Big Audacious Goals : Introducing Project Black Elephant

by Ayodeji Balogun, CEO AFEX

Nature does not favor the strongest species (recall Dinosaurs 🦕), it does favor the most adaptable species (dragonfly, chameleons).

The dragon-fly is one of the most adaptable and agile species. Efficient flying in horizontal and vertical motions, 360 degrees vision, little eater and drinker, etc. We need to build agile, nimble businesses, especially in Nigeria, where policy is extremely short term.

In 2019, I constantly held the truth that we will die in the next quarter, but also the truth that we will succeed and grow to be the most dominant brand in Africa’s food system. It was difficult but possible.

The investment allowed us to continue to invest in our future and build for the opportunities we saw coming, despite a very real threat to our capacity to survive beyond the moment. We did survive, and if we stopped building for the future, we would have failed in the pandemic.

Project Black Elephant

Three very strong insights that came out of our 2020 retreat are:

  • Data — data is an asset. It is like building your future today. I bet that the most successful businesses by the end of this decade will not be the one with the largest balance sheet or customer base today, it will be who sits on the largest data bank and uses it.
  • Platform — gone are the days of a strictly-regulated, rule-driven, brown jacketed exchanges. Three things that will drive the market of the future are Trust, Value, and Impact. We need to build for these three.
  • Policy — we need to align closely with policymakers and be an indispensable partner that continues to help them shape their strategy for food security and broader commodities trading.

This is the last part of a series on Building AFEX. Please click previous stories if you would like to get the whole view.

AFEX Beginnings — Saying Yes and Other Stories



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AFEX’s infrastructure and platforms drive capital to build a trust economy in Africa’s commodity markets.