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Pascal Dozie: Nigerian serial entrepreneur who believed in MTN Nigeria when others did not

Almost 50 years of business exploits is enough to earn one the title – Patriarch of entrepreneurs. In addition to this, having five sons who are also toeing the entrepreneurial paths in different sectors themselves, makes Pascal Dozie something of an enigma. He is a boardroom guru, an accomplished businessman who walked every painful step on the ladder to the top, with a fulfilling career in finance and business to show for it. Dozie is known more in relation to Diamond Bank and MTN Nigeria, businesses that he pioneered in Nigeria. But, there is more to Mr Pascal Dozie.

Pascal was born on the 9th of April 1939 to the family of Charles Dozie, a Catholic Catechist. There was quite some drama around his birth due to his extraordinary fair skin and appearance, but all the excitement soon faded away as he grew up. He got his early education from Our Lady’s School Emekuku, Holy Ghost Juniorate Seminary and Holy Ghost College, Owerri where he obtained his West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

He then travelled out to the United Kingdom where he got his B.Sc Economics from the London School of Economics. He also studied Operational Research and Industrial Engineering, before getting a Master’s degree in Administrative Science from City University in London.

Pascal started out his career in the United Kingdom working with the National Economic Development Office. Later on, he worked as a part-time lecturer at the North Western Polytechnic, London before he was invited to Uganda to work as Consulting Economist at the African States Consulting Organisation.

He was still working in Uganda when the 1971 Military Coup D’etat happened. Being that he worked directly with the Civilian President, Milton Obote, who had been overthrown by General Idi Amin, Pascal did not feel safe enough to remain in the country. He wanted to relocate to the United States in search of other opportunities, but the Biafran war was over by then, and his mother wanted to see him again. So, Pascal relocated with his family back to Nigeria.

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Thrown into the turbulent waters of entrepreneurship

Life back in Nigeria was not rosy. The war was over and many people from South East Nigeria were trying to pick back the pieces of their lives. Pascal and his wife, and their young son lived with a relative in Lagos State, while also trying to get back on their feet. Even though the accommodation was not conducive, due to the number of people taking shelter there, they coped fine. However, they needed to get something going before running down all their savings.

It was at this time that Pascal Dozie started his first company – Africa Development Consulting Group (ADCG), seeking a way to put his international experience to use. It was a very rough beginning, and Pascal often had to work long hours and travel for days, in his search for contracts and jobs. He would conduct marketing research/surveys for clients, and even coordinate campaigns, among other things.

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“My first objective was survival and of course, I had an ambition. You set up a company, you want that company to grow; you want it to be robust and profitable. Being in consulting was a tricky affair because you have a lot of receivables. It was a hustle job. A hustle to get payment and a hustle to do the job all the time,” he would later recount.

As he could not afford to keep staff, his wife, Chinyere Dozie assisted him with a lot of paperwork. With a lot of hard work, it paid off and soon enough, ADCG had high-profile brands like Pfizer and Nestle in its client network.

As his portfolio grew, so did his expertise. Clement Isong, the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor at the time hired Pascal to conduct studies on Co-operative and Commerce Bank. In 1985, he was appointed Chairman of Progress Bank (now defunct).

In search of Diamonds

At around 1985, Pascal Dozie decided to set up a bank.  He had spotted a problem which he thought he could help solve. Traders in the country were having huge business challenges as they had to travel with large amounts of cash, and often got robbed. The challenge then was the absence of a central server, so if one had an account with a certain branch, he could only make deposits and withdrawals at that branch and nowhere else. The traders were thus forced to travel with cash, and lose their money to robbers.

Pascal applied for a banking license in 1990, but it would take the next 5 years to get all the CBN requirements right. When he finally got the standard bank requirement of N20 million, Diamond Bank started off with its first office in Victoria Island. From there, it would grow into hundreds of branches and thousands of staff across Nigeria.

“When we set up Diamond bank, it became technologically driven right from the word go because we wanted to change the system and eradicate the delay in making transactions,” he shared in an interview.

He held the fort and weathered through the changing banking ecosystem, with new policies and corporate issues here and there. Pascal sat as CEO and Chairman of Diamond Bank till December 31, 2006, when he handed over to Emeka Onwuka. Diamond Bank would later be acquired by Access Bank Plc, in a merger process that saw the new Bank retain Access Bank as the name and the Diamond-shaped logo.

The courage to jump on the MTN ship

In the early 2000s, a South African Telecommunications Company approached Pascal Dozie to help raise 40% of the funds needed to set up a subsidiary in Nigeria. MTN South Africa was to fund 60% but they wanted Nigerians to also have stakes and be involved up to 40%. Pascal loved the idea and thought his friends would be willing to cash in on the opportunity. Unfortunately, many of the money-men and potential financiers he approached did not see the potential in it. They reasoned that if NITEL was unable to survive in Nigeria, MTN had even less chances of survival. On this note, they would not invest their hard-earned monies. Their refusal almost had Pascal second-guessing himself, but he decided to push through with his first instincts. With the investments from a few friends who trusted Pascal’s instinct, he was able to raise half of the funds needed (being 20% stake of MTN Nigeria). MTN South Africa had to pour in more money to make up the balance.

It turned out to be an excellent investment after all, and in a few years, many of those who turned down the opportunity were looking for ways to buy in. MTN has grown to become Nigeria’s largest telecommunication company, and Dozie played a critical role in this. Even after leaving Diamond Bank, Dozie was still actively involved on the MTN Board, serving as Chairman from 2001 to 2019.

“Most of the people I asked to invest now regret not investing—I even regret it myself. They would have enjoyed returns of 20 times their money,” he said.

Other positions served

Pascal Dozie has once served as a director at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, chairman of Nigeria Business Support Group, and Co-chair of the Commonwealth Business Council at different times. He is also a former chairman of Progress Bank and Chairman of Kunoch Ltd.

Dozie was a founding partner of Africa Capital Alliance, and also served as the Chairman of Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.

He has written a couple of books where he highlights issues touching on good corporate governance and national development, political governance and budget and fiscal policies, among others.

Awards and Legacy

Pascal Dozie is a recipient of the National Award of the Order of the Niger (OON), Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). He also received the All Africa Business Leader Award (AABLA), and the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner.

But what some may consider one of his greatest legacies is that all of his sons have inherited his entrepreneurial spirit, and have started successful ventures in different sectors.

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