BY CHIKA IZUORA
The importance of energy to the growth of businesses cannot be over-emphasised. The Managing Director, FTI Consulting, Mr Joel Kibazo, in this interview with CHIKA IZUORA, says small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will help stabilise Nigeria’s economy
What does this publication ‘Companies to Inspire Africa,’ mean for Nigerian businesses?
Nigeria has been going through a difficult economic situation over the last two to three years. It looks as if the country is now coming out of it. But what this publication really shows is the strength of companies across the African continent, particularly the biggest contingent coming from Nigeria. It shows that there is hope and it shows that there are companies that are doing good work.
It shows that there are companies that are managing to succeed in spite of all the challenges that you find in Africa. These are audited companies, these are companies that have been scrutinized, and yet they have come out on top. For me, the biggest thing I would say is hope, excitement and the fact that we have a good story to tell as Africans.
What’s your assessment of businesses globally and Nigeria, in particular?
Well, in the face of turbulent economic environment that has equally taken the toll on global emerging markets over the last few years, Africa’s corporate sector has continued to flourish, with high growth companies helping to drive the regions’ economies.
Industries like technology, communications, financial services, manufacturing and agriculture are at the centre of this growth, not only providing employment and opportunities for Africa’s young and growing populations but also boosting taxable revenues for governments.
However, as Africa’s market continues to grow, it becomes even clearer that there is, in fact no such market. But for FTI, our multi disciplinary team can offer support across the business life cycle tailoring our services to match the clients’ specific requirements helping to build strong relations with prospective partners, government, communities and other stakeholders.
How can Nigeria manage the poor perception using public relations?
It does not only pertain to Nigeria. I work across the African continent and I have worked in many of the countries that have the same challenge of public relations. Governments just need to realize that communicating to their populace and them being able to be understood in terms of legislation, regulation and the systems is necessary.
There is need to have professionals do the job. As a law, many of these offices have a public relations officer so it is not by mistake that they have that. If you look in many western countries, what they have is an internal public relations officer and then they also have the external public relations officer who assists with the various programmes that you have to execute.
Sometimes, they assist but sometimes the person on internal communications also helps out in the external communications. There are different combinations that can work. But I think slowly as we as a continent grow, and get to know a lot more different things, we can also change.
What are the peculiar challenges faced by Nigerian businesses with regard to communication?
I don’t like taking Nigeria out of Africa because the challenges that you face here are not that different to my own country of Uganda. For instance, instability of power means that the business costs are much higher and if you are competing internationally, there is no way you can do it because your cost is much higher.
So whether it is power, whether it is in an environment that is fully regulated or the regulations are not yet in place, these are some of the challenges. However, these challenges are not only being faced by Nigeria, they are also faced by many other countries on the African continent. I think there is need to ensure that there is a conducive environment for businesses to operate whether it is taxation or regulation.
How will the affiliation with Caritas benefit companies such as the ones listed to inspire Africa?
For me the sort of companies to inspire Africa are all potential clients at some point. We must look at them like that. As these businesses grow, there will be need for our services whether it is communications, whether it is public affairs, they would want to use consultancy services.
So, that means that while we are happy that the publication is there, we are also hoping and thinking that some of them might want to use our services. So that’s the way in which I see it.
What informed the affiliation with Caritas?
We are a global firm that works with different companies. We have four thousand seven hundred employees working in 29 countries. The reason why you have partnerships locally is because you can’t always be on the ground in everything and sometimes even if you are on the ground, you will have specialism you may not be able to meet may be sitting in London, New York or Washington .
So we have a wide circle of partnerships across the African continent and so Caritas falls within that. We have been working with Caritas on quite a number of clients and businesses that are pertaining specially to Nigeria.
Why did you choose Caritas among several other agencies?
Caritas is not the only firm we have ever worked with in Nigeria or we work with in Nigeria. But Caritas in the context of the work we do in Nigeria has shown that it has the ability to execute the assignments to the level that we are able to feel comfortable and meet international standards.
We are a global firm so at the very least, what we look for in a partnership with local consultancies is the competence to deliver to the level at which our clients want. Caritas falls within that group.