2:31 am - Friday February 28, 2020

Meet STEVE BABAEKO, Most Celebrated Designer, leader of Nigeria’s Number One Creative Agency…takes company X3M Ideas to the end of the World *Graduate of Ahmadu Bello University ready to use art to celebrate the riches of African culture in the eyes of international community *For tourism to flourish in Nigeria, government needs to partner with the advertising industry to keep projecting the strength of the nation *In 8 years his firm has won major accounts in Africa, have thriving offices in Lagos, Johannesburg and Lusaka *Recalls first job as a Copywriter, appreciates Victor Johnson, then Managing Director of MC&A *Worked on a DStv campaign that ended up being used across many parts of the continent *Nigeria’s Finance Minister position is not to support the unified currency ECO *Message to Nigerians: “I understand that the country is hard but if we all flee this country who will build it for our children? Some people’s forebears stayed back, sacrificed and built the countries we are all escaping to. Imagine if they had fled their country at the time, we will have nowhere to run to today” *BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Bureau Chief, Naija Standard Newspaper


Meet STEVE BABAEKO, Most Celebrated Designer, leader of Nigeria’s Number One Creative Agency…takes company X3M Ideas to the end of the World

*Graduate of Ahmadu Bello University ready to use art to celebrate the riches of African culture in the eyes of international community

*For tourism to flourish in Nigeria, government needs to partner with the advertising industry to keep projecting the strength of the nation

*In 8 years his firm has won major accounts in Africa, have thriving offices in Lagos, Johannesburg and Lusaka

*Recalls first job as a Copywriter, appreciates Victor Johnson, then Managing Director of MC&A

*Worked on a DStv campaign that ended up being used across many parts of the continent

*Nigeria’s Finance Minister position is not to support the unified currency ECO

*Message to Nigerians: “I understand that the country is hard but if we all flee this country who will build it for our children? Some people’s forebears stayed back, sacrificed and built the countries we are all escaping to. Imagine if they had fled their country at the time, we will have nowhere to run to today”

HE IS AN ENIGMA IN THE AFRICAN BUSINESS WORLD. STEVE BABAEKO IS A BUSINESS COMMUNITY WHO STANDS OUT AS AN ICON. His fingerprints are everywhere behind most successful chains of arts and creative tourism outfits across the continent of Africa. No wonder, the world call him a ‘Creative Wizard’. The former graduate

of Ahmadu Bello University (BA Drama) moved up as Creative Director, 141 Worldwide Ltd, later established X3M Ideas-since 2012 till date as the CEO/Chief Creative Officer. In this interview with GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN Foreign Bureau Chief, Naija Standard Newspaper, he talked about how arts/tourism may attract Foreign Direct Investment to Nigeria; rebrand Nigeria’s global image, highpoint of his career among other issues:

Naija Standard Newspaper: How do you think Arts can be used to celebrate the riches of African culture in the eyes of international community?

Our art encapsulates those things that are uniquely us. They represent the way we live and they speak to the values we hold dear in a moment in time, the past present or future. Since they carry the DNA of our culture, the international community will always be fascinated by it. That said, the most important thing we must look out for going forward is that we must never lose ownership of our art or culture. Now that the international community are excited about what we have to offer, if we surrender ownership it will be taken away from us, repackaged and sold back to us at a premium. We must learn from history.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Is there a way Tourism can be used to rebrand the positive image of Nigeria Abroad?

Most definitely. The government just needs to be more deliberate and strategic about it. Look at what Ghana did with the year of return. 1.5 million visitors and about $ 1.9 Billion projected revenue. In the last decade Nigeria became the dominant force when you talk music and films across the continent. We can use these platforms to amplify our tourism offerings to the international community. When Wizkid, Asa, Burnaboy wins everyone stops talking about the negative aspect of our image for that moment. The government needs to partner with the advertising industry so we can keep projecting our strength as a country.

Naija Standard Newspaper: What way can Tourism be used as a benchmark to drive-in Foreign Direct investment into Nigeria?

Like I said we have already created global Stars in the music and film space. Everyday the packed venues where these stars perform are abroad, proceeds of the economy built around such performances go into the coffers of foreign countries. Who is building our own arenas, where is our security architecture that’ll give people the assurance to come and where’s the infrastructure that will enhance our ability to earn foreign exchange?

Naija Standard Newspaper: Can you take us through the highpoints of your creative career?

I started my career as a Copywriter at MC&A (Saatchi&Saatchi) after 5 years I moved to Prima Garnet, Ogilvy. There I spent another 5 years, I was then seconded to be the pioneer Creative Director of 141 Worldwide. After 7 years I resigned and started X3M Ideas with 7 people on August 1, 2012. In almost 8 years we have offices in Lagos, Johannesburg and Lusaka.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Are there memorable moments in your career that are evergreen?

Getting my first job as a Copywriter will remain an unforgettable moment for me. Thanks to Mr. Victor Johnson, he was the Managing Director of MC&A at the time. He basically took a chance on a rookie Copywriter. Obviously starting X3M Ideas is also one of my major career milestones. The audacity to stare down fear and just follow our dreams remains an epic moment.

Naija Standard Newspaper: How about the first international creative project your office handled directly Overseas?

We worked on a DStv campaign that ended up being used across many parts of the continent. The lesson we learnt from that is that we are all one people driven by similar emotional cues.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Recently, you made a shocking creative display of a golden fountain of water in one of your projects. Can you shed more light on it?


It’s a sculpture of a ballerina fabricated to move in the middle of a fountain. We erected it in honour of the hardworking women of X3M Group. We are an equal opportunity company so naturally we value the immense contribution of the men as well. However in a patriarchal society like ours we wanted to be deliberate about highlighting the gender gap and also celebrate the women for their invaluable contributions to our enterprise.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Tell us more about #The Squad X3M team directly under your creative supervision…


The squad is young, dynamic and future focused. We punch mostly above our weight category because we enjoy taking on huge responsibilities. We emerged Nigeria’s number one creative agency this year by winning the Grand Prix in the Lagos advertising and ideas festival (LAIF) it’s such a great privilege to lead these amazing men a and women.

Naija Standard Newspaper: How can Nigeria sustain rapid business development using your outstanding accomplishments in the creative world as a procedural standard?


We must evolve into a society that values and support its entrepreneurs. We must create the enabling environment that will make it possible for budding entrepreneurs to thrive and continue to create jobs and opportunities for those coming behind. Some of us got here through sweat and tears. For us to thrive as a country we must fully harness the abundant ingenuity of our people

Naija Standard Newspaper: Do you foresee recession or higher rates of inflation hitting Nigerian economy with the vicissitudes of daily challenges faced by majority of the masses?


In 2020 Nigeria is projected to return a modest 2.4 growth up from 1.9 or thereabout last year. Inflation still remain in the double digits zone. Border closure will make it worse in the short term but if we can reduce wastage in the public sector and also effectively execute some of government’s positive policies we should see a reduction in inflation by year end.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Which area do you think the Buhari administration is lagging in business, economic development for Nigeria?


I see nuggets of brilliant policies but sometimes we poorly execute or not follow through. Nothing is wrong with borrowing if we use the money to build infrastructure and expand the economy. Our rising debt profile gives cause for concern.

Naija Standard Newspaper: The Nigerian government is joining five other West African nations in considering ‘ECO’, a common currency. Do you believe that is possible? Can you take us through your on-going creative projects?


Nigeria is the economic giant of the West African sub-region. I believe that our Finance Minister’s position is not to support the unified currency ECO so I see a situation where the kickoff date will be moved forward yet again. The GDP of Lagos state is for higher than a few of the countries combined so in my opinion Nigeria’s stand will make or break the new currency.

Naija Standard Newspaper: What is your message to Nigerians at home and Nigerians in the Diaspora?

I understand that the country is hard but if we all flee this country who will build it for our children? Some people’s forebears stayed back, sacrificed and built the countries we are all escaping to. Imagine if they had fled their country at the time, we will have nowhere to run to today. Yes the country is very tough but we cannot afford to give up on Nigeria because that’s the only country we can call ours.

Naija Standard Newspaper: Take us through your plan for further
expansion into Africa

We are currently trying to raise capital for further expansion into Africa. We have 3 new countries on our radar by Q4 this year. It promises to be an exciting year. We also have some interesting creative projects we are working on for our clients.

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