Joining Young Global Leaders Class of 2021

Kobo360 CEO, Obi Ozor joins WEF, Young Global Leaders 2021

I have always been fascinated by the constant flow of trucks through cities, towns and villages, transporting large containers of goods to all sorts of destinations and businesses. I understood early on the importance of moving goods and how we all rely on this movement either directly or indirectly. I was 19 when I started my own logistics business, with my own fleet of trucks and paying people’s wages; wages to drivers that had dependents and adult life concerns. I was essentially a very young man in a man’s world. But I tried to not let that phase me, at least not enough to distract me of course. My plan then was quite simple, but it continues to guide me to this day.

My 19-year-old self had a dream to change the world he saw right in front of him. I wanted to make life better for the people in my community by providing employment opportunities and enabling a steady supply of goods to local businesses. It wasn’t easy. Moving goods from A to B was quite literally a logistical nightmare, there were no assurances, absolutely no visibility. The supply chain was made up of unconnected links and even with all my youthful determination, I knew this was an issue I was not equipped to fix. So I went to university.

After a few years studying abroad and working in corporate America, I returned home to Nigeria. The return came with a new-fashioned purpose and experience of working at prestigious companies and an understanding of the infrastructure that made their operations so successful. My time as Operations Coordinator at Uber Nigeria opened my eyes to how people are using technological tools more intensively in all aspects of their daily life — work or leisure. It was at that point I had my “aha” moment. There was a problem and I was determined to fix it — but there was a problem.

Logistics was going to transform Africa and technology was the way to do it. Whilst I was knowledgeable and experienced in logistics, I didn’t have a deep insight into the technology side of things. I needed a partner in crime who would join forces with me to build this idea from the ground up. There is a popular saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; as an entrepreneur, this rings very true. My co-founder, Ife Oyedele II, who I’d been introduced to whilst in America, knew tech like I knew logistics. It was the perfect partnership. Sharing big ideas and big dreams, we connected to solve the complex challenges that had stagnated the industry for years and stifled the African economy — in 2017 we launched Kobo360.

Our vision for Kobo360 was to be an impactful African company that would make moving goods from one destination to another as simple as it sounded. In doing so, we have empowered businesses, improved the lives of millions of truck drivers and employed hundreds of people across the continent. The credible technology we have created has transformed all aspects of the logistics industry, a once fragmented supply chain is now connected. Drivers, who are at the heart of the industry, can pitch for jobs remotely, spend less time on a single trip, are able to earn more money with reverse logistics and have access to KoboCare, a package specific to driver needs. By implementing technology at the core of the complex system that is logistics, cargo and truck owners and manufacturers are empowered with much-improved visibility of the entire process. The fintech features we’ve built and rolled out have been designed to streamline processes with KoboPay and benefit from an overall reduction to the cost of transporting goods.

Now the dream is even bigger, now the dream is to change the world and inspire a community of young African leaders. And today, I have the privilege and honour of being a part of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders (YGL) class of 2021. Being a part of this esteemed community will help me accelerate my impact as a young African leader myself. I am proud of how far I have come already, but I know that my journey to grow into the leader I want to be, has also only just started.

Kobo360 started with a connection between Ife and I — and ultimately creating connections has been a key factor in our entrepreneurial journey — from investors, building our pan-African workforce, and to our customers. On a personal level it is a very exciting and apt time to receive this distinction and establish fresh connections, as well as the credibility and visibility that comes with affiliation to the World Economic Forum. The YGL will grant me access to global leaders and gain insight into the way they lead. There are so many lessons to be learned in this journey and I intend to absorb as much from the experience as possible. Equally, I look forward to sharing my experience and insights with my new peers.

As a teenager, I observed my community and felt that I was charged to make a difference. That feeling has never left me. My dream of changing the world around me scaled to dreaming of changing Africa; and logistics was the key. Today, Kobo360 powers trade across borders across 19 African countries and has moved over 2.9billion kg for over 1,000 SMEs and multinationals.

My vision for the next 10 years is crystal clear, the AfCFTA will have boosted trade on the continent and Kobo trucks and technology would have led the way. Beyond that, Kobo360 will continue to expand and establish itself beyond African soil. And we will continue to use our innovative technology to tackle tough challenges and finesse what we have developed so far. I have a strong feeling that my YGL classmates would have in some form, helped me along the way.

In just three years and a few months, what was once a small dream has become a reality. I believe you have to dare to dream but more importantly, be bold enough to execute it.

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