Rotimi Williams, an ambitious 35-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur and rice farmer, owns the 2nd largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria by land size.
Williams, a former Journalist, is the owner of Kereksuk Rice Farm, which is situated in Nasarawa state in northern Nigeria. The farm currently sits on 45,000 hectares and employs more than 600 indigenes of Nasarawa.
In a country whose citizens consume more than 5 million metric tons of rice every year, with a significant portion of its consumption needs being sourced from imports, Rotimi Williams is on a quest to change that, because he believes Nigeria can attain self-sufficiency in rice production in the near future, says Forbes.
The budding entrepreneur attended King’s College, Lagos. He obtained his first degree in Economics at the University of Aberdeen. He further obtained a Master’s Degree in Economics from the same institution.
Williams says his quest for more knowledge led him to enrol for yet another Master’s Degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London where he gained an MSc. in Finance and Development Studies. Upon graduation, he landed a role as an analyst at the European Economics and Financial Centre in London.
The young entrepreneur says his journey truly started when Euromoney Magazine employed him to cover the African space.
While at Euromoney, he had the opportunity to travel to a few African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Ghana which share a common thread – Agriculture.
After a few more trips, he decided to move back to Nigeria which remains the largest economy in Africa from both a GDP perspective and also the strength of the size of its population, and sink his teeth into the agricultural space.
On his return to Nigeria, Rotimi Williams got a job at a premier Bank where he was promised to sit on the agriculture desk where he hoped to gain enough knowledge of the Nigerian agricultural industry and develop himself from there.
Unfortunately, the agricultural desk at the Bank never quite achieved its set goals. Williams says he pushed hard for the Bank to adopt policies and gain inroads into the agricultural industry but his attempts were somewhat frustrated.
As his frustration grew, he decided to quit banking and planned to go it alone into agriculture, a decision which led to a challenging sojourn as attempts to raise funding with his partner proved difficult.
He started a Structured Trade and Commodity Finance company and later started consulting for small agriculture companies seeking to raise capital both locally and internationally.
After two years and still no funds, he made an offer to a farm owner, on a 50-50 split to develop the farm with both personal funds and external funding, making him part owner of 17,296 hectares of farmland.
A strong believer in the hope that agriculture would become the integral area of focus in Nigeria, he was bullish and ramped up the land to 55,000 hectares.
He maintained 45,000 hectares for himself after later parting with his partner due to unaligned views and strategy. Kereksuk Rice Farm currently produces quality paddy which is being sold to major milling companies in Nigeria.
Rotimi Williams says he leans heavily on the wisdom and cultural approach of the Nassarawa indigenes to carry out farming on such large scale there.
He further disclosed that his experience working alongside indigenes of the state has been exceptional. He has learnt over the years that if you approach people with respect even more so while seeking to set up a business venture, it makes all the difference in attaining one’s set objectives.
Williams has also been able to keep his head above water in the case of dealing with Fulani herdsmen who have been clashing with farmers in various parts of the country. He manages this by ensuring that sentiments towards his farm remain positive. He created a scheme called the Farm Out of Poverty Initiative (FOOP). FOOP trains approximately 100 Fulani women in farming while also employing the men as security and feeding their cattle from the rice straw following harvest. The Kereksuk Rice Farm is certainly pulling its own weight in helping the Nigerian economy while enriching Rotimi Williams and all this with a staple that Nigerians constantly indulge in but has up until recently been supplied almost wholly by imports.