You probably know Paystack and Interswitch and there is a huge chance you’ve used these services before. But, do you have any idea of the mastermind behind these services? Well, let’s help you. Wale Abba is the tech guru creating solutions with applications for popular Fintech companies.
Despite his contribution to the sector, Wale has personally avoided the front cover of business magazines. However, it appears as if he has decided to change his mind on media attention. See the reason behind his recent change in heart and why he is AfricanVibes Entrepreneur Spotlight.
An Unlikely Academic Path to Technology
Wale Abba is one of nine children born to his parents. At a young age, he was shy but stubborn and enjoyed playing video games. He also got his hands on graphic design. However, his self-discovery did not begin until he designed fliers for his father’s political campaign in Lagos State, Nigeria.
Later in 2005, Wale moved overseas for a bachelor’s degree program at the University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom. He chose to study business information technology but the university offered him admission to study creative computing technology instead. He fondly recalls his first appearance in class saying,
“I checked out the course and went to the department and saw Playstation and Xbox consoles, and other fancy stuff. I was like, ‘this is different,’ and told them I was interested.”
Whether from this positive first impression which further resonates his love for tech, or from sheer will, the Nigerian boy flung himself into his studies. He wanted to become so good at his course that he will land a solid job in the UK. From all indications, this was just a dream waiting to happen.
Wale Abba’s Good Reason to Return Home
Wale Abba hit his proficiency target. At the end of his undergraduate studies in 2008, he was fully engulfed in designing and building. However, something changed his mind about working in the UK. According to him, he noticed that even the brightest students in his class turned down job offers from reputable companies.
He said that a good number of them decided to go back to their countries to pursue their dreams. After deliberations, Wale discovered that he would be better off in his home country. In his own words,
“That was a turning point for me…at the end of the day, it’s all about your happiness. So I decided to come back to Nigeria.”
Building A Career Is Different From Building An Application
It didn’t take long to secure his first job. Wale Abba was invited to work for a local satellite television company HiTV, even though he was a freelance designer at that time. He helped the company build a voting platform for its Future Award Africa entertainment program. This took his experience one step further and earned him local recognition. Soon after that, a bigger company came knocking.
Walle Abba began work with the unicorn payment company InterSwitch in 2010. It brought the opportunity of diversifying his skills, serving a lot more people than he did at HiTV, and gaining even more experience. He said,
“I joined InterSwitch as a UI guy. I started working for InterSwitch and started getting involved in a lot of products. Do you know what it feels like for you to work on products used by millions of people?”
Asides from having to reach millions of people, designing for InterSwitch brought a huge responsibility on Wale Abba. It put him in the sensitive position of influencing the quality of people’s life. According to him,
“If you move a button from right to left, you could change a lot of people’s behavior because of that. That means you have the power to change the way people think.”
Moving from InterSwitch
Despite the many opportunities at InterSwitch, Wale Abba quickly grew bored of his role of fulfilling website design requests. Therefore, he left the company to work for Fidelity Bank in 2014. His presence at the bank changed everything when he dished out an interactive ATM software, internet banking, and mobile banking apps in less than 12 months.
It turned out that Wale Abba had a thing for InterSwitch because he soon went running back to them. This time, however, he brought along a UX (User Experience) design skill. He had also learned how to determine a customer’s needs in advance. This allowed him to fully develop InterSwitch’s popular application Quickteller which he started before his departure from the company.
Wale Abba’s Career Evolution
Wale Abba has played a major role in developing a number of outstanding software and applications. Aside from Quickteller, he handled InterSwitch’s Point of Sale (PoS) app. The Nigerian entrepreneur has also been on the scene at Access Bank, GTBank, and First Bank where he designed banking applications. In addition to this, Wale Abba took on the design of Western Union’s MVisa application. Talking about his career growth, he said,
“The good thing about this is that I started as a graphics designer, I went into product design, I started writing codes, I built video games, then I went to marketing; I did a bit of sale, and I even do a bit of entertainment. What this means is I have gotten my hands dirty in every unit and department. I interact with people every day. I understand how people think and perceive creativity.”
This understanding, coupled with a huge bank of ideas and skills drove Wale to create something of his own. He calls it Bycep. Basically, Bycep is a talent community that connects regular people with mentors. The company’s strategy is to enable flexible learning, provide mentor guidance and a relevant support network, and finally, match “its members with projects at iconic organizations around the world.”
Wale Abba’s career success and his “pool of talents” coincide with his chant that says, “I am a peacock, I’ll spread my wings, and I will fly!” The Nigerian entrepreneur revealed that he is afraid of not making an impact. This also doubles as his motivation. He said that the need to be relevant pushed him to learn as much as he did, venture into so many industries, and now, focus on assisting home-grown talents.
Business Lessons From The African Entrepreneur
#1. Africa is a Talent Mine
This is arguably the most important lesson from Wale Abba’s career journey. It takes a real entrepreneur to realize that Africa is swimming with talents. It takes more to dedicate resources to sourcing, training and utilizing such talents. Developing local talent will reduce brain drain and illegal migrations.
#2. Personal Development is the First Step to Making an Impact
Many people want to leave a mark in the world but only a few know how to start that journey. To bring positive change, an enormous amount of personal development is first required. Perhaps, this is the motivation behind the popular quote, “You can’t give what you don’t have”.
#3. Be Creativity
Change is the result of having a different perspective about things or reacting in a new way. African entrepreneurs can learn from Wale Abba by thinking outside the box about new ways to run their businesses or achieve their objectives.
#4. The Grass is not Always Greener on the Other Side
Contrary to the popular belief in many African settings, the grass is not always greener on the other side. That is to say that lucrative business opportunities and a better quality of life are not guaranteed in the diaspora. In fact, it turns out that being successful as an African outside Africa involves a lot more than it does within the shores of the continent. Local entrepreneurs like Wale Abba will agree that they enjoy access to a large market and an opportunity to introduce innovative solutions.
#5. Technology is a Powerful Tool
Technology is a tool that can drive the African economy skyward. Therefore, local entrepreneurs should invest in beneficial technology to improve service delivery. The vast majority of Africa’s problems can be tackled using technological solutions.
If you are one of those that believe your life will be better off as soon as you leave the shores of Africa, Wale Abba’s story will challenge you to think again. One thing is certain, to become rich and influential, you must invest deeply in personal development. Take learning more seriously. The more you know, the more impact you can make in your community and society at large.