Learning languages is one of the most effective ways that people can discover other cultures. Whilst there are some languages such as English, Spanish or French which are widely spoken around the globe, as the world becomes more integrated it is important that languages from other corners are shared. One region which has not seen its languages spread internationally outside of indigenous speakers is Africa. One entrepreneur who has designed courses for people keen on learning African languages through his new app Lingua54 is Kola Lamikanra.
Kola grew up in Nigeria and his journey into business started very young, initially selling Christmas hampers in his local community and to colleagues of family friends before his 13th birthday. This entrepreneurial nature followed him into secondary school and university where he sold items to friends in school ranging from clothes, shoes, phones and even cars. “I became the go-to guy on campus if people needed to buy something,” he recalls. Whilst he studied law his heart was very much set on working in business and finance so he took on a job in investment banking in Lagos, Nigeria.
Career In Business
During Kola’s time in banking his entrepreneurial itch did not go away and he “always had a side hustle” working on various projects across industries such as property and trade. In 2017 he decided to leave banking to focus on these side hustles full time starting with a property business called WM Properties which helped people in the African diaspora buy and rent properties in Africa followed by a second business called Foodie X which focused on buying agricultural products from Northern Nigeria and selling them in more densely populated regions in Southern Nigeria such as Lagos. Whilst these businesses were a success a significant life change came when Kola married a British Nigerian. This life change coupled with a worsening economic environment in Nigeria led Kola to move to the U.K. to be closer to his family.
Setting Up Lingua54
Whilst settling into the U.K. and needing something to work on Lamikanra spoke to a friend who was tutoring people in English and charging £25/hour. As an entrepreneur this immediately got him thinking about whether there was a market for this amongst Africans. He quickly realized that whilst English is certainly taught in Africa the area where there was demand but a lack of supply of teachers was teaching African languages to western consumers. Taking Yoruba as an example there are over one million Yoruba people outside of Nigeria, many of whom do not want to lose touch with their heritage so would pay for lessons for themselves or their children.
In order to test the idea he started advertising Yoruba classes on social media as well as hosting live sessions on Instagram. Up to 600 people were logging into these sessions to learn Yoruba, which served as validation that there was a business here. The next steps involved setting up a website and then recruiting teachers. However, a brief conversation with a friend highlighted that there were languages from all across Africa people were interested to learn from Swahili in Kenya to Afrikaans in South Africa. Additionally, there was demand from expats who would be working in these countries providing a lucrative B2B opportunity to work with multinational organizations looking to send expats to Africa.
After recruiting 70 teachers and launching lessons on the website the sign ups continued to grow which signaled it was worth developing an app. The app is due to launch in August and will include courses for Africans in the diaspora to learn languages, businesses to get their staff trained and also lessons on African culture and history. There is a clear increase in demand from people to connect closer with African culture and Kola is helping people to connect in the right way.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyPF91