Kostiantyn Omowale Naryzhnyi is the managing director and founder of E-Discovery, a cyber security company based in Lagos, Nigeria. His mission with the company is to ensure that digital assets are not compromised by internal and external threats.
His story may start with his name, Omowale, which is Nigerian, but he is Ukrainian. And, there are other highlights of his story.
Coming to Nigeria
When Kostiantyn first came to Nigeria in 2015 to pursue investment opportunities, his friends gave him the name – Omowale. He then moved back to the country, started wearing Nigerian native fashion, established the company E-Discovery, and has become a cyber security crusader, giving keynote addresses, and speaking on panels about the importance of cyber security and digital assets protection in the country.
“We just made the decision because, for us, Nigeria is a hopeful country,” he said in a recent interview with Technext.
“I was lucky enough to get very good friends and they gave me this Yoruba name,” he said of his middle name Omowale.
A trend of foreign tech founders
Kostiantyn is part of a new wave of foreign tech entrepreneurs who are moving into the country for the investment opportunities, and to establish their presence, selling costume-made products for Nigerians.
A typical example is NowNow, a fintech company based in Lagos founded by Sahir Berry, who has spent years building financial solutions in India and the Middle East.
Gregoire Schwebig, who is French, is the founder and CEO of AfricaWorks, a co-working space in Lagos.
With E-Discovery which Kostiantyn started in 2017, he has been helping the young crop of tech founders and banks protect their digital access.
A bright future for digitalisation
“We discovered that Nigeria has very serious capacity for digitalisation and in future, Nigeria will have serious manpower,” he said. That manpower is what he wants to tap into.
As an IT engineer working in Europe, he started visiting Nigeria initially to explore investment opportunities. And he soon noticed how digital the country, one of the most populous in Africa, had become.
“There are so many people here. The digital infrastructure here is pretty good. You have the internet connection almost everywhere,” he said.
In those days, he noticed how much of a priority having mobile devices is for Nigerians. He saw the young men that dot the street of Lagos, many hustling, trying to push back the biting economy, but he said they all had mobile devices.
He said this is because “the level of penetration of digital devices is very high in the country, as a result of the high population everybody here has a very huge digital mark.”
He gives an instance:
“I am not so public, but if you check my Facebook, you’ll find over 1,000 friends. For Ukraine, that is very good. It means you have many friends. Most of our people have 200 to 300 friends on Facebook. But here things are very different.”
In his experience, the average Nigerian that he interacts with he said has over 2000 friends on Facebook. That’s the type of, as he put it, “high digital mark” he is talking about.
A rising need for cyber security
Recently, there has been a rise in digital theft around the world. A judge in Lagos sentenced a forest trader to two years of prison time for fraud pertaining to crypto.
As the Nigerian crypto and NFT market has expanded and companies catering to their needs (BuyCoin, BitMama) have also ballooned, security for these types of problems is what he is offering.
But, he has noticed that for him to penetrate the space, the tech industry needs to be thinking about cybersecurity that actually secures their companies. This is why he has become an evangelist for the protection of digital assets, preaching the gospel of cybersecurity.
It’s not that there isn’t any cybersecurity infrastructure in Nigeria, or that Kostiantyn has come to tell Nigerians about cybersecurity, but rather, he has come to advocate for more implementation of cyber security that actually protects the digital assets of Nigerians.
But his advocacy hasn’t been without some institutional deficiency, a bit too familiar with Nigeria. He said that this in part is because “the market is still developing.”
In Ukraine, he said, there are databases housing the data of everyone living in the country. So, his work there is a bit easier. But in Lagos, that has not exactly been the case.
“If you want to get the driver’s licence, you’re going to one office, if you want to get the criminal record you’re going to another office.” But regardless of the hurdles, from his observation, he knows that “the era of digitalisation in Nigeria has just begun.”
“We have room to grow,” he said.
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