Africa needs to be connected to enhance intra-African trade — Prof Ogbechie


By Philemon Adedeji

As part of strategies to encourage Africa to be connected on trading, the Dean of Lagos Business school, Professor Chris Ogbechie has said that Africa needs to be purposefully connected to allow our business models on the continent to inculcate collaboration and enhance intra-African trade.

He made the statement at Africa Business School Convention 2023 themed, “Africa Connected” which held in Lagos Eko Hotel on Wednesday.

He said,“We must take our destiny into our hands and be the architect of our success, developing business solutions with African perspectives and context.

“Business leaders in Africa should take advantage of potential opportunities from the Africa Free Trade Agreement to collaborate and drive business success on the continent.

“We are experiencing an increase in the frequency of major global issues, which distort the global supply chain with the attendant impact on economies and businesses.”

Speaking on role of CEOs, he said “CEOs must embrace uncertainty and the rapidly evolving business environment in Africa.

“With technological advancement occurring at a rapid rate, especially in artificial intelligence, cyber security risk has become increasingly significant and can destroy targeted business organisations if successful.

“CEOs in Africa are also burdened by the labour migration challenge, otherwise known as ‘Japa’ in Nigeria, and this has become a boardroom discussion in organisations. Africa is at risk of losing talent, majorly in I.T., Finance, and Risk Management.

“The challenge for the CEO in Africa is trying to figure out how to retain talent. How do you keep investing in training your employee population even though you will lose some of them to labour migration? This requires a complete re-think of the organisation’s people management by the CEO, keeping in mind that the people you have today will build tomorrow’s organisation.

“As the ‘Chief People Officer,’ the CEO must determine the kind of people the organisation requires before tasking the HR department with recruiting the type of employees that have been profiled.

“The CEO must also reflect on the organisation’s work culture and the toxicity level that may exist in the organisation. It won’t be easy to retain talent in such an organisation.

“As CEO, you must be clear about your organisation’s strategy and capabilities and understand your market, which is critical to business success. Understanding your customers and the challenges they are going through is a veritable recipe for an optimal product portfolio strategy, which includes eliminating non-value and low-value products and services that are a drain on your company’s margins.

“Digitization should be adopted to increase productivity and eliminate inefficient manual processes. Increasingly inclusion and diversity in the workplace are taking center stage in people management. This has become critical in optimizing the workforce’s productivity in addition to a shift to performance management rather than performance appraisal. Recruiting the ‘right people’ rather than the ‘best people’ should be prioritized in congregating the optimal talent pool for your organisation,” he said.

“As CEO, you must move away from forecast planning where your company is planning for one future, to scenario planning which allows you to prepare for multiple futures. Work with data to generate your business insights, as return on investment is critical and will depend on the quality of your decisions.

“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating Ukraine-Russia war on our continent is evident. More than ever, we need the synergy from an African continent connected to drive business success that will grow our economies and enable our people to prosper.

“We must begin to re-imagine the attributes and skillsets of what the African CEO should look like in the context of the role CEOs should play in driving business success on the African continent in a future-focused and agile manner.

“This CEO must adopt as the norm the erratic, complex, and rapidly evolving business environment in Africa and should be future-focused on changing the game, not just playing the game.

“A strategy to this effect would be to consider reaching beyond existing demand to target non-customers with a highly differentiated product or service offering that puts the company beyond the reach of competitors.

“This will require advanced leadership skills, revolutionary strategies to tackle disruptions, and the ability to transform customer experience in the marketplace and build sustainable competitive advantage to deliver such experiences.

“Just as business context continues to evolve, so must the approach to leadership development.

“As an organisation committed to developing responsible leaders and solving Africa’s business problems, Lagos Business School is pleased to announce the rebirth of its Chief Executive Programme (CEP). This is another milestone in the engagement between Lagos Business School and business leaders, where we systematically strive to improve the practice of management on the continent.

“This programme is designed to enable CEOs to develop and strengthen the leadership practices that influence them to be imaginative and open to learning and unlearning. In addition, it will enable the participating CEOs to explore ground-breaking multidisciplinary approaches to solving complex business challenges.

“The Chief Executive Programme will usher in further collaboration between Lagos Business School and stakeholders in the business community in critical capacity development to lead the sector to deliver superior value in the practice of management in Africa.”

He concluded his speech by narrating the role of Lagos Business School (LBS) , that LBS continues to play a prominent and leading role in building leaders with integrity for Nigeria, Africa, and the world. Effective directors and leaders will manage businesses efficiently for more value and sustainable growth.

“At Lagos Business School, we pride ourselves on ethics and the dignity of the human person, and this is reflected in the way we impact the practice of management in Nigeria and on the continent.

“Lagos Business School is ranked among the top business schools in the world and was ranked number 1 in Africa by the Financial Times of London in the 2022 Executive Education Global ranking.

“The vision of Lagos Business School in partnering with the business community to deliver superior value to improve the practice of management in Africa, and we hope that you will commit to institutionalizing the Lagos Business School Chief Executive Programme in your various organisations.

“Our partnership with the business community in this regard will be fruitful. We look forward to the synergy that will be generated and the positive impact on the continent.”