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Chioma Ekeh: Africa’s lead female tech icon @ 60

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The story has often been told in tech circles of how a relatively unknown Nigerian female student became a sensation of sorts among the international student population back in the early 80s in India owing to the unusual course of study she was undertaking.

Electing to study Mathematics at Bachelor’s degree level – a course that required not only battling differential equations, calculus, advanced algebra, etc., but also pitting one’s wits against that of wizened professors – is not a task for the faint-hearted. But that was the path that this unusual lady took at Punjab University, located in the culturally rich and aesthetically pleasing city of Chandigarh, India.

It was a decision that would lead Chioma Ekeh (nee Emelonye) along the path of meeting the love of her life, a certain Leo Stan Ekeh and returning to Nigeria with him to play a leading role in shaping the course of technology distribution in Africa. Undoubtedly, unusual may also be a word that defines Chioma and Leo Stan Ekeh’s remarkable journey together. A power couple and exemplary partners who have worked together for over 30 years building a successful technology empire is a rarity, one that is not often seen.

That sojourn to India and her subsequent career trajectory laid the groundwork for the impressive reputation Chioma Ekeh has built in the highly competitive technology space. Business associates and representatives of global brands never fail to cite her intellect and brainpower. Job seekers who cross her path during interviews often recall being asked to solve a simple arithmetic problem. For those who eventually become employees, there is never-ending adulation.

Her husband, Leo Stan Ekeh, describes her as the integral analytics, the backbone behind the brilliant success of the Zinox Group where she has continued to support all the businesses across the board.

Such is the cerebral aptitude of this unusual woman that she is reported to have taken the stage once at a company-wide business review to present a financial report punctuated by humongous accurate numbers, figures and percentages, all from memory and without recourse to any notes, a device or an actual presentation document.

Born on April 25, 1964, the story of the impressive diffusion, accessibility, useability and affordability of cutting-edge technology devices and solutions in Nigeria and indeed, sub-Saharan Africa will be grossly incomplete without a detailed citation on Chioma Ekeh and the leadership role she has played – one she has continued to play as a silent innovator and disruptor – alongside her legendary spouse.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Certified Accountants (FCCA, UK), Mrs. Chioma Ekeh is the brains behind TD Africa, a regional technology distribution powerhouse headquartered in Nigeria and with branches across Africa and in four other continents. A company she led from start-up stage, TD Africa with Chioma Ekeh as CEO, pioneered ICT distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa and has remained the industry leader by market share in the region and the biggest provider of credit to resellers.

Founded in 1999, TD Africa is Africa’s leading distributor of technology and lifestyle products, boasting an unmatched and growing network of partnership with global brands like HP, Microsoft, Apple, Starlink, IBM, Dell Technologies, Ring (by Amazon), Cisco, Lenovo, APC by Schneider Electric, Samsung, Bosch, Phillips, Logitech, Vivo, among several others. Under Chioma’s exemplary leadership, the company has achieved numerous milestones, earned a long list of local and international awards/accolades and ensured Nigeria and indeed Africa is reckoned with at the global table of technology conversations and discussion-making.

However, this remarkable story may have turned out differently, had Chioma not returned to Nigeria under the guidance of her husband.

Armed with a formidable Mathematics degree after completing her studies in India, Chioma had the world at her feet and was the toast of leading companies the world over. Moving to the United Kingdom at the invitation of her husband, Chioma joined the exalted league of Chartered Accountants and thereafter, bagged an MBA at the reputable Heriot Watts University. In 1987, she joined Sterling Deveraux as an Investment Analyst, engaging in research and analyzing assets, such as stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities. Her acumen and exceptional skills were growing in demand and before long, she left Sterling Deveraux, joining the London Borough of Lewisham as an accountant in 1988.

Between 1988 and 1991, Chioma’s sterling work saw her rise swiftly through the ranks at the London Borough of Lewisham, moving from Accountant to Senior Auditor and then to Financial Auditor.

Certainly, Chioma Ekeh had a clear path to becoming CFO and possibly CEO at the London Borough of Lewisham or even going on immediately to taking up other elevated roles at other organizations. But the love of motherland and the call of her husband – Leo Stan Ekeh – to return home to Nigeria with him and build a technology legacy for Nigeria and Africa proved too strong.

Back home, Chioma Ekeh’s initial area of responsibility was with Task Systems Ltd., the first of many companies in the Zinox Group set up by Leo Stan Ekeh. She took up the position of Financial Controller and spent six achievement-filled years at Task before driving the vision of technology distribution birthed by her husband in launching TD Africa where she became the company’s pioneer CEO.

A quiet, unassuming tech icon, Chioma Ekeh has acquired a well-deserved status as unarguably one of Nigeria’s top three leading Women-in-Tech, a female technology business leader with extensive years of proven capacity in building high-performing teams and transforming businesses beyond stakeholders’ expectations.

In partnership with her husband, Chioma Ekeh has played immense roles in growing and nurturing partner businesses, launching several thriving new businesses and successfully closing some of the biggest acquisitions in the technology space in Nigeria.

The Tech Experience Centre – Africa’s first technology experience centre – located at Yudala Heights, a sprawling edifice in the heart of Victoria Island – is another project that has Chioma Ekeh’s indelible signature on it. The launch of the Tech Experience Centre in October 2020 received high praise from the Nigerian government and representatives of global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

Under her guidance, Celebrating You, an annual showpiece celebratory event hosted by TD Africa has become unarguably the biggest year-end event in the Nigerian technology industry for over a decade. Also, she has spearheaded several CSR projects, including The Herwakening – an empowerment programme for female entrepreneurs – and Girls in ICT – a project targeted at encouraging young girls to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines and considering careers in technology.

As she turns 60, Chioma Ekeh deserves rarefied mention and unmitigated encomiums. An amazon, this unusual female tech icon who has shattered several glass ceilings, knows no fatigue and has continued to innovate, effortlessly leading from the front.

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