Biz Interview: Demola Akinbola, C.E.O, BrandStewards Consulting "..Nigeria is a typical haven for investors …"

BrandStewards is a Nigerian-based reputation and brand management consultancy firm that is committed to a research-driven, integrated and stakeholder-centric approach to building, developing and managing personal and corporate brands. ABC had a brief interview with the C.E.O, Demola Akinbola:

ABC: Please introduce your company and tell us your position there.

D.A:  My company is called BrandStewards Limited (Brand and Reputation Management Consultants). It was founded in 2003 but I took full control in 2010 after my voluntary exit from paid employment. We are a research-minded, integrated brand management consultancy with the vision of creating and adding value to clients’ businesses.

ABC: In what countries does your company operate?

D.A: Our head office is in Lagos, but we have international offices in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. I am the Head Steward or, to put it conventionally, I am the CEO. Our areas of core competencies are Public Relations, Brand development/management, Print Productions, Publishing, Training/employee development, Event planning/management.

ABC: What are the most important developments in your industry in Nigeria?

D.A: There have been some remarkable developments in the political and economic spheres of Nigeria’s operations. There have been far-reaching financial sector reforms which have streamlined the number of financial institutions operating in the country. Reforms in the capital market have led to the replacement of the authority figures in the regulatory agencies, with positive implications for the market which has now been sanitized and is clawing out of depression.

Another major development has occurred in the area of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) which have slightly increased following improved confidence in Nigeria.

In the political arena, nothing remarkable has happened as the government at the centre since 2009 has not changed. There is general dis-enchantment over the way Government has responded to the worsening security situation in the country, especially in the northern parts where Muslim fundamentalists have murdered over 1000 civilians in the last four years.

ABC: What are the major challenges to operating in the Nigerian market today?

D.A: The major challenges to operating in Nigeria are threats to lives, dysfunctional critical infrastructure (bad roads and epileptic power supply), large-scale corruption. Otherwise, Nigeria is a typical haven for investors because of the huge population (160 million) and the friendly disposition of the people.

ABC: What could the Nigerian government do to improve business conditions in Nigeria?

D.A: What Government needs to do to improve business conditions are:

(a) Sincerely and consistently implement relevant laws on corruption and punish offenders. The state anti-corruption agency (the EFCC) needs to be overhauled and empowered to identify and sanction corrupt practices;

(b) Invest massively on overhauling infrastructure (especially road and electricity);

(c) Empower the security agencies with what is needed for them to be able to ensure adequate, round-the-clock protection of lives and property;

(d) Improve access to finance at affordable terms for Small and Medium Business owners

ABC: How do you look upon the developent of the African economy at large and the Nigerian economy in particular?

D.A: There are huge prospects for the development of the African economy if the leaders are WILLING and COURAGEOUS enough to do the right things, such as the factors already listed above. Corruption is the number one enemy of development in Africa. All African countries are blessed with natural resources. Nigeria, for instance, is blessed with good land for agriculture. But, over the years, successive governments have gone the easy way – opting for oil exportation to the detriment of the development of the agricultural base of the economy. So, all African countries should return to areas where they have competitive advantage.

ABC: What is the latest from your company? Anything we should look forward to?

D.A: In November 2013, we will be inaugurating our new subsidiary, City Brand Academy (CBA) in Lagos. CBA is a platform for personal and professional development for young graduates, early/mid-career professionals and business owners.
The occasion will also be used to present my third book (on Personal Branding) to a select group of stakeholders.

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