“Think hard about why you want to return”
Ike Eze returned to Nigeria in 2014 after 22 years abroad.
Ike was born in Nigeria into a diplomatic family and spent his nomadic childhood building his very first companies – selling popcorn to his friends at movie nights in Zimbabwe, and cold drinks to his neighbours in Nigeria. This childhood prepared him for a lifestyle of frequent travel and entrepreneurship.
Ike states repeatedly that he believes he was dealt “an incredibly lucky set of cards in life”, with a Silicon Valley education, an engineering qualification and a taste for business. This was the magic combination for success in a series of start-up companies. When quizzed on what drove him to entrepreneurship, Ike said that “if you have been put alone on a plane from Harare to London, aged nine, and had to get yourself from Heathrow into central London, and then onto a train to South Devon, finally hailing a taxi to a new boarding school, you can probably find the courage to start your own new company!”
It was about the time that Ike and his wife were expecting their second child that they started to contemplate a return to Nigeria. They saw the children of fellow expats growing up with a confused sense of identity and did not wish this for their family.
Though his first attempt to return was cut short at the last moment by the financial crisis, Ike made it back to Nigeria and has been working with mobile banking company eTranzact.
Ike feels confident he has chosen to work in a promising sector and is far from ready for retirement. He has several plans for developing new talents and businesses in his home country.
Asked what advice he would give to people returning, he suggests that they “find out why”, taking an unsparing look inward and discounting rosy childhood memories, which tend to be exaggerated. If they’re still inclined to return, Ike strongly encourages them to take the leap. While he has not planned beyond the time when his children would go to university, one senses that he really is happy in his home country.