Razaq Juwon Lawal is the founder of Africent Group, a management and marketing consulting services company involved in oil, marine industry and agribusiness. Like many other entrepreneurs, Lawal started small.
At age 14, he was helping his father in his palm kernel oil business in Iyamoye town, Ekinrin Ade, located in Nigeria’s Kogi State. He usually worked at the factory after school and on weekends.
“I would always go to the factory after school to work with my father and his employees, and as curious as I was, it was a learning experience for me,” he told Daily Trust.
After the death of his father in 1999, Lawal took over the management of his father’s business. This saw him travel to other countries to explore other business opportunities and technologies and how he could deploy them in Nigeria. He mostly traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea and it was in one of these trips that birthed another business venture called Oillet Services.
While producing and selling palm kernel oil, Lawal was also engaged in consulting services to companies which earned him his first million at age 23. Some of the consulting services he provided included performing feasibility studies and helping them set up small and medium-scale palm kernel oil extracting plants.
He later found himself exploring business opportunities in the oil, marine and agribusiness. His transition to oil and marine business started when he was called upon to supply Industrial generators to factories.
“In 2006 I was called upon to supply a generator to a vessel that was having challenges powering their cranes,” he said. “They had tried several solutions but couldn’t find a reliable one.”
Lawal delivered the right solution they needed and this singular act of diligence and performance opened more doors for him.
“I was paid very well for my efforts and I developed interest in the shipping and marine industry,” he said. “What you see with Oillet Services and Cropyfy is an evolution of experiences I had from the beginning.”
His firm, Africent Group, which is the mother body of his businesses, now has offices in several countries. The firm is headquartered in Logistics City Dubai World Central, United Arab Emirates, with operations in West Africa and the United Kingdom.
Although multiple studies have found that COVID-19 negatively affected Black businesses, Lawal said he did not feel the impact of the contagion because he had adopted remote working before the pandemic.
“We found a way to digitize all our operations to ensure seamless and smooth running of all our business operations,” he said. “Even though business in Nigeria has evolved positively over the years, there is still the issue of safety and security for businesses.
He continued: “Our rights and privileges as business owners are not protected as compared to other countries. We still have people being bullied within the business space and little or nothing is done about it,” Lawal said.
His business venture earned him an official membership into Forbes Business Council and several awards. For instance, in 2013, he emerged winner of the Young Entrepreneur of the Year by Global Excellence Recognition Awards.
Now in his early 40s, Lawal’s journey has not always been smooth sailing. He encountered a lot of challenges on his way to the top. “These are challenges we all go through as Africans and as people trying to build something for ourselves, we do what we can to overcome them as they come and move on. You just need a good plan and strategy for whatever challenges that come your way and keep moving.”
Lawal holds a degree in Business Administration and a master’s in Business Administration and Management from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State. He also has professional executive training in agribusiness from Harvard Business School.