All things to all people: Dr Elizabeth Jack-Rich’s focus on doing the right thing drives Elin Group’s growth and exceptional performance
Author: Barclay Ballard
April 6, 2020
Few people go from being a bus attendant to running a multimillion-dollar company – but then again, Dr Elizabeth Jack-Rich isn’t like most people. As founder and CEO of Elin Group, Jack-Rich has helped her organisation establish a robust presence across a diverse range of sectors while never forgetting its singular purpose: to establish value for its customers, clients and shareholders.
Admirably, Jack-Rich has not forgotten her roots: even though her success has made her one of the most highly regarded business leaders in her native Nigeria and beyond, she remains passionate about giving back to others so they can benefit from the same opportunities she has enjoyed.
The Elizabeth Jack-Rich Aid Foundation (EJ-Aid), a non-profit entity that supports numerous worthwhile causes, manages Elin Group’s charitable undertakings. These philanthropic endeavours have grown as the group has made several exciting moves in the corporate world. Whether it’s in real estate, power generation, agriculture or aviation, Elin Group is committed to innovation that yields dividends for investors and Nigerian society.
As Nigeria continues to establish itself on the global stage, a young entrepreneur with a dream and the tenacity to bring it to fruition is working to empower the nation’s women and youth. Jack-Rich, the embodiment of Nigeria’s next generation of leadership, is on a mission to bring shared prosperity to her fellow citizens. Hailing from a humble background and shaped deeply by her faith, Jack-Rich has embraced entrepreneurship and charity as the core tenets of her life, creating an award-winning charity that supports numerous initiatives focused on reducing poverty and inequality.
Elin Group is committed to innovation that yields dividends for investors and Nigerian society
Born in 1993, Jack-Rich entered the world at a time of great transformation in Nigeria. At the start of the decade, rising oil prices had provided a much-needed economic boost to the country and, in 1999, Nigeria finally transitioned to democratic rule after decades of military dictatorships. Democracy brought with it further economic benefits, with the country’s GDP per capita rising rapidly between 1999 and 2008 (see Fig 1). While such significant change can prove daunting to some, it also creates opportunities for those who take risks and show a willingness to make a difference. It was in this climate that Jack-Rich began to make her mark.
After graduating from the University of Applied Science and Management, Porto-Novo, Jack-Rich embarked on an entrepreneurial journey with Elin Group. Under her stewardship, the privately held conglomerate has grown its presence in numerous sectors, including energy, real estate, agriculture and aviation, among others. With footprints across West Africa and the US, Elin Group’s investment portfolio touches several facets of Nigerian society, drawing on its core operating values of integrity, mutual respect, customer service, innovation and safety.
According to Princess Dato’Seri Maria Amor, founder of We Care for Humanity and creator of the Global Order of Dignitaries and Philanthropists awards, these values are embodied by the group’s founder and guiding light: “Jack-Rich has a ferocious drive in helping the people of Nigeria, uplifting the African continent while doing so. The enthusiasm she has for the sake of people is contagious and powerful.”
Despite only being formed in 2018, Elin Group has already had a significant impact on Nigeria. In terms of health, safety and the environment (HSE), all of the group’s projects are guided by the highest regulatory standards, creating the safest possible workplace for employees, contractors and visitors.
To create an environment in which everyone feels safe, Elin Group has adopted a proactive approach to risk management. By identifying potential problems ahead of time, the organisation can ensure the long-term wellbeing of all its stakeholders. Effective risk management doesn’t only keep employees safe, either: assessing, managing and preventing risk gives Elin Group better access to data regarding its work processes, improves communication channels and enhances resource allocation. Moreover, risk management can help with an organisation’s bottom line and prevent any nasty surprises from surfacing.
To achieve its HSE targets, Elin Group has formal procedures in place to identify potential workplace hazards, such as situations and substances that might prove harmful to its staff. Consequently, all relevant personnel receive training in emergency preparedness, accident prevention, accident response and the use of protective equipment.
“By virtue of the nature of the businesses we operate in – be it aviation or oil and gas – the health and safety of our staff, clients and all other stakeholders cannot be compromised,” Jack-Rich told World Finance. “We understand that a lapse in judgment or one careless moment can lead to a fatality. This is why we ensure that we stay compliant with every health and safety policy, as well as all government and statutory regulations. Safety is a core value for us – we have maintained an accident-free workplace since inception and recorded zero downtime due to accidents.”
Protecting employees is part of a broader ethos that Jack-Rich has adopted throughout her career. Although she would not be a successful entrepreneur without a clear understanding of business, finance and hard data, she is careful to remember the importance of maintaining a human touch.
Reaching for the sky
In a monumental step, Elin Group recently announced a deal with Canadian aircraft manufacturer De Havilland Canada, signing a firm purchase agreement to acquire three rebranded Dash 8-400s. The Dash 8-400 promises a significant productivity advantage over other aircraft, as it can hold more personnel than competing 76-seat turboprop carriers and boasts better fuel economy than larger aircraft. According to the De Havilland website, the Dash 8-400 offers over $8m in additional value per aircraft.
Commenting on the deal, De Havilland’s chief operating officer, Todd Young, touched upon the importance of the African market for his firm: “We are delighted to welcome Elin Group to our family of customers and to announce this order – the second booked since the relaunch of De Havilland Canada in June .
“Propelled by the excitement generated by the transition of the Dash 8 aircraft programme to De Havilland Canada, our sales and marketing teams are focusing their attention on building a pipeline of orders to further increase our backlog and reconfirm the Dash 8-400 aircraft’s position as the world’s most advanced and most productive turboprop. Africa continues to be a showcase market for the Dash 8-400, where the aircraft’s speed, hot and high performance, and higher payload capabilities bring significant advantages to new markets within the continent.”
From Elin Group’s point of view, the purchase agreement is a savvy move by Jack-Rich that supports the organisation’s work across numerous industry sectors. Put simply, the ability to transport employees across Nigeria in a fast, reliable and cost-effective manner will prove hugely important to future business developments.
“As a dynamic entrepreneur and a leader with a vision, I am profoundly pleased that De Havilland Canada and Elin Group Nigeria have come together to form a formidable business relationship that will enable Elin Group to deliver [a] cutting-edge service to customers in the aviation sector,” Jack-Rich said at the time of the purchase. “It has always been my vision to collaborate with a company of high technical and innovative repute to see the actualisation of my vision to broaden services in different economic facets. I am particularly proud today about this alliance with De Havilland Canada – the acquisition of the Dash 8-400 aircraft for operations in Nigeria is a step in the right direction and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Investing in aviation equipment could bring significant benefits for Elin Group. First, it enables the organisation to enter the private charter space and provide a valuable transportation service. Perhaps more pertinently, though, the purchase of three Dash 8-400 aircraft will permit the company to improve the reliability and efficiency of its oil and gas projects.
In addition to its aviation capabilities, Elin Group is a standout leader in Nigeria’s exciting hydrocarbon sector. Elin Oil Services is a cutting-edge oil and gas exploration, development, production and marketing company that serves as a one-stop shop for engineering procurement, construction, oil prospecting and well-drilling solutions. Specialising in the exploration of oil and gas assets, onshore and offshore services, marketing, and the distribution of petroleum products, the subsidiary primarily focuses on the provision of solution-orientated, cost-effective and responsive services in the areas of oil mining and offshore services.
Besides the deal with De Havilland Canada, Elin Oil Services is in the process of acquiring a mobile offshore drilling unit and three multipurpose vessels – all of which are scheduled for delivery this year. These will add to a broad portfolio of existing assets that provides support throughout the entire oil and gas value chain. Jack-Rich knows now is not the time for complacency, though: over the next few years, her company will continue to invest in the acquisition of strategic assets and other ancillary services, such as the storage and distribution of petroleum products. A diversified asset portfolio guarantees the company’s economic sustainability.
Although some may see Elin Group’s work in the oil and gas sector as being antithetical to the environmental values espoused by its CEO, this is not necessarily the case, as Elin Oil Services employs cutting-edge technology to reduce environmental disturbance. The global petrochemical sector has also been exploring ways in which it can continue to provide universal energy access while cutting its carbon emissions. In Nigeria, Elin Group leads the way in this regard.
EJ-Aid helps society’s most vulnerable and marginalised individuals attend high-quality educational institutions and create a better future for themselves
“Detailed assessments of potential environmental, social and health risks are carried out during the planning stage of all new projects,” Jack-Rich explained to World Finance. “The reports from these analyses allow the company to manage and reduce negative risks to the community and environment. Also, environmental impact is a major deciding factor in asset acquisitions at Elin Group. This influenced our decision to purchase three brand new Dash 8-400 aircraft as opposed to cheaper, older, more polluting alternatives.”
Nigeria is blessed with a multitude of natural wonders, from the Yankari National Park, which has one of the largest elephant populations in West Africa, to the magical Idanre Hill, with its mysterious, yet-to-be-deciphered inscriptions. Jack-Rich understands the value of this beauty, making environmental best practice a top priority across all divisions of Elin Group.
As well as being a successful businessperson, Jack-Rich has received widespread acclaim for her philanthropy. This drive to add value to humanity led to the creation of EJ-Aid and allowed Jack-Rich to follow in the footsteps of her husband, Tein T S Jack-Rich, who established the Belema Aid Foundation to support much-needed projects throughout Nigeria.
Elizabeth Jack-Rich has continually demonstrated her passion for helping others, supporting families and young people through the issuance of grants, delivery of medical support, facilitation of skills development and provision of many other tools that empower individuals economically. EJ-Aid scholarships, for example, allow less privileged students to continue their studies – both within and outside of Nigeria – and improve their financial prospects. Jack-Rich’s staunch commitment to changing lives for the better is rooted in an expression both her and her husband live by: “God has blessed me to impact my generation.”
More recently, Jack-Rich launched a special interest foundation to support the women living outside of Nigeria’s urban centres: the Opportunity for Rural Women Development Initiatives (ORWODI). ORWODI equips rural women with the basic tools they require to engender positive social and economic change in their communities, further promoting the sustainable development of Nigeria in the process. Having been born into difficult economic circumstances herself, Jack-Rich understands how vital this work can be.
But her charitable outlook and goals do not end there: since being formally established in December 2017, EJ-Aid has dedicated its resources to improving Nigerian lives through empowerment and education. The foundation has awarded more than 50 scholarships to underprivileged children and focuses on giving hope to young, elderly and ex-service personnel across Nigeria, Africa and the wider world. In other words, EJ-Aid helps society’s most vulnerable and marginalised individuals attend high-quality educational institutions and create a better future for themselves. These scholarships have often covered the cost of primary, secondary and tertiary education for orphans, children of widows and disabled individuals.
With regards to economic empowerment, EJ-Aid places a particular emphasis on skills development and business management training. Once courses are completed, seed capital is offered to support and encourage the development of SMEs. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, SMEs currently contribute approximately 48 percent of Nigeria’s GDP – a significant sum, but one that remains behind other markets. Across the EU, for example, SMEs contribute 56 percent of GDP on average, while in South Africa – Africa’s second-largest economy behind Nigeria – the figure stands at 52 percent.
The work being undertaken by EJ-Aid should stimulate Nigerian SME performance, but that is not its only remit: hunger eradication is a key aim of the organisation, one that is met by improving the availability of food for all citizens, regardless of their economic difficulties. In a country that has the most people living in extreme poverty globally (see Fig 2), such a cause couldn’t be more important.
Jack-Rich has received several accolades in recognition of her work, including an honorary doctorate in leadership and community development from ISFOP Benin University and the Global Woman Humanitarian for Poverty Alleviation Award from the Global Order of Dignitaries and Philanthropists. She also holds certifications from the University of Cambridge’s Rising Women Leaders Programme and Harvard University’s Entrepreneurship Essentials course.
More recently, the National Youth Council of Nigeria bestowed Jack-Rich with the newly formed title Matriarch of Nigeria Youths for her efforts to empower the country’s women. The award drew particular attention to EJ-Aid’s presentation of NGN 110m ($231,820) in start-up capital to 1,100 women. To date, the foundation has empowered more than two million women, contributing over NGN 350m ($737,609) in partnership with the Belema Aid Foundation.
“My focus on women is not for gender bias,” Jack-Rich explained upon receiving the award. “As enablers of growth, it is commonly said: ‘When you empower a woman, you empower a nation.’ No woman should be on the street. My greatest desire is to see the day when no single woman is roaming the streets of Nigeria, but are rather all gainfully engaged in legitimate enterprises, contributing to the uplifting of their families and society at large.”
Such awards are fitting given the great effort Jack-Rich has put into lifting her fellow Nigerians out of poverty. In Abuja and Port Harcourt, for example, she created a two-week skills acquisition programme for women in association with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria. Of the 1,100 beneficiaries, 500 were selected from the Federal Capital Territory and Northern Nigeria, while a further 600 hailed from the Rivers State region and Niger Delta. The participants received schooling in a variety of vocations, including catering, IT, fish farming, poultry management, cosmetology, baking, handicrafts and event planning. At the end of the training, students received start-up funding to begin their journey towards economic prosperity.
The empowerment of women is key to creating a healthy nation – as well as holding women back, gender inequality prevents whole countries from realising their full potential. In fact, according to a 2015 report by McKinsey Global Institute, Nigeria’s GDP could expand some 23 percent by 2025 if women participated in the economy to the same degree as men.
Jack-Rich’s purposeful leadership is a hallmark of her business journey and should inspire any budding entrepreneur. When previously asked about what drives her success, Jack-Rich was quick to point to her long-term vision: “I would like to assure you that Elin Group is in this for the long haul and looks forward to expanding other business horizons for our collective organisational wellbeing and the betterment of the entire nation.”
True to the values exemplified by its founder, Elin Group’s leadership team believes it has a duty to act in the best interests of the environment and society as a whole. Since its establishment, Elin Group has committed to empowering the communities it serves with initiatives targeted at reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for local citizens.
Jack-Rich told World Finance that this is the same wherever the company operates: “We believe this is not only about sustaining our business, but about sustaining our core values and who we are. Hence, we ensure our project operations incorporate environmentally friendly practices and socioeconomic benefits into the local community. We have clear responsibilities, duties and standards in our management, boards, stakeholders and operating units. These include our sustainable dealings with stakeholders, effective risk management and audit regulation, and transparent accountability and reporting.”
It is Jack-Rich’s focus on doing the right thing that drives the company’s growth and exceptional performance. She has noted repeatedly that she believes Elin Group should deliver services that not only meet statutory quality demands, but also exceed such expectations. To achieve this, the group has created, maintained and developed leadership guidelines that ensure processes of production and delivery are consistent across the board. Elin Group remains steadfastly committed to ensuring its procedures and engineering practices protect the people and environment of Nigeria.
With the Nigerian economy going from strength to strength, further triumphs are surely just around the corner for Elin Group
A prosperous future
Despite the difficulties inherent to being a young entrepreneur, Jack-Rich remains hopeful and excited about her company’s role in growing the Nigerian economy. Over the next few years, she believes both Elin Group and EJ-Aid can do much to improve financial inclusion in Nigeria, providing further gains to the country’s women and young people. Although access to financial services in Nigeria has improved of late, the proportion of adults with a bank account in the country still sits at a meagre 29 percent, according to Kantar.
“Higher levels of financial inclusion provide a number of benefits,” Jack-Rich explained. “First, it promotes a savings culture. It provides a safe place for savings to be built up, thereby providing a source of funds for emergencies and other existential needs. Second, financial inclusion facilitates access to loans and credit. It provides a platform for broader transactions, helping to grow small and medium-scale businesses. Finally, by increasing the earning potential of women and youth, financial inclusion can lead to poverty alleviation.”
With regards to the business, Jack-Rich is intent on keeping innovation at the heart of Elin Group’s objectives, finding easier, more efficient and cost-effective ways to create value. “Innovation is at the core of who we are,” Jack-Rich told World Finance. “By staying focused on our vision, continuously identifying the gaps, providing the needed intervention and ensuring that a culture of continuous learning is promoted, we will remain successful.”
It is this attitude of never being satisfied, never standing still and always seeking improvement that has stood Jack-Rich and Elin Group in such good stead. In just two years of operation, Elin Group has achieved great success; with the Nigerian economy going from strength to strength, further triumphs are surely just around the corner. What’s clear is that Jack-Rich will ensure these successes continue to benefit all Nigerian citizens.