Obinna Ekezie, a former NBA player, launched Wakanow, a Nigeria-based online travel agency which has now expanded into the UK and UAE
Wakanow, an online travel agency with the aim of selling African destinations via a company run by Africans, went live in 2010. Ekezie told Communications Africa that he became accustomed to booking and paying for flights and hotels online with sites such as Expedia when he lived in the US - "it was a very simple process" – but when he returned to Nigeria after retiring from basketball, he found there was not an equivalent online service for Nigerians.
However, in 2008 Ekezie saw the potential for a comprehensive online travel service in Nigeria because "internet penetration was growing at a fast rate".
"Online payments and electronic transactions, it was all starting to take shape [but] the infrastructure for e-commerce was needed," he said.
To get Wakanow online, Ekezie and the company's co-founder Ralph Tamuno faced multiple technical and logistical challenges: "We had to build an engine, we had to get people to understand what we were trying to do. we had to work with the one online payment company [that was operating in Nigeria at the time], we had to create a whole eco-system, we had to work with the banks, we had to build connections with hotels and airlines – it was difficult but we got it done."
"It was a virgin OTA [online travel agency] space but the market was ready," Ekezie said.
With the platform expanding to the UK and UAE, as well as plans to expand into East Africa and Francophone African markets and diversify with travel finance services, cargo services and money transfers, Ekezie said the technology is already in place to make this easy.
"On one platform we can be multilingual, with languages such as French and Portuguese, and multicurrency – it is very dynamic."