John Danjuma Omachonu
In furtherance of its leadership role on the continent, UBA, Africa’s global bank, set the stage on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at the Tony Elumelu Amphitheatre, at the UBA House, Lagos, where it gathered eminent personalities in various human endeavours led by the bank’s Group Chairman,Tony Elumelu; the Group Managing Director, Oliver Alawuba; and other top management of the bank.
Tagged, ‘Innovating The Continent For Growth’, the fifth edition of the conversation had the all female Panelists to include the first female Executive Director of UBA Abiola Bawuah, President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc Owen Omogiafo, multi-talented Foodpreneuer and Guinness World Record holder for marathon cooking, Hilda Bassey, Business and Tech Executive, Funso Gbadamosi and Creative director and founder, Banke Kuku, Banke Kuku-Lawson, who shared their experiences as well. offered advice to upcoming entrepreneurs.
The panelists were unanimous in their submissions on the need and the fact that collaboration is essential for Africa to unlock its potential, bridge the gap between challenges and opportunities, and empower people, particularly, women, who they agreed, are at the forefront of development.
To set the ball rolling, in his opening remarks, the Group Managing Director of the bank, Oliver Alawuba, noted that the event’s theme aligns with the goals of the United Nations and the African Union, focusing on innovation, technology, and creating opportunities across the continent.
He acknowledged the fact that beauty, talent, culture, food and other rich endowments and achievements, among others are celebrated in May and as such UBA, with over 50 percent of its board composition, women, would naturally align and always in the vanguard of changing Africa and the world for good.
“This is the time where the beauty, the talent, the culture, the diversity, and the warmth of Africa are celebrated. As Africa’s global bank, UBA is committed to helping Africa become the continent of the future. We take our pan-Africanness seriously because we believe Africa needs to be celebrated.’’ he said
Continuing, he said: “The theme for this year’s Africa Day, ‘Innovation on the Continent for Growth,’ is apt for our conversation because of the challenges and the opportunities that Africa as a continent is faced with; but the truth remains that between these challenges and opportunities is a thin line, which we believe UBA Group can help unlock the challenges and engender prosperity,”Alawuba said amid cheers and standing ovation.
The participants and the audience, both physically and online, expressed happiness to the organizers for the opportunity to learn from the success stories as well as other opportunities provided by the bank for the women.
Consequently, the Chairperson of UBA, Tony Elumelu, in his brief remarks, appreciated the women who had contributed to building the Bank and highlighted perseverance as a vital trait for business success.
In her discussion, Bawuah, the bank’s first female Executive Director, shared her journey and how her appointment opened vistas for more women to be appointed as Chief Executive Officers and as well accomplish their career ambitions.
She acknowledged the fact that UBA is a practical example of an institution that is forward looking and gender sensitive and her appointment had continued to be a source of inspirations to many both in Nigeria and other African counties where women are at helms of affairs
She highlighted the importance of innovation, stating, “What has happened in UBA for me is a complete innovation of ideas, changing the status quo, telling the girl child ‘you can make it.’
Bawuah, who sees UBA as an embodiment of of innovation in Africa, cited the bank as being the first financial institution to have a Board of Directors with more female members than males.
“When we talk of innovation in Africa, we can bring it back home to UBA.
As it stands, we have more female board members than any bank, thanks to the Chairman of the Board, Tony Elumelu, who believes that women can occupy top roles in organizations and excel. This is very remarkable, and I know that other organizations have started trying to emulate it. So, by this move, we are leading the positive change in Africa, and this is very laudable,” she said.
Encouraging the girl child, Bawuah added, “The ceiling has been broken; it is no longer an excuse. We need to seize opportunities, keep moving, and be determined.”
Omogiafo, who spoke on the uniqueness of Africa, maintained that there is no place like Africa. She spoke on the need to innovate because innovation is survival for any organization that wants to remain in business.
She believes that innovation is changing strategy and adding value, and not providing ordinary customer service but making customers to experience and taste the quality of service being served.
Alluding to the fact that Africa is home to opportunities, she asked: ‘Where else can you get the kind of returns you get in Africa? We have huge opportunities, deep cultural roots, and hard-working people, and all that is needed is to tap into the vast opportunities that we have on this continent.”
According to Omogiafo, Transcorp hospitality business experienced significant double-digit growth because of their intentional in positive change and innovation, which has become a way of life for the staff and management of the hospitality giant.
She stressed the importance of adapting to the digital world and continuously modifying products, services, and contact points to engage customers.
Baci,the rave of the moment and record breaker in the Guinness World Record after cooking for over 100 hours a few weeks ago, emphasized on the importance of sustainability, discipline, and reading in business as she advised young Africans to be focused and empower themselves through the art of reading.
She said, “As a young entrepreneur, even if you do not have money to take a business course, you can read. If you want to survive in the business world, it is important to arm yourself with information and learn, as this will keep you going, especially in a world that is constantly changing.”
According to her, the essence of sustainability is survival and as such she urged entrepreneurs to be focused and to make money for their survival, stressing that being popular without money for sustainability, would defeat the purpose of the business.
She observed that food sector is undervalued in Nigeria and emphasized the importance of understanding its potential.
“I feel like food is also oil in Nigeria, it’s just that we haven’t realised it and we just don’t understand it yet,” she said.
Gbadamosi, who is a business and technology executive, advised Africans, especially young people, to take advantage of the vast resources that the internet has presented to us, stressing that innovation serves as a catalyst for positive change and transformation in Africa.
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She expressed the need for intentional efforts to bring about positive change, particularly for the continent’s significant youth population.
Banke Kuku, a creative fashion entrepreneur, said that the world is cherishing Africa because of its fashion and added that this is an industry that can be tapped to our benefit. “The world is really looking at Africa, and we can use our fashion to keep telling African stories to the world,” she said.
She shared her experience of starting her business during the Covid-19 pandemic, stressing that resilient and the necessity of innovation are the basis for survival in the ever-changing business landscape.
“We had to get a website and we had to start selling online. You just have to keep moving with life. So, you’re always innovating,” Kuku-Lawson said.
Generally, the panelists’ diverse experiences and perspectives underscored the importance of innovation,collaboration, perseverance, and adaptability to foster growth and development on the continent.