Femi Osifuye came to South Africa from Nigeria nine years ago to pursue further studies and business opportunities.
What motivated his move to SA? “Greener pastures and the opportunity to develop as a professional and a businessman,” he says.
He has a Masters degree in financial management from Ladoke Akintola University in Oyo State in Nigeria, and previously worked in the banking sector, starting out as a teller with the now defunct Equatorial Trust Bank, and then shifting lanes to take up as a position as a relationship banker with Inter-Continent Bank in Nigeria (now also defunct). Unlike in SA, banks in Nigeria are far more pro-active in finding and retaining clients, and relationship bankers spend much of their day outside the office, meeting clients.
Femi arrived in SA with his wife and two children, and has since had a third child born in SA. “We’ve settled into life in SA, and the kids are going through the school system,” says Femi. “Coming from Nigeria, education is vitally important to us and is something one never stops.”
His wife, Chritiana Osifuye, is a well known actress across Africa, and is currently involved in the wrapping up of two major films in SA. She also happens to be an engineer – and is responsible for developing engineering course content at the family-owned learning academy, Farrell Academy (based in Pretoria).
Femi is a Certified Financial Officer, or CFO (SA), the highest designation offered by the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba). “I decided to apply for this designation because I wanted recognition for my experience and background as an accountant and financial manager. Saiba is a good home for me because I am entrepreneurial, and so is Saiba – they have developed a whole range of specialist licences for accountants to open up new business opportunities. I like the way they are reshaping the accounting profession.”
It’s no surprise to learn that Femi’s real passion is accounting. He opened Farrell Accounting Services in Pretoria to service the thriving small business community in the city, and earlier this year launched a second business, Farrell Academy, offering a range of courses from engineering to financial management and accounting.
Like many Nigerians in SA, lifelong learning is in Femi’s DNA. He is now elbow-deep in a PhD at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) School of Business, and earlier this year became an Immigration Practitioner after completing the newly-released licence offered by the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba).
“You need to be an accountant before you can become an Immigration Practitioner, and I thought this was a logical way for me to expand my accounting practice and learning academy. As an immigrant to this country myself, I understand the challenges that people go through to get here, and it is not easy to navigate the bureaucracy when you are looking at coming here to live, work or study.”
The Farrell Academy has students from the length and breadth of Africa. Femi wants to open it up to government officials, who need continuous professional development or additional skills training as part of their career development.
Accounting in Nigeria is very different to SA. Femi says in Nigeria, little or no distinction is made between auditors, accountants and tax consultants. They are seen as generalists and that makes it difficult to crack into the market. The doyen of the Nigerian accounting profession is Akintola Williams, that country’s first home-grown CA. He built a thriving practice which was later merged with Deloitte. The name Akintola Williams became a powerful brand in Nigeria that gave it a front row seat when it came to signing up corporate business. Competing against a name like this was no easy task, says Femi.
“In South Africa you are known by the quality of your work and the strength of your relationships, so it is definitely easier to crack into the market here.”
What does the future hold for Femi Osifuye? “I plan to expand my accounting practice and learning academy in 2020 and one of the ways I want to do this is by exploring how cloud services can help me do this. There are plenty opportunities for business expansion and as an entrepreneur I am always keeping my eyes open.”
Among the plans for 2020 is to establish affiliations between Farrell Academy and schools in the UK, and eventually with schools in other countries. Students who have passed through Farrell Academy in SA will then have the opportunity to pursue further studies abroad and still remain within the “Farrell family”.
For serial entrepreneur Femi Osifuye, there’s never much time for sleep. Expect to hear much more from this energetic and talented force of nature.