Olakunle Akinola holds a first-class bachelor’s degree in economics from Babcock University. His research interests cut across capital markets and financial inclusion. In this interview with Edugist, he speaks on his enthusiasm in the world of investment banking and finance.
Please share with Edugist, a little about yourself and your background.
I am Akinola Habeebulahi Olakunle and recently graduated with a first class degree in economics from Babcock University. I’m a data and business analyst, a researcher and also an investment banking enthusiast.
As the top graduating economic student, you have demonstrated exceptional academic achievement. Can you tell us about a specific economic challenge, globally or locally, that you found particularly intriguing during your studies, and how you approached it?
The idea of financial inclusion was something I found particularly interesting. Over the years, the low level of financial inclusion in Nigeria has been a major problem facing the CBN. This is why my final year project was on financial inclusion. It is a topic I find rather captivating and always open to share my perspectives on. Apart from formally researching it in school, I have written several articles on it in my blog.
Economic policy plays a crucial role in shaping societies. Can you discuss a policy issue in Nigeria you’re passionate about?
As someone interested in raising financial inclusion in Nigeria, I find the CBN cashless policy a formidable initiative. Although its implementation began years ago, it has helped to raise overall inclusion by incredible margins. I’m positive it will do even more in the future.
What do you enjoy most about your education?
The things I found most enjoyable, quite frankly, were the things that challenged and changed my perspectives. While a few were in the classroom, most of them came up during discussions with my peers. My circle of friends were incredibly smart people, deep thinkers who often take the more thoughtful direction. Their ideas helped me challenge the status quo and helped me to think, study and work a lot more. These diverse perspectives and ideas helped me build a sense of intellectual adaptability, and I think it’s something I could not have developed alone.
What were your biggest challenges on campus and how did you deal with them?
Time management. Navigating classes, extracurricular activities, church, personal space, tutorials and so on could be quite overwhelming. This wasn’t even remotely easy, especially on weekends. Saturdays were sabbath, so I practically had only Sundays to myself. On Sundays, I cleaned, held classes, created time for personal and group study, and still managed to have fun, like movies and football. Harmonising coursework and other personal responsibilities meant that I had to prioritise judiciously. I think time management is key, and the experience has refined me over the years.
Have you had any challenges with a lecturer in the past? How did you sail through?
I never really had issues with lecturers. In my first few semesters, I never had personal encounters with lecturers. Partly because I was quite reserved in class, but most because they were also great people. When I began to have personal relationships with lecturers, they were quite positive ones and many of them were very helpful.
Do you have any role models you look up to in the field of economics?
Amartya Sen is someone I look up to in economics. His work in welfare and developing economics has been revolutionary and has transformed development policies globally.
Share your thoughts about the culture of excellence, or the lack thereof, among Nigerian graduates.
This is a subject that I find quite complex. It is a matter of fact that Nigerian graduates have excelled in various fields – both home and abroad – and have demonstrated undeniably strong work ethic and intellectual capacity, entrepreneurship and creativity. They have always displayed performances that reflect personal ambition and a strong desire for success. While it is true that this culture is being continually hindered by our institutional quality, its existence and growth is undeniable.
With the proper systems and environment, I’m strongly convinced that this culture of excellence will be sustained and improved.
Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?
I appreciate my lecturers who have guided and taught me over the years, as well as my supervisor for being an embodiment of wisdom. These people guided, commended me and taught things that transcended the classroom.
I am also deeply grateful to Mr Ladi Delano. He’s my sponsor and has played a vital role in my life. His generosity and encouragement allowed me to access valuable opportunities that I enjoy today.
After your bachelor’s degree, what next?
Of course, graduate school is in my plans. Meanwhile, I am first, a recent graduate. I am interested in investment banking, corporate consultancy and finance.