Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India, has completed the development of his new home in Mumbai. The mansion is worth an estimated value of $1 billion. It is a 400,000-square-foot Antilia on Mumbai’s Cumballa Hills, situated in one of the world’s most expensive addresses – Altamount Road. The oil and gas tycoon owns the world’s largest and most expensive private residence.
Another man has built another house that is worth N360 billion in Nigeria. The mansion occupies a stretch of the Oko Awo Street on the Victoria Island, Lagos. He is not an oil tycoon. He is a switching engineer. His mansion is not a 27-story skyscraper but it has 17-year story.
He did not know that the foundation of the mansion he laid some 17 years ago with a seed capital of N200 million investment fund from the participating banks, would become the first African unicorn worth N360 billion [$1 billion]. Let us trace the genesis of the story.
In 2002, 17 years ago, saddled with the responsibility of building a shared infrastructure that will help shareholders reduce the cost of financial transaction and assist their businesses to deliver best value to customers and at the least cost, one man and his team designed and set up the infrastructure.
However, without some key actors that infrastructure would have remained an infrastructure. But it succeeded because Telnet and Accenture Nigeria played a crucial role in the foundation of the mansion, which is now the first and only African unicorn.
Through Interswitch, electronic payment in Nigeria has become better. It has become bigger. It has grown beyond our collective imaginations. The other actors who played strategic role in the erection of the mansion are First Bank, Zenith Bank, Wema Bank, UBA, GTB, Union Bank and FCMB. Their support was phenomenal.
The birth and operation of Interswitch brought increased productivity and improved quality of life. Outside the financial institutions, the Federal Inland Revenue Services [FIRS] benefitted from the shared infrastructure, as its success story led to the overall success of Interswitch. The road Interswitch followed that led to its height is through a project named FACT. FACT stands for Friendly, Accurate, Complete, Timely.
The successful implementation of the FACT project projected the image of the man at the head of the diamond formation, Mitchell Elegbe, also known as Mitch. It is upon the success of FACT that Interswitch built every other accomplishment.
These include the connection of all the 24 banks in Nigeria, entrance of an investor group led by Helios in 2010 that agreed to majority equity of 75% interest, and the arrival of International Finance Corporation [IFC] the same year.
For this and other triumphs, Mitch has received multiple awards and accolades. We will not regurgitate the awards list here.
But with a significant exposure to switching and software companies in South Africa and Europe over the years, Mitch, the pioneer Group CEO of Interswitch has an in-depth knowledge of the e-payment industry.
His local and international expertise has helped Interswitch. This is evident in the latest registration of a N30 billion debt issuance programme with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria (SEC).
It is evident in the conclusion of a N23 billion series 1 fixed rate senior unsecured callable bonds issue via a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), Interswitch Africa One Plc, which has attracted Visa to agree a payment of $20 million for a 20 per cent stake in Interswitch. It is evident in the planning of listing Interswitch on the London Stock Exchange in the year 2020.
It is evident that only investors’ participation was allowed by the SEC with a proposed bonds allocation of 64 per cent to pension fund managers, 7 per cent to asset managers and 22 per cent to commercial banks.
It is also evident that Interswitch is the only home-grown unicorn, a company that is valued at $1 billion, and the only one in Africa. It is completely evident you are a witness to this feat. However, Mukesh has built a $1 billion mansion from oil and gas proceeds; Mitch has also proven that an electronic payment and switching company from Africa can do more than build a mansion with many rooms in many African countries.