Okechukwu (Okey) Enelamah
Nigeria
Okechukwu (Okey) Enelamah
  • Former Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment (2015-2019) and Founder, African Capital Alliance (Finance)
Born Umuahia, Abia State, Nigeria, 1964. MBBS, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1985); MBA, Harvard Business School (1994).
“It’s our responsibility as Africans, and I include those of us that are in public service, in private sector, to create the right enabling environment for success.”

Summary

Okechukwu “Okey” Enelamah is a former Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment (2015-2019) and founder of African Capital Alliance, a pan-African private equity firm based in Nigeria. Enelamah opens his interview by reflecting on his formative experiences at Government College Umuahia, a secondary school in Umuahia in Nigeria. He went on to undertake a training as a medical doctor. In this interview, Enelamah explains that after working a few brief years in medicine, he was drawn towards business and finance. In 1988, he joined the local affiliate of Arthur Andersen where he retrained as an accountant, and in 1992, he joined the MBA program at Harvard Business School. After graduating in 1994, Enelamah returned to Africa and began a career in private equity.

In 1994, just as South Africa was transitioning out of the apartheid system, Enelamah joined forces with Thomas Barry, the former President and CEO of Rockefeller & Co. (an investment management firm owned by the Rockefeller family) and a pioneer of emerging markets private equity. They formed a major regional private equity fund.

Enelamah moved back to Nigeria where he founded African Capital Alliance in 1997. At this time, the concept of private equity was unfamiliar in Nigeria. In this interview, Enelamah describes his experience acting as a private equity pioneer. The first fund – Capital Alliance Private Equity - was launched in 1998, and closed in the following year, after raising $35 million in capital. Enelamah discusses the challenges of establishing private equity in Nigeria and reveals how he overcame barriers, including issues around selecting the appropriate entrepreneurs to back, selecting the right partners, and fundraising. Enelamah expresses the view that private equity in Africa got off to a great start, the 2010s proved turbulent because of multiple factors including market cycles, currency devaluations, and financial hedging issues.

Enelamah also discusses his service as the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment between 2015 and 2019 during the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. He reflects that Africa still appears to have a lot to do to create an environment that enables economic growth. He stresses the importance of the public sector in providing the right framework for economies to flourish. To conclude his interview, Enelamah discusses what Africa can learn from China’s growth, how Africa may be able to benefit from globalization, and the strong influence of his religious values on his career.

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Okechukwu “Okey” Enelamah is a former Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment (2015-2019) and founder of African Capital Alliance, a pan-African private equity firm based in Nigeria. Enelamah opens his interview by reflecting on his formative experiences at Government College Umuahia, a secondary school in Umuahia in Nigeria. He went on to undertake a training as a medical doctor. In this interview, Enelamah explains that after working a few brief years in medicine, he was drawn towards business and finance. In 1988, he joined the local affiliate of Arthur Andersen where he retrained as an accountant, and in 1992, he joined the MBA program at Harvard Business School. After graduating in 1994, Enelamah returned to Africa and began a career in private equity.

In 1994, just as South Africa was transitioning out of the apartheid system, Enelamah joined forces with Thomas Barry, the former President and CEO of Rockefeller & Co. (an investment management firm owned by the Rockefeller family) and a pioneer of emerging markets private equity. They formed a major regional private equity fund.

Enelamah moved back to Nigeria where he founded African Capital Alliance in 1997. At this time, the concept of private equity was unfamiliar in Nigeria. In this interview, Enelamah describes his experience acting as a private equity pioneer. The first fund – Capital Alliance Private Equity - was launched in 1998, and closed in the following year, after raising $35 million in capital. Enelamah discusses the challenges of establishing private equity in Nigeria and reveals how he overcame barriers, including issues around selecting the appropriate entrepreneurs to back, selecting the right partners, and fundraising. Enelamah expresses the view that private equity in Africa got off to a great start, the 2010s proved turbulent because of multiple factors including market cycles, currency devaluations, and financial hedging issues.

Enelamah also discusses his service as the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment between 2015 and 2019 during the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari. He reflects that Africa still appears to have a lot to do to create an environment that enables economic growth. He stresses the importance of the public sector in providing the right framework for economies to flourish. To conclude his interview, Enelamah discusses what Africa can learn from China’s growth, how Africa may be able to benefit from globalization, and the strong influence of his religious values on his career.
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Video Clips by Topic

Government & Business

Okey Enelamah, the former Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment (2015-2019) and Founder of African Capital Alliance, discusses the importance of creating the correct environment to encourage the development of economies throughout Africa.


Leadership

Okey Enelamah, the former Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment (2015-2019) and Founder of African Capital Alliance, explains the foundations of his religious values and the importance of family.
Keywords: Leadership, Nigeria


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Okechukwu Enelamah, interviewed by Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Lagos, Nigeria, June 1, 2021, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.