Meet Amaete Umanah, serial entrepreneur

If you are looking for an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who has founded many businesses in Nigeria, you have found the right person in Amaete Umanah.

He can best be described as a serial entrepreneur, having founded Silicon Africa, Pontaba Inc and Honeyflow Africa. He is also the brain behind Kamila, the first company that digitalised the popular ‘Whot’ game.

“In Silicon Valley, I started a gaming company. One day I went to a friend’s place in Los Angeles, United States, and we decided to play ‘Whot’, which was quite interesting. I thought that it would be awesome to turn it to an ‘app’. I checked play store but did not see it. So, I decided to be the first person to bring Whot to IOS and Android and after a year of hard work, I was able to accomplish it. That gave me some publicity and recognition in  tech scene abroad and in Nigeria. This made me start a secret group on Facebook known as Silicon Africa because I noticed that a lot of us were trying to do different things and learn new things. So, I started the group on January 29th, 2012. As of yesterday, there were 9,800  members from different nationalities,” he recounts.

The entrepreneur, who hails from Akwa Ibom State, was born in Atlanta Georgia, the United States. He studied Electronics Engineering and worked in an oil and gas company. He also worked in the manufacturing sector, after which he went to the Silicon Valley.

Amaete got the necessary education and wings needed to properly set up a business. He ran several businesses in the United States, which gave him the opportunity to understand why businesses fail or succeed, having himself had a fair share of failure like many entrepreneurs.

Through Honeyflow Africa, the entrepreneur is creating an ecosystem that will revolutionise the agriculture sector. First, he has identified fluids in plants that can attract beneficial insects. What this does is that it prevents the farmer from spending on insecticides and pesticides. Second, he has done extensive studies on bees. His plan is to build billion-dollar bees/honey company that will compete world over, in Nigeria.

Third, he uses insects to produce local feed for poultry farmers. The feed is much cheaper and the birds (output) are often healthier than those fed with feed in the Nigerian market.

“I am a farmer. So, basically, I started three years ago with trying to come up with sustainable ways to cheaply grow crops and raise livestock because feed is expensive and energy to process the food is also a problem.  So, I tried to figure out how to solve that. As a farmer, I grow crops, rear livestock and do greenhouses. So, I incorporate technology info farming,” he says.

“At a time, poultry feed was N3, 700 for a bag, which was expensive. So, I thought of ways to create the feed myself which I was able to do by fermenting the feed. You can take the seed, soak it for three days and it will ferment, giving it a bunch of enzymes and amino acids which you can use to feed your chickens.

“It is cheaper and more beneficial, and it saves cost. That is what I have used for my livestock in Port Harcourt,” he explains.

He says that there is a need to reorientate farmers and teach them to make more money by buying low-cost inputs like the fermented feeds for poultry, and also for a quick germination of seeds.

“Instead of waiting for five or seven days to germinate, you can just get a paper towel, wet it, put seed in it, fold it, put it in a zip lock bag, blow some air into it, seal it up and within 48 hours the seed will germinate and they can transfer it to the soil. All these are simple technologies you can do to ease farming. This can be taught to farmers,” he says.

“Dealing with pests, we know that some farmers cannot afford pesticide, while some are strict organic farmers. What they can do is to plant specific flowers that will attract beneficial insects, like bees, lady bugs, and praying mantis, among others, which will, in turn, kill the pests. Unfortunately, most farmers don’t know this.”

He states that there is a need to grow beneficial plants and crops that can fight off some of these pests by  teaching farmers technology that will add to the bottom-line of what they do.

Amaete says he decided to leave the United States for Nigeria because he saw enormous opportunities in the country.

“I have always wanted to come back to Nigeria. In October 2013 when I lost my father, I was still at Silicon Valley, but I came back to Nigeria for the burial in November, after which I decided to stay back for a year exploring different opportunities Nigeria had to offer. After a while, I decided to go with agriculture and incorporate technology into it,” he says.

How easy has it been for him doing business in Nigeria?

The entrepreneur replies that the country is an interesting place to do business.

“Henry Ford said, ‘If you think you can you are right; if you think you can’t you are also right.’ So, I always ask myself, ‘Are you team-can or team-can’t?  I say to myself, ‘I am team-can. Nigeria can be frustrating but not impossible. People set up businesses here without godfathers and they are doing fine. So, I will not give up. I have a plan and I have to make it work. So, I have learned to manage my expectations.”

The entrepreneur is enjoying positive perception and reviews from investors who have also pumped money into his business.

ODINAKA ANUDU

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