Chukwudi Ofili, Renew Capital's Legal Director and West Africa Investment Manager shares how he returned to Nigeria after a successful career in the U.S. and U.K. to use his knowledge of international corporate and investment law and make an impact in his home country.
Homecoming: My Journey to Renew Capital
By Chukwudi Ofili | Wed Apr 26 2023
As an undergraduate law student in Nigeria, I had a keen interest in corporate law, commercial law and the law of contracts. I recognized very early on the important role of corporations and the private sector in growing and sustaining a nation’s economy. Within law, my particular interest was in the advancement of emerging economies. I knew first-hand the challenges of daily survival and I beat the odds to graduate with honors from Babcock University and later on received my first bar qualification to practice law in Nigeria.
Leaving the continent
After five years practicing law in Nigeria, where I did mostly local and cross-border finance and investment transactions with counterpart law firms in London, New York and Dubai, I moved to the U.S. on a full graduate assistant scholarship for a Masters of Law program at the University of Georgia School of Law, and subsequently qualified as an attorney in the state of New York. While in the U.S., I was selected by The Coca-Cola Company as an extern in its legal department at its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. At The Coca-Cola Company, I worked with the international trade team on export, import and sanctions as they related to the company’s global operations in over 250 countries. This was my first foray into working as an in-house legal counsel with a global corporation.
To further broaden the scope of my legal experience in another jurisdiction, in 2018 I took part in the highly selective International Lawyers for Africa (ILFA) International Secondment Programme in the U.K. IFSP is an annual international secondment program where lawyers practicing in various African jurisdictions are sponsored on secondment at highly reputed international law firms and corporations in London, Dubai and Paris. During this period, I worked with the finance (corporate and project finance) and private equity team of Trinity International LLP in London doing deals across Africa. It was an enriching experience that included working on international transactions as well as participating in training programs on business development and technical legal skills. The networking events provided an opportunity to meet some of the brightest minds in the international legal market in diverse practice areas.
Investing back into Nigeria
I moved back to Nigeria with the goal of leveraging my international experience and the network I’d built in the U.S. and U.K. to grow a legal practice in Nigeria. Consistent with this goal, I made partner within a year of my return (a record seven years after being called to the Nigerian bar). I continued to work with financial institutions, investors and tech-enabled businesses (which were on the rise and continue to dominate the ecosystem) in relation to fundraising – debt and equity – transactions.
Notwithstanding the remarkable personal milestone and the many awards and recognitions, I was still keen on contributing my quota by providing solutions to the issues challenging the advancement of emerging economies in Africa.
I noticed that a shift was on the horizon and I needed to satisfy my desire to be part of an initiative or organization whose activities are geared towards accelerating the growth of small and growing businesses to drive sustainable development in Africa. During my research on the emerging impact investment firms that have the potential to curate bespoke and effective products suitable for Africa, Renew Capital shone through with its unique approach of blending impact investing, management training and ecosystem building to accelerate the growth of small and growing businesses and advance the emerging economies in Africa.
My role as Renew Capital’s Legal Director and West Africa Investment Manager provides an exceptional platform to contribute to Renew Capital’s vision of changing the way the world engages Africa – from a place of giving to one of investing.
Five key lessons that I have learned in my journey with Renew Capital to date that will continue to drive my efforts and contributions as we scale our investment work across the continent are: (i) hard work is indispensable, but you must always work smart and be flexible; (ii) always strive for excellence; (iii) people skills, cultural skills and emotional intelligence are vital for success in any endeavor; (iv) developing a good network over time is invaluable; and (v) always look to add value and be solution-driven in every endeavor.
There is no doubt that these are exciting times for investments in Africa and the team at Renew Capital is well-placed to contribute significantly to developing the ecosystems and infrastructure needed to make the investments possible. I am here for all of it.