By Adekunle Adekoya
AS the world of hospitality reeled from the global coronavirus pandemic, it didn’t seem like the most auspicious time to launch one of the country’s few five star hotels. Still, this was exactly what Mac-Folly Hospitality Limited, one of the many subsidiaries of SIFAX Group, did, and with unprecedented success. At the helm of affairs of this quiet giant of an indigenous group of companies is a quiet giant of a man. Barr. Dr. Taiwo Olayinka Afolabi, who with over 34 years spanning various political dispensations, created a truly original Nigerian conglomerate whose character is similar to his own.
At its inception the company, then operating as SIFAX Nigeria Limited, began as a freight forwarding agency in Lagos, Nigeria, rendering such services as haulage and warehousing operations, as well as adjunct import and export support services. Armed with degrees in International Law and Shipping Management, Afolabi led the organisation’s growth to its present constitution of several subsidiaries spanning aviation, hospitality, logistics and financial services; with offices in Tema, Ghana; Durban, South Africa; Houston, USA; Rotterdam, Belgium; London, United Kingdom; Djibouti; Gambia and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
Born a twin in Ondo to the family of Chief and Chief Mrs. Samson Afolabi, natives of Idokunusi Ijebu of the Ijebu East Local Government of Ogun State, he began his working career after his education, with the Nigerian Express Agencies Limited (Neal); an organisation which valued him but was not able to contain him. He left, establishing SIFAX in 1988, and developing it into an international player, a playing field of excellence, a massive employer of labour and a most formidable player in the logistics sector of the Nigerian economy.
Perhaps it was owing to this, that Chief Taiwo is often called upon to lend his vast knowledge and competences to the development of the country. He was a member of the Business Support Group, BSG, which provided a platform for anchoring the views of the private sector with a view to supporting the development of the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, NIIMP, a 30-year planning tool for implementing infrastructure programmes as recently approved by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council.
In addition, the company also acquired the nation’s foremost aviation ground handling company, Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited, through its subsidiary, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited, in a competitive bidding process supervised by the Bureau for Public Enterprises. The company has since become a publicly quoted company. The Group Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Sifax Group is also the Chairman, Mac-Folly Hospitality which has become an industry leader with the recent launch of its flagship: the franchised global hotel brand, the 250 room Marriott Hotel situated within the Ikeja GRA area of Lagos.
He has also successfully forayed into the financial sector with the establishment of Sky Capital and Financial Allied International Limited, a financial services and investment firm. The true international has already acquired banks in Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. As expected of a seasoned maritime consultant, he is a fellow of several institutes including the Nigerian Institute of Financial Management, FIFM; the Nigerian Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria; the Certified Institute of Shipping, CIS; the Nigerian Institute of Shipping, NIS; Port and Terminal Management Authority of Nigeria, the Certified Board of Administrators of Nigeria, CBAN; Institute of Directors, the Nigerian Society of Maritime Researchers and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in Nigeria.
In July 2010, Dr. Afolabi was conferred with the prestigious honour of Member of the Order of the Niger, MON by Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR., former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in “recognition of his outstanding virtues and his meritorious services to his motherland, Nigeria”. In June, 2021, Dr. Afolabi was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, by his fellow BoT members in a recent event at the Marriot Hotel Lagos.
He is recipient of no fewer than one hundred other local and international awards, including, in 2020, the Businessday Leadership Award; as well as the “Investor of the Year ” 2020 by the New Telegragh Newspaper. Dr. Afolabi is an icon of the maritime sector, an industrial plutocrat of our time, one of the frontline advocates of local content initiatives and indigenous participation in the Nigerian shipping industry who has continued to create jobs and opportunities for human wellbeing. A sports lover, promoter and philanthropist, Dr.Afolabi is a member of Ikoyi Club 1938 and IBB Golf Club in Abuja. The happy husband and father loves to watch and play football.