Akin Alabi: Brilliant Entrepreneur or Predator?

Akin Alabi is the former CEO of Nairabet, and the first person to start a sports betting business through a website in Nigeria.

There is this article written about his achievements as the pioneer of sports betting business in Nigeria by Nairameterics – the article is generating debate amongst Nigerians online, some of whom hailed him as a brilliant entrepreneur who started a business that is ’empowering’ the youths, while others describe him as a predator whose business has destroyed countless lives. Make no mistake, for every success story you here as a testimony of someone making money from sports betting, there are at least 10 others whose lives has been wrecked by the platform.

Akin Alabi was born in 1977, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. He had the opportunity of being educated in some of the most prestigious educational institutions in Nigeria and abroad. After completing his primary education at Command Children School, Ibadan, he proceeded to Federal Government College, Enugu for his secondary education. When he returned to the west, it was to obtain a Higher National Diploma in Business Administration from The Polytechnic, Ibadan.

Afterwards, he proceeded to the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, for a degree in Marketing. He obtained another degree in Intellectual Property Strategy from Harvard University, Boston, US.

Akin returned to Nigeria in 2003 after completing his studies to start different entrepreneurial ventures. He got his start in sports betting after he started selling educational materials on how to place a bet with UK based bookies. He quickly realized the opportunity in sports betting when a lot of people would contact him seeking for information on how to place a bet. In 2009, he registered the domain name and thus creating Nigeria’s first online bookie and the first Nigerian business that will receive cash deposits online.

Akin Alabi might have been the first Nigerian to bring sports betting into the country, but it would have happened eventually. The early 2000s saw the proliferation of the internet in Nigeria. By 2006, more and more Nigerians were getting online, websites like NaijaLoaded, Naijapals, Nairaland and LindaIkeji had become household names by 2008. Then there was the rise of internet fraudsters known as Yahoo Boys, by then more Nigerians are beginning to seek for ways of making money online.

In comes sports betting, unlike being a Yahoo Boy, betting was a technically legitimate and secure way of making money online, and most Yahoo Boys don’t usually get to live a peaceful life and die of old age. And unlike other ways of making money online like being a web developer or creating your own website, these require skills, knowledge and time before you can cash out, with sports betting you only need to place your bet and then go to the viewing center to cheer your team to win. Most Nigerians already love watching football, so the market was already there.

Since 2009, Nairabet and other betting platforms have created millionaires in Nigeria no doubts, but these guys have also wrecked way more lives through addiction. Here is the fact; no one who has had their lives wrecked by Akin Alabi and his brethren didn’t have it coming. Sports betting in Nigeria is poorly regulated, it is supposed to be for entertainment purposes only and not as a source of youth empowerment.

Akin Alabi cannot solely be blamed for the damage sports betting is doing to Nigerian youths through addiction. Poor regulation from the government is to blame for that. Akin has managed to pioneer a multi-million naira industry through foresight, risk taking and wits. The man has done well for himself and should be celebrated as a brilliant entrepreneur.

Akin stepped down as CEO of Nairabet in 2018, to venture into politics. He won the elections into the House of Representatives in March 2019 on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He represents the Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency in Oyo State.



A writer! Columnist and an academic researcher
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