By Eric Elezuo
He was trained as a lawyer. He embraced entrepreneurship. He turned out a distinguished industrialist with a Midas touch. He is today a philanthropist of note with thousands of hangers-on, who are proud to call him their mentor. He is Taiwo Olayinka Afolabi, the ebullient Chief Executive Officer at SIFAX Group, a conglomerate with its hands in various pies including Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Hospitality, Financial Services and Oil and Gas. He is also the brain behind the jaw dropping new Marriot Hotel, located in Lagos.
Born on April 29, 1962, as the first child of a set of twins in Ondo State to Chief and Chief (Mrs.) Samson Afolabi, Afolabi is a native of Idokunusi Ijebu in Ijebu East Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria.
A distinguished 2010 Member of the Order of the Niger MON awardee, the prolific business magnate started his education at the Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Ondo State, before proceeding to the Baptist Grammar School, Ibadan where he obtained his West African Examination Council certificate. His quest to be the best he can be lured him further, and he berthed at the prestigious University of Lagos to study Law. He graduated with a LLB certificate in Law. He became a certified lawyer after a strenuous one year stint at the Nigerian Law School. He was called to the Nigerian Bar by the Body of Benchers on November 4, 2009., and thereafter, obtained a Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the same university.
Pruned, prepared and perfected for the outside world, Afolabi in 1981 launched into professional endeavours, kick starting his career with a shipping company, Nigerian Express Agencies Limited. As a young man hungry for success, Afolabi gave his all, distinguishing himself in every assignment, and earning the respect of all and sundry, thereby rising to become the Head of Operations.
Having seen all there was to see there, and consumed with the zeal to find a newer entrepreneurial world, he stepped out again, like Ulysses, in 1988 to create his own world, and there founded the SIFAX Group; a mustard seed that has grown to become a gigantic oak tree sheltering Maritime, Aviation, Haulage, Logistics, Oil & Gas and Hospitality concerns.
With SIFAX, Afolabi has proved to be a wonder blessed with the Midas touch as from a humble beginning, with little or nothing, he has transformed the originally freight forwarding agency with only a single base in Lagos, Nigeria, to a super mart, which currently operates across the world boasting of iconic presence in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Some of its locations include the United States of America, United Kingdom, Ghana, South Africa, Holland, Belgium, Morocco, Spain and Djibouti.
With over three decades of experience in entrepreneurial networking, having kick started his career story at the age of 28, Afolabi has successfully turned around the SIFAX empire, deriving subsidiaries out of a dint of hard work. Some of them are but not limited to Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited, a concessionaire and operator of the Terminal C, Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa Lagos and SIFAX Off Dock Limited, a bonded terminal operator.
Others include SIFAX Stevedoring Limited; SIFAX Oil and Gas Limited; SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Limited; SIFAX Logistics & Marine Services Limited; Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited, an aviation ground handling company and SIFAX Shipping Limited. In glorious addition is the Marriot Hotel, a five star all inclusive home away from home. His invaluable knowledge of the economy, ability to take entrepreneurial risks, knack for newer grounds, focus on the job and desire to affect humanity have in no small measure ensured that all his subsidiaries have emerged and remained the most sought after brands in the business world.
He has further beefed up his skills in the maritime and general business world by attending several maritime and aviation-related trainings both locally and internationally on port operations, aviation ground handling operations and management.
When Afolabi is not unleashing the prowess his business acumen in the boardrooms, he is jovially serving the public. As many that know or have come across him agree that he has built a reputation as a public-spirited individual, possess a philanthropic gesture and is generally a jolly good fellow. He is said to have given hope and support to many public causes including education, which sits uppermost in his heart. He is known to run speedily to rescue whenever matters refer to education and academics. He is also public speaker and facilitator at various industry conferences and mentoring programmes. Some of the many interventions he has achieved in the education sector as part of his social corporate responsibility are donation of a 1,000 capacity lecture theatre at Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho and an 18-seater Toyota Hiace bus to the medical students association of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
He also sponsors The Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference (TAAM Conference), organized in his honor by students of the University of Lagos.
Dr. Afolabi’s larger than life existence was made more manifest at the opening of his new Marriot Hotel where the who is who in the Nigerian economic world, entertainment, sports, politics and many more, gathered to give him solidarity.
A seasoned maritime consultant and Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Financial Management, the Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of Nigeria, Afolabi has used SIFAX and its subsidiaries to positively affect the Nigerian economy as well as generate both direct and indirect employment for teeming Nigerians who are eligible.
For his very many altruistic endeavours, Afolabi has been recognised and awarded in many quarters. Consequently, he has been conferred with diverse honorary doctorate degrees from four universities, including Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Cornerstone University and Theological Seminary, Jerusalem, Israel and USA, European-American University, Dominica and Commonwealth University, Belize.
He has also received other individual awards from diverse organizations, running into tens including the 2014 Business Person of the Year which was conferred on him Sun Newspapers, a leading Nigerian media company and he is also the Honorary Consul-General of the Republic of Djibouti in Nigeria.
He is a member of the Institute of Directors Nigeria; Ikoyi Club 1938; IBB Golf Club, Abuja; the Building Committee of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, amongst many others.
Afolabi, who is celebrated for his “wealth of experience, organisational prudence and business ingenuity” is a sports enthusiast, addicted to watching and playing football.
A proud and accommodating family man, he is married to his beautiful wife, Folashade, and they are blessed with wonderful children, among whom is a popular recording artist, L.A.X.
For you incredible support growth and development of world economy, and the survival of humanity, you are our Boss of the Week. Congratulations sir!