“Hot Pepper Soup almost blew my head” – David Venn, CEO Spectranet, says I love Wiz kid, P Square, Davido, Olamide, others

You’ve been in Nigeria for how long?

2 years

Before coming down to Nigeria, what was your impression? Or, what have you heard about Nigeria?

I think it is fair to say that I’m pleasantly surprised, compared to what my views were before. I think if I had been given a choice before I came here of going to Afghanistan or Nigeria, it would be a hard choice. But now, I’m very happy to stay here. The impression is the reputation overseas. But actually, I do know a lot of people that have worked here, in my industry, that I’ve met throughout my career and I spoke to them. What’s it like in Lagos? They said it’s good. It’s nothing like you expect. My wife is here as well; my wife and I are here together and we like it here; it’s good.

How about the social life?

The social life is good. The economy is great. I have lived and worked in Zambia. But, it is great; Zambia is a beautiful place; animals, game parks. So, it’s a lovely place. My kids grew up there; they went to school there and they were there for 7 years. And then, I’ve been to Ghana. Ghana is a lot more dynamic than Zambia. There is a lot more industry, a lot more business, a lot more activity going on. Ghana is a lot more dynamic but Nigeria is on another level all together.

In terms of what?

I would say it is a more sophisticated market; the size is much bigger and despite the economy now, people like good things. People like brands; people like good quality stuff, people are educated, compared to other places. They value education. Most people I have met in business, if they have any way of sending their kids overseas to school, or to a good private school here, that’s where they will spend their money. In Zambia, most people didn’t finish elementary school. Trying to get employees that are educated; that have got a degree from a university but it was almost impossible. Here, everyone is educated. There is a big market in terms of educated people. People like good things. People like good things; from the car you drive, clothes you wear, people are very conscious here of quality.

Have you tried any Nigerian delicacy?

Someone said, ‘you should try our soup’. So we were in a restaurant and he got me hot pepper soup. I like Indian food. By English standard, Indian food is spicy but in England, it is mellowed down to fit the local taste. You don’t get Indian food really hot. I like Indian food but not too spicy. Hot pepper soup; it almost blew my head off. I couldn’t speak, my face was red. It was hot. I like plantain, fried plantain. English men like potatoes and that’s the equivalent here I guess. I always tend to say, ‘keep down the spice’ because it is a bit too much for me.

Then how about the music; our local music?

I love Wiz kid. I love P Square. I like Davido, Olamide; he is much more international so I didn’t see him as Nigerian but he is. I’m an English man so I can’t dance, but I’m starting to get the rhythm.

Then generally about the lifestyle of the people.

I haven’t seen very much traditional culture here. When I was in Zambia, I got involved very much with the traditional culture. There are two parts to the society in Zambia; there is the traditional and formal government side. I started, in my business there, to be sponsoring traditional ceremonies and in the end, we were sponsoring loads of ceremonies all over the country and I wrote a book on traditional ceremonies in Zambia. It is a photographic book with history of the ceremonies. I listed all the main ceremonies and the difference between them. So, I got quite involved in the traditional part in Zambia. I haven’t seen that much of it here, our chairman is the king of Lagos; he is the chairman of Spectranet. So, I can see that side of the society here, but I haven’t seen too much of the cultural side of Nigeria. I have travelled around it; I’ve been to a number of cities in Nigeria and they all very much look like metropolitan cities. I haven’t really had that time; I haven’t really travelled as much as I did in Zambia; Zambia has 72 districts, I went to every 72 district during the time I was there. So, I’ve tried the food, I like the music, the Nollywood; I can’t really get into the Nollywood. I’ve watched some Nollywood stuff on Iroko TV; we did a deal with Iroko TV last year, so I was watching some of the Nollywood stuff and I couldn’t get it.

Tell us a little bit about your CSR activities.

One of our main shareholders has been in Nigeria for 30 years. He doesn’t live here anymore. He has always been involved in CSR. He has made sure that Spectranet is heavily involved as well. So, we have a number of projects that we are involved in; they are on our website, but we don’t make much noise about it. There is an old people’s home. There is a school. There is also an eye hospital in the North; they do hundreds of eye operations every year and we fund them. We don’t make noise about them; you don’t see them in newspapers but it’s on our website. There are three major projects which is: the school, the old people’s home and the eye hospital. The eye hospital was actually setup by our main shareholder about 3 years ago; he still funds it, there are pictures on our website as well. In other markets as well, I’ve always been involved in community. In Zambia particularly, we did a lot. This is part of what we have to do.

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