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  Born in Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria, on November 4, 1951, Jim Ovia embarked on his educational journey at the prestigious King’s College, Lagos. Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge, he pursued higher education in the United States, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1977. His academic endeavours culminated in a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1979.
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Armed with a solid educational foundation and an entrepreneurial spirit, Jim Ovia returned to Nigeria in 1980, ready to make his mark on the country’s financial landscape. His vision materialized in 1990 with the establishment of Zenith Bank Plc, an institution that has challenged the norms of the traditional banking sector. Zenith Bank’s innovative approach, centred on customer-centricity and technological advancements, propelled it to unprecedented heights. Under Ovia’s astute leadership, the bank transformed into a titan of the Nigerian banking industry, consistently outperforming its competitors and setting new benchmarks for excellence.
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Beyond banking, Jim Ovia’s philanthropic endeavours have positively touched the lives of countless individuals and communities across Nigeria. The Jim Ovia Foundation, established in 2006, has made significant contributions to education, healthcare, and economic empowerment initiatives, demonstrating Ovia’s unwavering commitment to giving back to society. Ovia’s passion for technology has also translated into his role as the founder of Visafone Communications Limited, a pioneering telecommunications company that revolutionized the way Nigerians connect. His contributions to the nation’s ICT sector have been instrumental in bridging the digital divide and fostering growth in the digital economy.
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Jim Ovia’s illustrious career has been marked by numerous accolades, including the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) awarded by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022. These honours serve as proof of his commitment to excellence and his profound impact on the development of Nigeria’s financial and technological sphere.
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This article was first published on 7th December 2023


Chidiogo Shalom Akaelu holds a degree in English and Literary Studies, from the University of Nigeria. She is a freelance writer, editor and founder of Loana Press, a budding online publishing outlet.

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