Jim Ovia is the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, one of Africa’s largest bank with over $16 billion in assets as at 31 December 2018. Zenith Bank is listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. In addition to major operations in Nigeria and other West African countries, it has sizeable operations in London and Dubai.
As the Chairman of Prudential Zenith Life Assurance Limited, he oversaw the landmark partnership of Prudential Plc – one of the world’s largest life assurance companies and Zenith Life – Nigeria’s fastest growing life assurance company. He is currently the Chairman and majority shareholder of Zenith General Insurance Limited; Nigeria’s most profitable general insurance company.
Jim Ovia is the author of “Africa Rise and Shine”, published by ForbesBooks. The book details the secrets to success in doing business in Africa, which encapsulates Zenith Bank’s meteoric rise.
An avid fan of iconic architecture, he developed the Civic Centre and Aquamarine Boat Club to exploit Nigeria’s burgeoning hospitality sector. Juxtaposed to this, he built the Civic Towers, a 116-metre office block that is often referred to as Lagos’ “Most Iconic Building”.
Driven by the role that technology could play in Nigeria, he established Cyberspace Limited to provide internet services and Visafone Communications Limited to provide telecom and data services. The latter was sold to MTN, Africa’s largest telco, for an undisclosed sum in 2015. Being one of the pioneers of the propagation of internet services in Nigeria, Jim Ovia became the first president of the Nigeria Internet Group (2001-2003) and is also a Fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society (FNCS).
As part of his philanthropic efforts, Jim Ovia is one of the founding directors of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) which is co-sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Realizing the importance that education played in his personal success, he established the Jim Ovia Foundation. To date, over 3,000 students have been provided with university scholarships. Jim Ovia also established James Hope College, Agbor, Delta State – a co-educational boarding school that provides scholarships for over 40% of its pupils.
In addition to his philanthropic efforts, Jim Ovia Foundation collaborated with the Africa America Institute (AAI), headquartered in New York, to launch the Jim Ovia Foundation Leadership Scholarship Fund with a $2 million contribution to fund the university education of 35 outstanding Africans in STEM courses at Ashesi University, Ghana and Covenant University, Nigeria.
His contribution to the Nigerian economy has been recognized by successive governments, and he was conferred with the national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2011.
On April 4, 2019 Jim Ovia was awarded the Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) Honoris Causa Degree by the University of Lagos in recognition of his sterling contributions towards education, philanthropic gestures, his positive impact in the Nigerian banking sector and his efforts in alleviating poverty by providing jobs to the citizenry. In December 2017, he was also presented the Degree of Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) (Honoris Causa) by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka while the Lagos State University awarded him Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in Finance in October 2005.
On 19 September 2017, Jim Ovia was awarded the AAI 2017 Business Leader Award by the Africa America Institute (AAI) for his pioneering success in entrepreneurship and his continued commitment to the future of Africa through the Jim Ovia Scholarship and ICT Entrepreneurs Programme.
He is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School (OPM), University of Louisiana (MBA), and Southern University, Louisiana, (B.Sc. Business Administration).
Jim Ovia is a member of World Economic Forum Community of Chairmen; and the Co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Africa Regional Business Council.