maritime sector through the development of various inland container terminals around Tin Can and Apapa Ports.
He said: “We have developed various inland container terminals around Apapa and the most important of them is SIFAX Inland Container Terminal, located at Ijora. In the nearest future, we are hoping to receive vessels at this terminal. We move boxes from various terminals to the off docks and also received empty containers too”, he said.
The Minister was taken on a tour of Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited and SIFAX Inland Container Terminal, Ijora, Lagos.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi has identified courage, self-belief, determination and solution-oriented mindset as some of the factors necessary in achieving success.
Afolabi said this at an interactive session with the 2022 graduating students of the Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State.
The SIFAX Group Chairman who was represented at the occasion by Mr. Bode Ojeniyi, Group Executive Director (GED), SIFAX Group, admonished the students not to be deterred or intimidated by challenges that life would throw their way.
He said: “Challenges are part of life and it is practically impossible to avoid them. You can’t avoid challenges if your ultimate goal is to succeed, either in career, marriage or business. You need to believe in yourself because you are endowed with all you require to excel. You must also take self-development seriously. Don’t be comfortable with the level of knowledge you have. Keep seeking for more. The more you know, the more likely you are to succeed”.
“Having a solution-oriented mindset is also critical. When you encounter a difficulty or problem, ability to generate solutions, rather than lamentations set people apart. When you are reputed for this kind of thinking, achieving success will be easier, as colleagues, bosses and clients would trust you more and avail you greater responsibilities that would account for your rise.”
Afolabi further commended the university for organizing the event where the graduating students interacted with successful professionals and captains of industries.
Other speakers at the event include Mr. Kunle Elebute, Chairman, KPMG Africa, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye, former Consultant, World Bank, Dr.(Mrs) Abimbola Abolarinwa of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Pat Utomi and Mr. Ademola Adebise, Managing Director, Wema Bank, among others.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Chairman, SIFAX Group has donated a church, vicarage, children hall and a bus to the Ijebu Anglican Diocese in commemoration of his 60th birthday.
The church, Samson Afolabi Anglican Church, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, would seek to meet the spiritual needs of the town’s GRA residents.
At the church’s dedication service, Afolabi, in company of his family, friends and well-wishers, appreciated God for His mercy and favour in the last 60 years. He said the donation was his way of showing gratitude to God for the journey of six decades filled with abundant grace and multiple blessings.
He said: “Let me start by expressing my appreciation to God Almighty who has remained my source and inspiration over the years. He has not only kept me alive but has also granted me grace, gave me a beautiful family, loyal friends and associates. I don’t know how else to say Thank You God than to build a befitting place where His people can come and worship”.
In his sermon, Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Rotimi Oludipe, the Bishop of Ijebu Anglican Diocese, showered encomiums on the SIFAX Group boss, describing him as a shining light to this generation and a great philanthropist. He congratulated him on the milestone birthday and further urged him to continue affecting the society positively.
Dignitaries at the event included Prince Dapo Abiodun, Ogun State Governor; Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Oba Saheed Elegushi, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Kemi Adeosun, former Minister of Finance amongst others.
SIFAX Group has announced the appointment of Dr. Taiwo Afolabi as the new Board Chairman of the company.
Afolabi, who was until this appointment the Group Executive Vice Chairman, replaces the former chairman, the late Olowu of Owu, Oba Adegboyega Dosunmu, who died on December 12, 2021.
Dr. Afolabi’s appointment takes immediate effect.
According to Mr. Bode Ojeniyi, Group Executive Director, SIFAX Group, the appointment was a natural progression for Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, who has worked assiduously in the last 33 years to build and lead the company to become one of the leading conglomerates in Nigeria today.
He said: “His choice was unanimous among the board members. Dr. Taiwo Afolabi has given all his resources – financial, goodwill, mental and social capital, among others – to see that the company continues to return impressive business growth and profitability year on year. The success story of the company cannot be divorced from his rigour, leadership, strategic thinking and foresight. Taking all these into account, the board found him worthy of this appointment for sustained entrepreneurial leadership and better service delivery to our clients as well as improved returns to all stakeholders.”
While accepting the appointment, Afolabi said his immediate goal would be to drive the five-year strategic growth plan of the company to a logical conclusion.
He said: “The company has, without doubts, achieved so much, but there are still so much grounds to cover. Interestingly, my appointment coincides with the midway point of our five-year strategic growth plan designed to improve the profitability of our various businesses and expand to new territories both locally and internationally.
“We are already doing well with this growth plan and we will see if there is a need to recalibrate our approach and deliverables for an improved performance. I am confident that with the quality of human resources on the board as well as the cooperation of all our stakeholders, we will position SIFAX Group well for its next growth phase and achieve its mandate.”
Finally, after much anticipation and preparation, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi clocked 60 years on Friday, April 29, 2022.
It was a day that not a few looked forward to in order to celebrate a man who towers above many, yet remains simple and humble. His life is a demonstration of God’s grace and personal grit. Rising from a humble beginning, he has worked his way to the top through dedication to his craft, strategic thinking, calculated risk taking and uncommon courage. His flourishing business in diverse sectors of the economy is a testament of his acumen.
With thousands of employees on his payroll, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi’s impact cannot be overemphasised, especially with the ripple effects on the employees’ families and dependents.
To him, wealth is not a badge of honour that should be displayed for its sake. Rather, he sees wealth as a weapon to deploy against lack of opportunities, helplessness and poverty. Over the years, he has consistently lend a hand to people from diverse ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds.
Through his philanthropy, he has been able to restore hope, support causes and projects, help individuals, communities and associations. He just couldn’t stand not helping those in need.
No wonder his birthday was a carnival of sorts, across locations and boundaries. From Nigeria to United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, Ghana, United States, and more, people rolled out the drums to celebrate a man who has not only done well for himself but has impacted people positively in his 60 years on earth.
From staff to business associates, friends, traditional rulers, religious organisations, and beneficiaries of his giving, generous encomiums were poured on the celebrant at various occasions.
Many of Nigeria’s newspapers also smiled to the bank on account of tens of congratulatory newspaper adverts that were placed by the appreciative friends and associates of Dr. Taiwo Afolabi.
It was celebration galore at SIFAX Group’s subsidiaries across the world on Friday, April 29, 2022 when Dr. Taiwo Afolabi clocked 60.
Special prayer and tribute sessions were held to celebrate the icon and business magnate. Many of the staff present, including the management team, spoke glowingly of the exceptional qualities of the celebrant.
Friends, business associates were also not left out of the celebration as they placed congratulatory adverts in various newspapers.
Read the exclusive interview of the Chairman on his 60th birthday.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi’s 60th Birthday Interview
Tell us about yourself:
I am Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, the founder and Group Executive Vice Chairman of SIFAX Group. Obviously, I am an entrepreneur, business leader, mentor and many more. I am an indigene of Ogun State and by the grace of God, I am 60 years old. I was born in Ondo on April 29, 1962. As my first name indicates, I am a twin, I have a twin brother. I had my primary school at Ondo and my secondary school education at Baptist Grammar School, Ibadan. I hold a Law degree from the University of Lagos as well as Masters in International Law and Diplomacy from the same university.
I have been running my business for over 33 years now. I actually launched my company in 1988 as a freight forwarding firm in Lagos, Nigeria, after working with an uncle, under which I learnt the rudiments of the clearing and forwarding business.
From the little beginning in 1988, SIFAX Group has grown to become one of the leading indigenous corporations in Nigeria with thousands of jobs created, both direct and indirect. We have also spread our tentacles to other African countries as well as Europe and America.
Our core business focus is integrated logistics, but over the years, we have diversified to other areas including financial services, oil and gas and hospitality.
Aside running my business, another thing I am passionate about is societal impact. As an organization and in my individual capacity, we support causes and individuals who are not privileged in the society. Our key intervention areas are education, health and youth and women empowerment. We have a foundation which is devoted to implementing our beliefs in this regard.
I have also been privileged to be a recipient of a national honour in Nigeria, Member of the Order of Niger (MON) while I am also the Honorary Counsul General of Djibouti in Nigeria.
I am a family man. I am married to a beautiful and supportive woman, Mrs. Folashade Afolabi, and blessed with children, who are all doing well in their different endeavours.
How do you feel turning 60?
Let me start by expressing my appreciation to God Almighty who has remained my source and inspiration over the years. He has not only kept me alive but has also granted me grace, meets all my needs, grants me good health, peace of mind and a great family. I am indeed a grateful man as I turn 60.
I am sure some of my peers have died and so many are not as privileged as I am. These and many more give me unending joy because of the grace. I am probably not the smartest, but God’s grace has found me and beautified my life.
So, as I turn 60, I am grateful to God. I am happy that life has been kind to me. I am grateful for the modest impact God has accomplished through me. I am grateful for a wonderful family and I am grateful for a greater future.
You started your career with your uncle and later left to float your own business. What was the motivation for this?
Well from a tender age, I have always been entrepreneurial in my thinking. My mother was a trader and through her, I learnt the rudiments of trading and that passion has stayed with me ever since.
So starting my business was a natural progression for me after spending some years learning the ropes from my uncle who owned a clearing and forwarding business in Lagos. I rose up to become the Operations Manager in the company. By this time, I was well grounded and ready to take on the next challenge.
Apart from expressing my passion, I also set up the business to take advantage of emerging opportunities and to provide a platform for others to fulfill their dreams through job and wealth creation. Today, our companies employ about 5,000 staff and you know the implication of such a number of employees, especially the ripple effect on their immediate and extended families as well as the society. If you also throw in the number of businesses, both large and small, that do businesses with our various companies, you will see how far we have come in impacting the society. Those are some of the things that motivated me to start my business then.
What are the key lessons life has taught you in the last 60 years?
There are many of them.
One is that you must be strategic in your thinking and planning in order to become outstanding. Ordinary approach will always deliver ordinary result. If you look at the growth pattern of SIFAX Group, it is a result of well thought-out plan. The integrated approach has helped us. From running a clearing and forwarding firm to starting inland container depots across Lagos, to bidding and winning the concession of a port terminal, to setting up a haulage business that conveys goods from these ports to the container depots, to bidding and winning concession of a ground handling company, to launching the Marriott Hotel and a financial services company. You will see that these businesses are complimentary in nature and this has given us some form of advantage over competitors.
I also need to emphasise the place of humility. Let me tell you, before God, we are all equal, whether you are rich or people. Everybody deserves respect. Humility will attract people to you and they can go to any length to support you if they know you are no arrogant. I have always believed in living a simple and humble life which is scriptural because God admonishes us to live humbly and promised to elevate us. I have also studied the lives of many successful godly people and you’d see humility in them. I have many VIPs – ministers, successful businessmen and top government officials as associates, but I always come back to my constituency which is my old time friends and school mates and I cherish them greatly. I won’t abandon them because I now have new friends. I’ve gone to several places and people doubt if I were the Dr. Taiwo Afolabi they have heard so much about. I always tell them that simplicity owns the world.
Life has also taught me the importance of friendship and relationship building. It is a skill that is important to get ahead in life. Value friendship. I have some of my friends that have been with me for over 40 years, some since our secondary school days and we are still together today.
Obviously, the need to give back. Most of the times, God blesses us more than what we need so we could support and care for others. This is a lesson I learnt from a tender age and I haven’t deviated form it till to day.
Your company opened Lagos Marriott Hotel about a year ago. What motivated you to launch this business?
I have been privileged to travel around the world in the course of doing business and pleasure and this has exposed me to international standards in the hospitality industry across the globe. So the major reason for the investment in the hotel is to provide the same level of comfort, class and superior customer experience for Nigerians.
Nigerians are reputed for hard work and relaxation, and enjoyment should naturally follow after working so hard. The hotel provides the perfect ambience to relax, refresh, connect and celebrate the achievements that follow their hard work. In the last one year of operation, the hotel has disrupted Lagos hospitality landscape. It has become the favourite venue for major individual and corporate events.
Aside this, as a corporation, we always look for opportunities to impact our country. I have this vision of creating jobs for as many Nigerians as possible. Hundreds of eligible Nigerians are currently employed in the hotel while the indirect employment and other ancillary benefits can’t be quantified. So, job creation is another key factor in setting up the business.
There is a need to build the next generation of entrepreneurs. What role do established business titans like you should play?
The reason many people don’t succeed in business and career is due to lack of mentorship. They go into business without the guidance and support of mentors who have done successfully what they are trying to do. Mentorship is key for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. By the way, let me say that the future of Africa is entrepreneurship.
Young people must be encouraged and supported to pursue their dreams. This is going to help in reducing poverty and high rate of employment in the continent. It is the duty of successful businessmen and women across the continent to mentor and support these budding entrepreneurs.
These young entrepreneurs need to be mentored and guided so that Africa can witness true prosperity. I have been involved in this both directly and indirectly. My company supports various platforms and initiatives that identify and nurture budding entrepreneurs. I also have people I personally take under my wings that I support their dreams and mentor as well.
You are noted for your philanthropy. What is the philosophy behind this generous giving?
There is so much poverty in Africa and privileged individuals must be deliberate in helping the poor. It is part of the core philosophy of my life and business. We are not in business to make profit alone. We believe in making impact. We help individuals and communities as much as we can.
I can say I inherit the trait from my mother who was fond of meeting the needs of needy people around her while I was growing up. I saw the joy and satisfaction on my mother’s face after supporting these people and I believe I unconsciously imbibe the principle of sharing from her. Giving is one key success factor. I wish people realise that giving leads to abundance. It has been a way of life for me and have been seen its impact over the years.
When people come to me for help and I do it, I am always appreciative of the opportunity God has given me to be a blessing to others. Giving comes with a sense of satisfaction and inner joy.
I see giving more as a divine mandate to pull people out of poverty through job creation and philanthropy. Our company is also involved in this philanthropy and its key focus includes education, health and youth and women empowerment. We provide support for public educational and health institutions. We make donations to schools and hospitals. We donated a 1,000 capacity lecture theatre to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso. We donated a brand new bus to the medical students association of Obafemi Awolowo University. We have a foundation with offices in Lagos, Zaria and Umuahia that provide support to the widows and the less privileged. Many indigent students in their hundreds enjoy full scholarship from the foundation. Women are trained in various skills and then given grants to start their businesses. The list is too long to recall.
How do you balance your busy business schedule and family?
I am so privileged to have an understanding wife and family who believe in my vision and support me fully in the journey. When you run a business that is diverse as SIFAX Group, you are bound to be busy and on the road most times. I travel often both locally and internationally and this has a way it affects family time.
But as much as I can, I create time for them. I make sure the little time we have together is judiciously used. We also go on vacation together to maintain our bond.
My wife is very supportive and she is my number one fan. By the way, she is a prayer warrior and you don’t need to be told that I feature prominently in her prayers. She backs me up spiritually and takes good care of the home front so I could have the presence of mind to pursue my targets.
She has also done well when you look at the way our children have turned out so well. She understands my schedule and gladly tolerates my absence. But she knows that I don’t take her for granted. I respect and honour her. I create time for her even in the midst of my busy schedule.
Advice for young entrepreneurs
For the young entrepreneurs, I would say first hold on to God, be honest and patient. What is not enough now will eventually become a surplus for you but there are processes you need to take. There are some factors that help in the journey of entrepreneurship. One is vision. You must have an idea of what you want to do and the impact you want to make. Two, hard work is very important. All successful people are hard workers. Laziness hinders greatness. Three, solve a problem and success will naturally come. Money goes in the direction of value.
Four, persistence. You must develop the courage and resilience to keep going in the face of daunting challenges because the journey is full of different ups and downs. Don’t give up easily. If you fall, rise, take a lesson and continue your hustling.
What is your biggest challenge as a businessman?
Risk. Business is a very risky venture. Even after doing all the due diligence, things can still go bad. It remains a big challenge but no gain no pain. When you lose, you start all over again.
I have done a business in Europe where I lost about €4million within seven months and that hasn’t stopped me from starting again or investing in another one.
Business is a risk and for those who want to make it big, you must be able to calculate your risk well and make an informed decision. But the ability and the power to overcome after a loss lies in you.
In fulfillment of its human capacity development programme, a total of 101 staff from various subsidiaries of SIFAX Group have undergone different trainings in the first quarter of 2022.
The trainings focused on bespoke needs of the staff, including leadership competence, operations management, terminal traffic management, health, safety & environment, security, digital marketing and corporate governance.
Selected traffic managers from Ports and Cargo Handling Services (PCHS) were trained on terminal traffic management. The one-week training was aimed at providing attendees with practical skills that would enable them effectively and efficiently coordinate movement of people, vehicles and equipment within the terminal.
Operations staff from the same subsidiary were trained on current terminal operational skills, as well as an understanding of the importance of standards, robust processes and procedures and analysing the different elements of container terminal operations especially in understanding the full operational cycle of ship, yard and gate activities.
Dockworkers were trained on industrial health, safety and environmental (HSE) management. The HSE training was aimed at setting standards, reinforcing the importance of health and security management at the workplace as well as equipping the training participants with relevant tools to conduct assessment, evaluation and control of potential hazards in the terminal.
Security staff from different subsidiaries also completed a 3-day basic security course that was designed to provide critical understanding of their roles in achieving the company’s objectives.
Speaking on these trainings, Mr. Oluwakayode Alonge, Group Head, Human Resources, SIFAX Group, expressed his delight at management’s commitment to the company’s human capital development through the provision of quality training and refresher courses that would improve staff’s skills and competence and ultimately contribute to company’s business growth.
Chris Nnamuah, Learning & Development Manager, on his part, said the trainings were products of the Development Needs Assessment conducted recently to identify skill gaps in the company’s workforce.
SIFAX Inland Container Terminal, Lagos has been awarded the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO 9001:2015) certification for quality management system.
ISO 9001 is an international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements
At the formal presentation of the certificate to the company, Ope Bashorun, CEO, West Sealand International Security Services Limited, the project consultants alluded to the fact that the high operational standards the company subscribe to made the ISO audit exercise an interesting one for his team and the road to certification less stressful.
He said: “In the 21st century workplace, standards are becoming a differentiation factor. The competitiveness of the business environment and the need to deliver quality make them more imperative for any business that has a long-term vision. We are delighted to have worked with you all through the stages and we are convinced the certification will positively impact your service delivery.”
In his response, Paul Linden, Managing Director, SIFAX Inland Container Terminal, said the drive towards becoming a globally-compliant company and the need to constantly evolve motivated the certification project.
“One of the things we needed to put in place in readiness for the actualization of our vision of becoming a port where large vessels will berth is the ISO certification.
In partnership with our consultant, WSI International, we were able to plan and work towards making this certification a reality. This certification is a validation of our efforts in providing quality service. I am grateful to my team and the management for the support we got towards achieving this milestone”, he said.
Linden further assured that the company would maintain the high standards that qualified the subsidiary for the certification.
205 persons have enjoyed free dental and medical care at the annual Taiwo Afolabi Free Rural Dental Outreach which was held at the popular Molete market in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The beneficiaries were majorly traders at the market.
The free medical care, which is organised by the University Of Ibadan Association of Dental Students, is targeted at rural communities in Oyo State, is sponsored by SIFAX Group.
Some of the services the beneficiaries enjoyed were body mass index (BMI) measurement, blood pressure test, random blood glucose measurement, blood pressure measurement, dental clerking, examination and referrals, extractions and scaling and polishing. There was also a health talk on the imperative of maintaining good oral health.
Medical personnel deployed for the event included doctors, medical and dental students from the University College Hospital, Ibadan.
Mr. Olumuyiwa Akande, Head, Corporate Communications, SIFAX Group, who represented the company at the event, said the sponsorship of the medical outreach was part of the sustainability initiatives designed by the company to provide succour and support for indigent Nigerians. He said it was also in line with the company’s belief that a healthy nation translates to a productive nation.
Olalekan Efunkunle, President, University of Ibadan Dental Students Association, said the aim of the outreach was to create an oral health awareness and promotion of good oral health hygiene in the society. He noted that SIFAX Group’s support for the outreach in the last five years has helped to not only reach out to many rural persons but also equipped the students with adequate field knowledge needed for
them to excel in dentistry. He enjoined other corporate organizations to emulate the company by partnering with the student body to take the rural health mission to more communities.
90 staff have been honoured for their meritorious and dedicated service at the 2021 SIFAX Group Long Service Award Ceremony held recently in Lagos.
Of the 90 staff, 39 were rewarded for 15 years of service, while the remaining 51 were honoured for 10 years. Each awardee was presented a certificate of recognition, an award plaque as well as financial reward.
Some of the awardees include: John Jenkins, Managing Director, Port & Cargo Handling Services Limited; Barrister Ezekiel Ajewole, Executive Director/Senior Special Adviser to the Group Executive Vice Chairman; Mr. Oliver Omajuwa, General Manager, SIFAX Off Dock Trinity; Yusuf Yaro, Personal Assistant to the GEVC; Kayode Ogunwole, General Manager, IT and Henry Ajoh, General Manager, Ocean & Cargo Terminal Services Limited, Warri.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi, Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, who hosted the event, presented the awards to the staff. In his goodwill message, he appreciated the awardees for their valuable contribution to the growth of the company.
He said: “I must salute your courage, commitment, loyalty and dedication. Without a doubt, you have all contributed immensely to the growth of the company in your different capacities. You have not only run with the vision of the organisation, but also, in the process, inspire others to give their best.
“Many of today’s awardees joined the company when we were at 41, Calcutta Street, Apapa. It was a small office that we all had to share. We then moved to 54, Warehouse Road, Apapa, which is the present site of our head office and we began expanding gradually. I am particularly excited that you have found a home in SIFAX Group, hence, staying this long. I thank you for your unwavering belief in the SIFAX Group dream and for playing a key role in its fulfillment. ”
Responding on behalf of the 15-year awardees, Barrister Ezekiel Ajewole, ED/SSA to the GEVC, lauded the company for the honour as well as providing them platforms to grow.
“I am not surprised that many of us who started about fifteen years ago are still here today. This shows that the company is doing something right to retain its staff. We thank Dr. Taiwo Afolabi for his support over the years”, he said.
John Jenkins, Managing Director, Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, who spoke on behalf of the 10-year awardees, said the honour would spur the staff to do more. “SIFAX Group is a company that allows all its staff the opportunity to grow and master their crafts. This is why we have a low level of staff turnover. I am happy to have spent ten years here and we want to assure that we will continue to give our best”, he said.