Spotlight On Tonye Cole, African Entrepreneur And Hiring Guru

Written by Dana Sanchez

Countries that have transformed their economies have given entrepreneurship a great deal of attention, Sahara Group Managing Director Tonye Cole said in a recent keynote speech, according to a report in TheGuardian.

Cole is co-founder of a Nigeria-based energy conglomerate founded in 1996. Sahara Group does business in power, energy, gas and infrastructure with nine companies operating in eight countries employing 680 people and revenue of $10.6 billion in 2012.

In an interview in HuffingtonPost with David Jensen, Cole was asked if he had any hard-and-fast rules he follows in selecting team members or those who will be working close with him.

“Yes I do,” Cole said. “I seek people who have an inquisitive mind and have skills I don’t possess. I must learn from them so they also must be willing to learn and teach as well. Because I am a mid- to long-term strategist, the ability of members of my team to implement these strategies in the immediate phase is a component I highly require.”

Cole built a base of employees over multiple companies, but has touched many more lives through his goals to create a sustainable Africa and help those less fortunate through philanthropic activities, Jensen said in the HuiffingtonPost.

Cole works to inspire African youth through charities such as his Nehemiah Youth Empowerment initiative and Africa 2.0 — organizations that aim to bring change in Africa by connecting young and emerging leaders. He works closely with a number of foundations in Nigeria including the Down Syndrome Foundation and Slum-2-School project.

Entrepreneurship is key for economic development, Cole said, according to TheGuardian report. He advised youth and entrepreneurs to embody respect, integrity, hard work and quality relationships to achieve desired growth.

“You must have respect for everybody because it is very critical for the whole entrepreneurship journey,” he said in a keynote speech for the Entrepreneurship Organisation. “Do not … compromise your integrity. Honesty is … a key factor. Although the business environment we find ourselves (in) is tempting… you must always stand your ground to do the right thing.”

What has driven Cole in building such success in multiple ventures?

“The ability to catch a glimpse into the future before others can, and positioning early,” he said in the HuffingtonPost interview. “It takes guts to do and can go horribly wrong but whenever it does go right, the rewards are (multi-fold) and enduring.”

Asked to shed more light on his story, journey, purpose or inspirational path to success, Cole said “The desire to be independent in business and not be beholden to anyone stems from a childhood having to take responsibility and bear the consequences for actions I took.

“I learned very early on that to survive one needed to make some hard and sometimes unpleasant decisions, often times being accused of things you had no hand in and being punished severely for such.

“These actions led to a drive for integrity and an ability to accept my own shortcomings, failures and the criticism that comes with it as well as determining to succeed at what I do through mastering the aspects of my talents that I have discovered come easiest to me.

“The discovery of purpose was greatly enhanced by a better understanding of my spiritual relationship and belief in God, an alignment of the values and principles as taught by my faith.

“Coming to terms with all of that and beginning to take an active interest in helping people unlock what I refer to as their calling in life gave my life meaning and a reason for being.”

Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know about reversing inequality in tech, delivered straight to your inbox.

View Comments