Business Tips from The Godfather of Nigerian Banking

The road to success is rarely linear and never easy. Despite countless setbacks, Jim Ovia, founder of Zenith Bank, was able to achieve the unthinkable. Africa Rise and Shine is the story of Ovia’s business and banking success and how he was able to create one of Africa’s largest banks. Spanning decades of both world and Nigerian history, Africa Rise and Shine dives deep into the events that led to Ovia’s triumph. Drawing upon his educational experiences and relentless determination, Ovia was able to overcome every hurdle that stood in the way of his bank becoming the national icon that it is today. Africa Rise and Shine outlines the tough, yet necessary business decisions that were essential to Zenith’s prolonged success and is filled with valuable takeaways for every businessperson. Learn from one of the best in banking what it takes to truly be successful

About The Book

The road to success is rarely linear and never easy. But with courage, hard work, perseverance, and dedication to duty, Jim Ovia, founder and chairman of Zenith Bank, proves we can achieve the unthinkable.

Jim has been called the Godfather of Banking by Forbes Africa. And this should be no surprise. In a time of tension between military and civilian regimes, periods of incredible economic instability, and a decaying infrastructure, Jim founded Zenith Bank in Nigeria. Under Jim’s leadership, what started with $4 million in shareholders’ funds, grew into one of Africa’s largest banks, an internationally recognized institution with more than $16 billion in assets.

His story is a living testament to his message that success results when we act with courage and dare to try. Africa, Rise and Shine is part-memoir, part-inspirational business guide, reminding entrepreneurs and investors around the world of this valuable lesson: You must never allow the perceptions of others impact your own vision of what is possible for the future.

Jim Ovia on Forbes Cover


“Jim Ovia’s entrepreneurial flair demystifies Africa; showing his meteoric rise from humble beginnings to building a formidable bank. A wonderful African success story.” – Sir Richard Branson


“Jim Ovia has been my personal friend and trusted banker over the last 25 years. Africa Rise and Shine lays bare the secrets to Zenith Bank’s success from one of Nigeria’s most respected businessmen. Jim’s inspirational tale of success against all the odds is an important lesson of how adversity can always be surmounted. His principles of doing business can be applied globally as demonstrated by Zenith Bank’s London Stock Exchange listing. This book is an essential read for anyone that wants to do business in Africa.”

Aliko Dangote. GCON, Founder / President, Dangote Group of Companies


“Having personally negotiated with Jim Ovia to create the landmark Prudential Zenith Life Insurance partnership, I have seen his artistry at deal-making firsthand. Jim’s ability to step back and take a long-term perspective has been a key factor in his business success. His twelve rules for building profitable businesses, whilst critical for African enterprises, could equally be applied globally. How I wish I had read Africa Rise and Shine prior to sitting down to the negotiation table with him!”

Matt Lilley. CEO, Prudential Africa


“Jim Ovia speaks from experience about an exciting and important story: the rise of Africa’s banking markets. Not only are they growing faster than almost any other region, they are also a hotbed of innovation, especially when it comes to bringing millions of previously unbanked customers into the formal financial system. It’s an important tale that deserves the attention of all.”

Dominic Barton. Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company


“When the dust settles and the definitive history of contemporary Africa is written, Jim Ovia will be prominently cited as one of the founding fathers of Africa’s modern banking system. Africa Rise & Shine enshrines how Ovia pioneered the creation of one of the continent’s most successful bank, and demonstrates how believing in yourself, aiming for excellence, building a team, and listening to your gut—all with an unwavering ethical stance—frame the model for the next generation of great entrepreneurs everywhere. Jim Ovia’s story redefines the power of today’s self-made man.”

David Applefield. Special Projects Representative, Financial Times


About the Author

Jim Ovia holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana, Monroe, Louisiana, USA in 1979 and a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA (1977). He is also an Alumnus of Harvard Business School (OPM)

Jim Ovia, Founder Zenith Bank, A $16 Billion Tier-1 Nigerian Bank and Author of Africa Rise And Shine



He is the founder of Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s tier-1 bank and one of the most profitable financial institutions in Nigeria until 2010, when he moved into the chairman role. He was the recipient of a Nigerian national honor. During two decades of leadership, he helped position the bank as one of the largest and most profitable in Africa.

Ovia is the founder of Visafone Communications Limited and the chairman of both the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and the National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). He is a member of the Honorary International Investor Council as well as the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI). He is the Chairman of Cyberspace Network Limited. He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in the 50th convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos [1]


He is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University, Lagos and a member of the Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University For Nations, Lagos. He was a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (1999 – 2007) and served on the board of American International School, Lagos [2001 -2003].

Ovia headed numerous Non-Governmental Organizations [NGO] at various times including serving as the first President of the Nigeria Internet Group (2001-2003). He is the founder and Chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization focused on providing scholarships for the less privileged. He is the founder of the Youth Empowerment / ICT Foundation, which focuses on improving the socioeconomic welfare of Nigerian youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and communication technology.


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