Interview by Visual Collaborative
April 2020 7 min read
Adekunle Akintayo has served in various management and operation roles for over 20 years in the Oil & Gas industry. As a feature in our TwentyEightyFour interview series, Adekunle talks timeless principles, collaborations, and his tenure as the founder of the Culbeat Foundation, navigating pathways for the youth through Social Development.
(VC) Outside numerous accomplishments and steady rise as a business founder and community influencer, who is Adekunle Akintayo?
(Kunle) I will borrow words from US Vice President, Mike Pence, and say I am a Christian, a conservative voter, and a Nigerian in that order. I think the introduction is important because these definitions are important to my value systems and I believe the value systems define the person. I believe in the time-valued attributes of integrity, hard- work and loyalty. I have worked in the energy sector for about 22 years but my parents were teachers and I love teaching. I guess that I would be a teacher if I was not an energy consultant.
(VC) As an executive and leader whose company has a massive stake in the Social Development, how has the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic affected the enterprise process of Culbeat Foundation?
(Kunle) It sure has disrupted our plans for 2020. Our business is people and our engagement with them. This engagement is certainly not possible nor advisable under the current times, so we are a bit disappointed. However, the situation also presents its own opportunities; for example, we are currently evaluating whether to divert our entire 2020 budget to the orphanages we support as part of the relief effort for the COVID-19 crisis.
I am able to bring these lessons into our non-profit and to quickly evaluate issues, limit our programs within available resources and prioritize what programs are most important
(VC) As someone with an engineering and business background in the Oil and Gas industry, what were your most identifiable skills or approaches carried over into the non-profit sector whilst building or running the foundation?
(Kunle) Planning and execution skills.
The Oil and Gas sector is highly capital intensive. The last 3 projects I have been involved with had a total installation costs of $64 billion, $16 billion and $2.5 billion respectively. The energy sector drastically punishes poor decision making. There is a lot of data to be analyzed and recorded yet decisions also need to be taken in a timely manner.
I am able to bring these lessons into our non-profit and to quickly evaluate issues, limit our programs within available resources and
prioritize what programs are most important at what time. Basically, I am a project manager in business and a program manager for a non-profit organization. It is the same skill set.
Photo courtesy of Culbeat Foundation
(VC) A perfect world does not exist, but if one does what core values would Adekunle make a staple in the community?
(Kunle) Integrity and hard work.
Hard work. Because I believe we simply don’t work hard enough these days and it explains why we are also less successful. Now success is not always about hard work; you need a bit of luck but I don’t know a money-making billionaire who puts in less than 80 hours per week.
Integrity. This is a multi-dimensional word that includes keeping your promises, loyalty to friends, family, and society, avoiding taking undue advantage of others and so on. This item is so important because I see that almost all the failures in society today are traceable to a lack of integrity in one of its many dimensions, whether it be corruption, divorce, political scandal or crime.
(VC) What can you candidly tell young aspiring entrepreneurs about success and risk in business working in your country?
(Kunle) Taking the plunge. You can talk about a plan for 20 years, but it remains a plan until you step out and execute that plan. Don’t be afraid to fail, failure is not you, failure is simply an event that happened to you and remember that nobody will believe in you if you do not believe in yourself.
Photo courtesy of Culbeat Foundation
Secondly, we need to be aspirational again. Africans built the pyramids, had a Mensa Musa II of the Mali empire but we have become too timid. We are now completely caught in the vicious cycle of daily food. Too much of our effort is spent on daily subsistence that we have not done anything strategic in decades. So, I will encourage our young entrepreneurs to have a 30-year plan and hope to build something bigger than their daily subsistence.
(VC) Some mention different historical times as a period they admire for economic affluence. If you can time-warp to any era, what time would it be and why?
(Kunle) I will say the 1960-70s. I believe that the economic affluence of any nation is defined by their middle-class and these were the peak years for the middle class. In the 1960-70s, the middle class in the United States and Europe finally emerged, bought homes, cars, owned TV and radios and had a saving. African and Asia nations were born, and these locals had access to become teachers, clerks, and other respectable jobs. People were adequately compensated for the jobs. Truly global companies like IBM, Unilever existed, creating jobs with thousand of mid-level managers and workers. This was prior to the change in focus to profitability in the 1980s. Since that change in focus, mid-level jobs have been decimated, the middle-class decimated and a refocus to executive pay has since thrived; society is so much worse off for this change in focus.
Our young people are without jobs, they are angry and need direction and I am hopeful that I can contribute to re-directing some of the anger to more positive ends
(VC) At this stage of your career considering your commitments, if you could partner with a specific enterprise or individual, who would it be and why?
(Kunle) It has to be Bill Gates. I am a big admirer not only because he has become so successful with Microsoft but when I look at his entire life; I am impressed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with his decision to be an investor in Apple Inc, a rival and how that confidence worked out for Apple Inc but for him as well, how he has stayed out of scandals and I am impressed with his foresight. I remember listening to an interview by Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, he was discussing how in the mid- 1990s they were pulling fiber optics cable (FOC) to homes for cable TV and the cost was so high, he complained to Bill Gates. Gates advised him on the future of FOC, how more than providing cable channels, FOC can be used to deliver internet to homes, we can order things online, stream videos, etc. and to back up the talk, Gates immediately invested $1billion to support FOC investment costs. That was in the mid-1990s.
As far as I am concerned, what Africa needs is an investment more than aid. Can you imagine partnering with Gates to put $1billion in fiber optics or into power distribution in a market like Nigeria with 180 million people? The opportunities and multiplier effects in health, education, etc. will be limitless.
Photo courtesy of Culbeat Foundation
(VC) In addition to your expanding work through the Culbeat Foundation, what can the region expect from Kunle Akintayo within the next 24 months?
(Kunle) I need to write more. I am hopeful that I can either take up a more active writing regime or set up a mass medium (TV or Radio) to communicate and engage African youth. Our young people are without jobs, they are angry and need direction and I am hopeful that I can contribute to re-directing some of the anger to more positive ends.