This is the interview with Mr. Felix A. Onyema, the CEO of Pawaak Technologies, as we promised. Felix is the dynamic leader of this innovative Nigerian company. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom where he specialized on Communications and Signal Processing. He also holds an MBA in Project Management Technology from Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Nigeria. He earned B.Eng (electrical and electronics engineering) from FUT, Owerri also. A vast and experienced professional, he was formerly an Acting Head of Engineering (IT Group) in Spring Bank Nigeria PLC. In addition to running Pawaak, he is the Founding President of Semiconductor Industry Associaltion of Nigeria (SIAN).
People, Tekedia is proud to present Felix A. Onyema. You can contact him via [email protected] or Pawaak Contact Us
– Sir, tell us your name and background
My name is Felix Akubueze Onyema. I studied Electrical & Electronics Engineering both in Nigeria and United Kingdom at a postgraduate level. An Information Technology Consultant and a Manager, I Worked with some IT and consulting companies in Nigeria between 1994 and 2000. I was once a Banker. I Worked with Citizens International Bank Ltd and Spring Bank Plc and had the privilege of rising to the position of Head of Engineering in Acting capacity and later the Deputy Head of the Engineering dept of the IT Group of Spring Bank plc before travelling to the UK for further studies. After my postgraduate studies in the UK I worked with some IT and Engineering firms and finally worked with CE-Electric UK, the major Electricity distribution company in the UK. I later co-founded PAWAAK Technologies Ltd with Olawale Bakare in the UK in 2009, before it was registered in Nigeria and we commenced operation in 2010 and presently the Chief Operating Officer/CEO of PAWAAK Technologies Ltd.
-Introduce us to Pawaak Technologies and its products and services
PAWAAK Technologies Ltd is a limited liability company registered in Nigeria in 2010 with a branch in the United Kingdom where the dream and vision was conceived. It is owned and run by Nigerian Professionals with International training, exposure and diverse experience in Information and Communication Technology such as Networking, Software Engineering, Biometrics Technology, Embedded systems Technology and up-to-date knowledge in emerging Technologies. We have our foreign partners in all areas of our operations such as in Security by Tectia Communication security Corporation, Finland, Biometrics Technology with Teleconsil Biometrics consultants, Switzerland, Vehicle Tracking device with Tramigo T22 from Finland, Networking solutions by Cisco Inc , USA and Smart devices which comes under Long Term Evolution Technology.
Some of our products include Biometrics Technology,Security Solution for the protection of websites, file, data, communication and messages; Hospital Management Solution;Software Engineering Solution, among others.
– Specifically, share with us how this biometric technology can help Nigeria?
Thank you very much for this question. Before I share with you how this Biometric Technology can help Nigeria, let me give a little brief or summary of what Biometrics is for the benefit of people who do not know much about it, its features and how it can to be used, how other parts of the world have really harnessed the importance of Biometric and how we Nigerians and Government can leverage on this Technology, etc.
What Are Biometrics? Biometrics refers to the automatic identification or identity verification of living persons using their enduring physical or behavioral characteristics. Many body parts, personal characteristics and imaging methods have been suggested and used for biometric systems: fingers, hands, feet, faces, eyes, ears, teeth, veins, voices, signatures, typing styles, gaits and odors. This means that biometrics is the automated approach to authenticate the identity of a person using individual’s unique physiological or behavioral characteristics. Since it is based on a unique trait which is part of you, you do not have to worry about forgetting it, losing it or leaving it at some place. Since it is unique to you, it is more difficult for others to copy, duplicate or steal it. Thus in general, biometrics offers a more secure and friendly way of identity authentication
You can see that there are so many areas Nigeria can leverage on Biometric Technology. I know it was used in the Registration of Voters using the Technique called E-Registration for the last General elections .The main essence of using this Technique of registering voters is to avoid double Registration. So I expect the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to start now to plan for using Electronic Voting process known as E-Voting to conduct the 2015 general elections. Yes, we can say that the last Election was free, fair and credible even the international community attested to that, yet we have heard and seen people trying to go to court to challenge some of the Elections, Presidential and others. But with the E-Voting, if well implemented, the issue of Election rigging will be totally eliminated. But with Technology adopted in E-Voting, it will be an impossible task to rig or manipulate elections results. PAWAAK Technologies Ltd offers to help directly or indirectly to ensure that this is achieved irrespective of the infrastructural problems and challenges in Nigeria we would proffer solutions on how it can be done efficiently and effectively to achieve the desired result. Other countries of the world like Bangladesh has used this Technology successfully, theirs is regarded as one of the highest E-Voting process in terms of voters’ numbers in the world. This can be adopted in Nigeria to avoid and prevent thuggrey, manipulations, intimidations etc. moreover, each vote will count and collation of results will be faster, easier and safer among other advantages.
Biometrics Technology can be used for Border control in Nigeria especially for frequent travelers. Help to checkmate Ghost workers, absenteeism in Federal, state, Local Government ministries and many more. I assure you with utmost sincerity and honesty there are a thousand and one areas we can leverage on this Technology in Nigeria although it is being applied in some areas but not yet enough as it can help to generate fund for Government, corporate organizations and individuals where necessary, improve productivity and guarantees safety , control Access on Restricted areas such as Bank’s vaults and Top Government offices, security agencies’ offices and premises, car parks, create jobs, etc .Who goes in and out and other security activities will be duly monitored and the audit trail will show who had Access at what time, what did the person do and many more. The advantages of Biometric Technology cannot be over emphasized.
-We noticed that your company has foreign partners. Do you have anything to share for local firms having foreign partnerships. The challenges and opportunities?
Yes your observation is right. We are privileged to have Partners from across the globe in almost all our core areas. We know that no advanced or developed country can spoon feed Nigeria by Transferring Technology to us. It has to be done by our people through mainly Government’s assistance, corporate bodies and individuals. But unfortunately this is lacking. In our little way we had to get these partners to collaborate with us and help our country within our limited resources as well as other inherent limitations, but the opportunities we believe are enormous.
For instance Tectia Corporation, (formerly SSH Communications Security Corp.) is the market maker in real-time Information Security Solutions for modern, Networked organizations. They create an invaluable Circle of Trust for their customers and their stakeholders by Securing, Automating, Managing and Sharing confidential Information with Tectia solutions in fixed, Mobile, and Cloud environments. Multiple industries in the private and public sectors such as the World Bank, NASA, American Security Agency, most Banks in the US, UK, Canada other European Countries and others around the world use their Solution. They operate in the Americas, Europe, and APAC regions, with headquarters located in Helsinki, Finland. But none in Africa. By the grace of God PAWAAK brought them to Africa. The Company was established in 1995, and holds 15 patents. Its shares are quoted on the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki.
We also Partner with Teleconseil Biometric Consultant, Switzerland. We are their sole Representatives and Partner in West Africa both English and French speaking countries to deliver Biometric Products and Solutions.
Tramigo T22 Vehicle Tracking, Finland, they are one of the world’s best Vehicle and assets Tracking Solution Company and many other Companies we partner with here in Nigeria and Africa at large.
Coming to your question. Yes of course we can share our experience, ideas, challenges and opportunities with local firms who have foreign partners.
The first thing I will share with them is the challenges, which comes like advice is that owners of companies or people who have foreign partners must be sincere and straight forward in all their dealings with their own business partners. When you compare and contrast all human beings are the same in nature. To me we are the same be you Nigerian/African, European, American, etc but the major differences are in attitude, honesty, and integrity. From mine I experience I can say some of these characters we exhibit negatively is the major bane of the unchanging under development and lack of progress we see in this part of the world. Some of our people are too lackadaisical and care free in attitude and are dishonest. So what we think here that it does not matter is in fact what matters most to them from abroad. When you are insincere, not trustworthy, you do not expect your foreign partner to be serious with you or your company and many of these foreign companies or individuals in years past have fallen victims so their eyes are now all opened. Be who you claim to be in all ramifications. If by omission or commission something goes wrong notify them immediately in an honest and transparent manner.
The challenges here are enormous ranging from infrastructural problems, power, security to other serious issues and problems. Most times they would not like to give you their products for marketing, advertisement or promotions, you have to pay or spend some money before this can be done while in other places outside Nigeria they can allow that, so our people should try and build our credit rating to be positive and high for things to be relaxed, especially for the younger ones and upcoming generation.
The opportunities abound. They should look at the areas our people need development or products and solutions that will help the growth of the economy, create jobs for the youths and fresh graduates and attract foreign partners in these areas. Look for people who can invest. Though in Nigeria most investors does not believe in investing in Services or in Technology. If not in what they will put their money in the ‘morning by afternoon or latest evening’ they start recouping their money. That is one of the reasons why we are still backward. In economics they say they higher the risk the higher the returns and our people are risk averse not interested at all in investing even our succeeding Governments. Not good for developments. If you invest money to attract foreign partners by that process we are opening effective doors for them here, they will come in with their expertise, assembling, Research and development, gradually Technology will be transferred. Even though some people will or have abused such privileges’. It is a double edge sword you know!. However, we should be benevolent and help out when and where necessary with adequate terms and agreement. This is how other parts of the world especially Asia got their own Technology transfer. I encourage these young company owners or Entrepreneurs to keep going one day we shall get there and laugh last. Above all be God fearing.
-What are the opportunities for your business?
There are many business opportunities in my company especially in the Tectia Security solution many countries and reputable companies of the world are using Tectia solution. I believe if Nigerian Companies and African companies can embrace this solution they will have the same benefit and gain as these companies from other continents. Like the Tectia Guradian or Techia MobileID and many more Tectia products, these solutions are used by many mobile communication companies, banks, Corporate Organizations in the world to protect their data, sms messages, files and data. There have been cases where these solutions have helped companies that were making loss to become a profit making organization as result of using Tectia solutions to manage, protect and enhance their system security. I would want companies in Nigeria and in African continent to give these solutions a trial. We have done our bit by bringing them to Africa, let us be encouraged to sustain this relationship it has saved many companies of the world problems and costs. Why not us here as a nation?
We have great opportunities in Biometrics Technology. Other countries of the world are harnessing this Technology, Why Not Nigeria. The applications are numerous and I hope we as a country can make use of these opportunities and we are willing to help in whatever capacity.
-Tell us the challenges your business is facing.
Like I said earlier, it is not easy to do business here. Ranging from infrastructure problems, power, security, bad road, as well as no money in circulation. I think the 2011 Budget is just released almost half of the year has gone. This has really affected business. Our attitude towards young companies and entrepreneurs leave much to be desired. They will say we follow Due Process before you will get the contract you must register, do this and that. After all said and done, stories will come in. You will give your proposals someone will hijack it and it becomes there’s and you will not be involved in the job and many other disappointments so numerous to mention but we know that business is a risk, we are trying our best to survive and definitely will get there.
-Share with us how you are mitigating those challenges?
Well we are mitigating these challenges with a lion’s heart. Taking the bull by the horn. We already know that most of these challenges are inherent in our system, they call it Nigeria factor! So sad, but we keep going and like in our core values customers’ satisfaction. Doing whatever we say we can do and by delivering according to the terms of agreement. We believe as our work is speaking for us, we have come to stay to help our people and we are not looking back in excelling whenever we have the opportunity. Now that we have a new Government that has promised to use Technocrats to help Nigeria to develop like other developing and developed Nations, we are optimistic that we shall be involved in one way or the other. That is our hope and confidence any way. We really want to see Nigeria be like other advanced or developing countries.
-Your message to other founders and entrepreneurs?
My message to other founders and entrepreneurs is to persevere and remain focused. The bible says that “we are persecuted in all areas but we are not distressed.” Engr. Dr Abdulahi the Chairman of the Governing Board, National Board for Technical Education, at a Launch in Kaduna, said “That the road of an inventor or Entrepreneur is a lonely road, if you have a vision and you are sincere about it, go ahead” So borrowing his comments, I will advise anyone going solo, to be brave enough and keep going, one day he or she will get to his/her destination. Even if it is not possible someone someday will stumble into your vision and carry on from where you stopped. Just as Barack Obama, the president of the USA has fulfilled the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I have a dream…..” message to the Americans more than four decades ago, even when Barack Obama was a toddler. A big lesson and encouragement.
– Should you become a LGA chair, Governor or President, tell us how you will make technology to flourish in your country?
Tekedia team, this is a great and good question. And I how I wish it could be real in my life time. As someone who loves good things and development. I will do so many things for my country to ensure we become one of the best Technological countries in the world.
If I have such opportunity, I will first of all find out the areas we can achieve within the shortest possible time under a short term strategy and the Technologies that can be achieved under long term strategy. I will ensure we will have our own style of Technology. Even though we shall not reinvent the wheel but I will start from the basic Technology. The teaching of mathematics from primary school to Tertiary institution will be given top most priority. I believe mathematics is the core of Knowledge. It enhances cogitation, creativity with logic as well as building confidence. The study of Engineering courses especially Electrical & Electronics, Mechanical, meturlogical and material Science will be encouraged too.
Skill acquisition, Technical colleges, polytechnics and universities will be adequately funded. Scholarship and research grants will be adequately given to bright and brilliant Nigerians.
Any Technological company from advanced country operating here in Nigeria must have an Assembly plant in the country and will graduate to sourcing their raw materials locally here and main production all well articulated and phased. Of course I will ensure constant power supply, security and other things that will make the environment enabling for the foreign companies, reduce tax, in fact some Technological applications and solutions in my country here will be tax free.
Indigenous Engineering and Technological companies will be encouraged. And different Engineering and Technological competitions with adequate funding and support will be in place. The funding and support will be with targets that are surmountable. Not absurd targets.
I will ensure that there is a measure. Proper monitoring by putting square pegs in a square hole. We shall utilize talents and raw materials where they are originated and prevalent and turn them into positive use for the growth of the entire nation. The job creation, motivations and reward mechanism will be done in such a way that a lot of people both local and foreigners will be attracted to that sector. Within the shortest possible time our country will be breathing Technology, seeing Technology, moving with Technology and embrace different forms and shape and levels of Technology that would be unprecedented.
-Thank you these deep insights. We certainly wish you and your team the best of luck. Nigeria is looking better
Thank you Tekedia for the wonderful work you are doing to help create awareness and help to bring to limelight Nigerian professionals both home and Diaspora that can throw in their weight to seeing that Nigeria develop. As we keep sharing our ideas and experiences will go a long way for us to get to our esteemed destination as a nation. Thank you again for beaming your searchlight towards PAWAAK Technologies Ltd. We wish you success in all your endeavors.
Editor’s Note. Mr. Felix A. Onyema also wrote a well researched expert post on biometrics technology which will go live in coming hours. If you read this piece, you could as well become an expert on biometrics. We thank him for making time for us.