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Nigeria - Startupper of the year by total challenge: portrait of a winner

Youth Inclusion and Education - Committed to empowering socially at-risk young people


The 31-year-old was one of the winners in the Startupper of the Year by Total challenge’s first edition -and this achievement is merely a beginning.

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Opeyemi Owosho was mostly fed meals cooked on a kerosene stove. Like the great majority of Nigerians, his mother stayed away from cooking gas, which was notorious for being hazardous(several thousands of persons killed each year by gas leakages) – or simply unaffordable.

A graduate in Petroleum and Gas Engineering, Opeyemi,thus imagined a cost-efficient and perfectly safe natural gas stove: with integrated safety regulators that prevent gas leakage and guarantee the user’s peace of mind. The hike in kerosene prices following a cutback in government subsidies, the timing hardly could have been better. Opeyemi , now sure that his project was valid, created his own company, Fitco Tech and patenting his brilliant idea. It was then time to look for funds. Only, with his modest revenue and no collateral, needless to say he did not exactly meet the terms required by average bankers in Nigeria.


The Startupper of the Year by Total challenge: a unique opportunity

In 2015, Total just happened to be organizing the first edition of its “Startupper of the Year by Total Challenge”: a pan-African contest, which aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, regardless of their domain of activity. Although intimidated by the heavy competition, Opeyemi a pan-African contest, which aimed at supporting young entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, regardless of their domain of activity. Although intimidated by the heavy competition, Opeyemi made the cut hands down: beyond winning the contest in Nigeria, he was designated as a continental winner, propelling him under the spotlight.“Success attracts success, you know. Once there’s a lead jump, everyone follows” comments Opeyemi as he recalls the phone call received from his accountant after winning the contest.


A special apprenticeship

Far beyond increased visibility and financial support, Total’s initiative aimed at providing contestants with concrete tools and guidance. But how to best achieve this, if not through a dedicated, external body capable of getting the winning projects off the ground? Total turned to the good partner: Bond’Innov, an incubator from the Paris area specialized in innovation and Southern  markets. The incubator agreed to take the four continental laureates under its wing and to accompany them over the next twelve months in order to bring them to their full potential.

To start with, they flew to Paris, where they were in for an intense series of networking meetings, one-on-one coaching, and group workshops. But most importantly, they got to build a solid, genuine relationship with Total and the Bond’Innov experts who will continue mentoring them from a distance for the remainder of the program, in partnership with locally implanted partner bodies.  

Among these mentors are consultant Arnaud Capitant and project manager Christian Jekinnou, himself a native of Benin, who once struggled just like these young entrepreneurs to get his own businesses started. The Bond’Innov team’s business expertise will be very valuable keys to the young entrepreneurs’ success.

Under the auspices of Total, a new future is being built and to Opeyemi, who confessed smiling that his nickname in Nigeria is now “Startupper”, it looks brighter than ever.   

20160701_089.jpglisten to Opeyemi Owosho and Arnaud Capitant share their thoughts on the Total Startupper Challengeitineraires2016_oowosho_podcast.mp3

The Startupper of the Year by Total challenge: facts and figures

  • World-class juries in each of the 34 participating countries
  • 24,000 applicants across Africa, aged 18 to 35 – 6,60042 valid applicationsapplicants aged 18 to 35
  • Over 1,000 valid applications in Nigeria, making it the country with the highest participation rate
  • 102 local winners out of which 4 continental winners have been selected
  • A considerable number of actors involved across Africa: local Total representatives, project managers, but also partner agencies such as BETC, Havas Africa, Agorize and Vizeum.