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  This year’s virtual edition of the Connect Nigeria Business Fair went into its second and final day on Friday, August 28. It was an exhilarating ride through gripping panel sessions, fine exhibitions, and information-packed master classes. Viewers tuned in from across Nigeria and farther afield. The audience’s feedback was overwhelmingly positive; they had garnered an impressive amount of insight from the speakers on the day and were excited about applying the nuggets to their businesses.
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Here’s a roundup of the sessions from day two of the Connect Nigeria Business Fair.

First Panel Session

The first-panel session was dominated by discussions around getting past the trying economic conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each speaker brought their expertise to bear on the theme and offered suggestions to help businesses carry on in the current times. Chidi Ileka: Union Bank Chidi Ileka, Chief Transformation Officer at Union Bank, talked about How Businesses Can Thrive in Difficult Environments. He referred to Union Bank’s 100+ years of doing business with companies in Nigeria and identified traits that have been common among enterprises that have survived tough times:
  • Solve (real) problems
  • Make products tailored to their clients
  • Build a winning team
  • Are partnerships between multiple cofounders
  • Keep learning
  • Are able to leverage technology effectively
“These principles are not prescriptive,” he explained. “I’m saying these are the principles we found to have been useful to the businesses we advised over the last one hundred years.” Agatha Amata: Rave TV Agatha Amata, CEO of Inside Out Media, shared on Going Global Post COVID. Her points were practical, based mostly on her media company’s experience with carrying on through social media during the lockdown. Its radio station, Trend FM, was able to attract otherwise scarce advertisers by running live programs on Facebook—and becoming a hit on the platform. A sister company, Rave TV, kept its viewership up by incorporating Instagram Live shows. For Agatha, it was about doing what it took to stay relevant. “If you want to go global during COVID and after, you have to adapt to the new normal,” she said. “You cannot afford to not be online today.” Muhammad Rudman: IXPN Muhammad Rudman, CEO of IXPN, spoke about the future of small businesses in Nigeria. He parsed out the benefits that small businesses were reaping by leveraging digital technology tools such as cloud-based team collaboration software and accounting tools. According to him, these benefits include reduced costs and higher production efficiency. “I would encourage small and medium enterprises to use these tools,” he said. “It’s also important for Nigerian businesses to be online.” Ayotunde Coker: Rack Center Ayotunde Coker, CEO of Rack Center, shared his company’s strategy for coping with the restrictions brought on by COVID-19. He noted the need for companies to get proactive with business continuity planning so that they don’t get caught out by emergencies like a global pandemic. He also emphasized utilizing digital technology and learning from previous crises. “COVID has brought about an increase in the use of digital channels,” he explained. “And at Rack Center, we’ve moved very quickly to adapt to COVID. We had experience with Ebola, and it helped us put measures in place.”
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Second Panel Session

The second-panel session had three speakers on it. They all continued with the theme of thriving in challenging conditions and posited ways that businesses could continue as going concerns even in difficult economic conditions. Mabel George: Sigma Pensions Mabel George, Head Business Division for the West at Sigma Pensions, sounded a positive note in her talk. “It seems like a doom and gloom situation, but in all of this, there are opportunities that SMEs can take from this pandemic,” she said. “Until you see the silver lining and the opportunities in it, you’re not able to reinvent yourself, withstand the shock, and move forward.” She had real, practical advice to share as well. The thrust of her message was that businesses should look beyond their current offerings and ways of doing things, and innovate along the lines of what’s currently in demand. “You need to look at how your business can become innovative; how you can retool yourself; how you can put your skillset to other businesses.”     Segun Akintemi: Page Financials Segun Akintemi, CEO of Page Financials, delivered some wisdom from his 30+ years of experience in the business. According to him, businesses had to have three things to survive the COVID-19 scourge:
  • Innovation: Which they could exhibit by adapting their businesses to current demand.
  • Localization: Source their inputs and services locally, and fill the gap left by absent imports.
  • Access to Finance: Opportunities to access this exist. They are available to businesses that have their financial records intact.
“The COVID-19 reality is here to stay,” he said. “So we need to ask ourselves, ‘what am I doing to improve these elements (mentioned above) of growth?” Fela Durotoye: Gemstone Group Fela Durotoye, CEO of Gemstone Group, also had a three-point watch list for businesses seeking to win in trying times. According to him, they need:
  • Clarity: they have to be clear about why they exist, where they are going, and how they will get there.
  • Alignment: Their teams need to be aligned to their vision so that everyone is clear about what the business wants to achieve.
  • Execution: Putting the plans set out by the business into action.
He noted that Gemstone’s better-placed client companies were achieving significant milestones by deemphasizing management and strengthening leadership instead. “The clients that were getting things done were the ones who were able to lead and build leadership,” he said. Durotoye explained that this approach made individual team members take responsibility, and achieve more in the process—a better outcome than what’s obtainable with micromanaged teams.
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This article was first published on 29th August 2020


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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