Saturday, 29 December 2007

BAT Account Is Most Challenging —Okusaga

Public Relations, PR, practice has come a long way in Nigeria. Its impact is felt from the smallest of corporate organisations, to the biggest. Bolaji Okusaga, Head Consultant in one of the leading Public Relations firms in the country; The Quadrant Company, assesses the PR practice in this interview with NCHEDO OKEKE .

Stage of PR practice today

Public Relations development in the country is not different from what you would have observed in the evolution of other senior professions like the legal profession, accounting and medical professions. What we have is that we are at a phase we can call a growth phase and the features of this phase is that a lot of things get done haphazardly, jobs will not be done as script as and clear as they should be in an ideal situation because a lot of people will want to take stake which ordinarily may not belong to them and the only way they can do that is to bury reason and go via the political and that is essentially the hallmark of a growing phase in any profession.

How old is PR practice really? When was the decree that empowered the NIPR enacted?

It was enacted under the regime of General Babangida, even though we have been operating before the decree, it stands to reason that we are nonetheless a very young profession in need of right direction and what I will counsel at this point in time is that we need to pay more attention to professionalism and jettison politics.
Bolaji Okusaga
The much more senior professions have a methodical way of doing things; they have codified rules which govern their practice and they strive as much as possible to abide by these rules and it makes things much easier for them, for example succession in terms of leadership should be something that should be taken more seriously, I can tell you that the next five successor to the position of ICAN president is already known and that is due to the way they are structured and if there is going to be any politicking it will be minimal because the room is not wide open just for anybody to come in, there are rules to these games, and for us to be able to hold our own all these rules must come to play in the NIPR.

The next stage of PR

PR like any other profession whether overtly or covertly is affected by global space, therefore PR as it is in Nigeria shouldn't be any different from what obtains in other parts of the world especially in the terms of sphere of operation. There will be cultural parameters but that will not affect the evolution of the business in terms of global appeal, in terms of acceptance of the practice on the global scale, and I can say to you that in the next twenty years you will see a PR industry that is characterise by cogent specialisation in which case people may decide to focus, for example, in the area of financial services or the capital market and you close your eyes to, may be, sport PR or entertainment PR and one could just say why don't I just concentrate on issues that affect trans-national companies or one could say let me just focus on the area of litigation communication where I will be helping my clients to obtain fair judgement in the court of public opinion in such a way that if they can get that fair public judgement it will help the way they are perceived within the legal and legislative structure of the society where they operate. Some organisations may decide to say we don't want to be involved in financial communications or litigation communications but to be focused on the area of telecommunications and information technology, because I see that is a good sector within the economy therefore I want people to know me as a specialist on the area of information technology and communications.

So in the next 20 years I see the evolution of PR practice along specialist line but that doesn't mean there will not be 'generalist' but even within the generalists set, there will be practice groups dedicated to activations along sectoral and professional lines. Therefore you will see a PR person who can speak the language of capital market and he invariably becomes an investor relations personality or a practitioner who can speak the language of the legal and legislative system and he becomes a litigation communications expert, or sport and entertainment, endorsement and sponsorship which makes such person become an expert in such field and that is what I see happening in the years ahead.

The Quadrant Company's own Specialisation

As the first service company in the country, we will continue to be a hybrid firm in the sense that while we are orienting our practice towards the specialist perspective, we will continue to offer a bag of services defined along practice groups. At the level at which our practice has attained it will be difficult for us to say we want to shed our clients in one area only to hold on to the other client in the other area that will be difficult.

Therefore we will become a PR supermarket of some sort but pointedly distinguishable in our practice since we have in-house experts in all these areas I have mentioned and that is why we are beginning to de-emphasis this idea of our being a media theorist or the traditional practitioner as seen from the agency model to the consulting model because what we want to be selling is not the fact that, we are a middle man for our clients in the media platforms but we want to be seen as critical solution to the whole chain of perception and reputation management. Therefore we are looking ahead to more technical areas like issues management, CSR impact assessment reporting and sustainability reporting which we have already started to do for a number of clients, leveraging our international affiliation with Fleishman Hillard International Communications, the biggest PR firm in the world.


I will say before now we were guilty of not being torch bearers for the profession we represent. We are at fault in our wisdom by saying a practitioner should be a practitioner while the professional body should busy themselves with providing leadership and advice on global trends, but having observed the weakness of the professional body, what I can tell you is that we are also working on what the ideal should be in the industry in such a way that once the industry benefits then we ultimately benefit. So part of our strategy will be along the lines of thought leadership, to begin to shape thoughts in the area of current trend in our practice as opposed to an over localisation of practice which does not allow us to go global in terms of our perspective, in terms of our world view and practice.

Another thing is that we are committed in the days ahead to start publishing PR Quarterly which will be focused on germane issues in terms of global practice, for instance this whole idea of word of mouth marketing, social networking and a number of other modern day practice parameters which have become the norm in the western world which we are yet to catch up with will be things that we will be focusing on. For instance we can not deny the fact that children now understand what is meant by yahoo; they know the difference between Hi-Five and Facebook. These are social networking sites which the little kids at home are already used to and so why will a PR company not offer services that help to leverage the perception, the reputation of the clients they work for on this new platform? Why do we still continue to over flog the traditional platforms when we now have different conduits that can help deliver the goods for our clients? So those are the things we will be looking at very critically. We will not only be educating ourselves but also the marketers in the industry in such a way that when these practices which are already norms in the western world become part of our business here it will be easier for practitioners and our clients to really adopt them and use them, these are the things we will be doing in the days ahead.

Most challenging account

Our British American Tobacco (BAT) account has been a bit challenging, because we are beginning to see a transfer of the tobacco war of America and Europe of the late 70s and the early 80s into the Nigerian environment. The unfortunate thing about the Nigerian reality as we may ask is whether they are really altruistic or mercantilists, the reality on ground is that we may ask ourselves that before the entrance of BAT into this market, were people not actually smoking and if they were, where were they getting the cigarettes from and if they were getting the cigarette what was the attitude of the government to the sales of cigarette in this economy, was it helping to develop the infrastructure? Was it helping to empower communities? Were they helping in employment? Were they helping to empower farmers? All of these were absent before the coming to the country of BAT.

But with the coming of BAT as a foreign direct investment (FDI) in response to the calls of the last administration, tobacco business has now began to be seen as a responsible business that can empower local farmers in local community where we operate, that now gives economic empowerment to trade partners and distributors, that is also giving employment to people who work for the organisation and that has been called the largest exporter in the fast moving consumer goods sector and the largest payer of taxes all within the space of five years, corporate taxes from both the excise and the value added tax perspective. In terms of operation, you may want to ask if its operation is a responsible one to which I will say yes and I will say the rule of the game should be communicated. We accept that consumption of tobacco is dangerous and we have communicated upfront, so it is a question of choice. Do we adhere to world practice in the tobacco trade? The answer is yes! Are we helping to develop the community where we operate, are we giving back to the community in terms of corporate social responsibility, are we empowering farmers and trade partners- the answer to all these is yes.

Nigeria: 47 Years Of Growth In Advertising Industry


NIGERIA’S advertising business has witnessed tremendous growth especially in recent times. Seen from the view point of agency billings and proliferation of advertising agencies and media houses, both state and private print and broadcast, the industry is indeed experiencing the best of times.

While major players in the industry have hit the billions of naira billings mark the collective billing for the industry is expected to hit the N50 billion target by the end of the year. Specifically Insight-Grey, centrespread FCB, Rosabel Leo Burnett, SO &U Saatchi and Saatchi, DDB Lagos, Lowe Hintas, Prima Garnet Ogilvy and STB McCann are among the big players in the industry that have crossed the billion naira mark. Others are working hard to reach there in no time.

The growth in the industry in recent years could be attributed to the recapitalization exercise by banks, a directive of the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria and liberalization of the telecommunication industry which broke NITEL’s monopoly thereby attracting private investments in the industry. The two key economic development engendered tremendous marketing communication activities with agencies raking in millions of naira worth advert billings.

Though the business is witnessing colossal growth, the industry, like most business sectors of the economy, had its humble beginning rooted in colonial history, advertising developmnt could be traced to abou 1928 with the birth of West African Publicity Limited. An off shoot of UAC, the company was set up to catter for the marketing activities of the colonial masters in both Nigeria and West Africa. This compny was later to transform to a full fledged advertising firm in 1929 known as Lintas with two other subsidaries newly Afromedia, the outdoor medium and Pearl/Dean, the cinema arm. With the setting up of the companies then headed by expertriates, the companies were to enjoy a monopoly for a long time to come it was not until 1950’s when other advertising agencies started to emerge on the scene. Ogilvy, Benson and Martha (OBM) and Grant were later to join the fray to form the big three in the industry.

The medium of advertising was in its infancy in those days Federal Government owned National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) where he only television stations that operated in the four regions of East, West, North and later midwest. These regions later set up their private stations pionered by the West, at Ibadan, prior to independence. In 1960 and 1962 respectively, Enugu and Kaduna followed suit. And with the creation of more regions by the General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) administration and creation of more states by both Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Ibrahim Babangida regimes, more state government-owned television and radio stations were established.

Daily Times, Express, Tribune, New Nigeria and Sketch were among the fore-runners in newspaper publishing. Some state governments also published newspapers that addressed their local audience. Two major magazines- Drum and Spear from Daily Tims stable were also at the time published.

Btween the early 1960’s and 1970, there was no spectacular development in the industry. But the promulgation of Nigeria Enterprises as promotion Decree of 1972 popularly known as Indegenization policy urshed in a new phase in the industry. The policy transformed key positions in corporate organisations to indegenes. Mr Silvester, Muoemeka was by the dictates of the policy to emerge the first indegeneous chief executive of Lintas. Lintas further empowered more Nigerians to take up the business of advertising some of whom had to leave broadcasting to embrace the new thinking.

By the later 1970’s however, two ambitious agencies, Rosabel Advertising and Insight Communication, sprang up. The coming of the two agencies which till today are still doing very well, no doubt, was a watershed in the industry of advertising in Nigeria as the agencies brought new ideas into the industry while taking creativity to a higher. Before the turn of the decade, 23 agencies had been formed.

With the steady growth in the number of practitioners and agencies arose the need for associations to be formed to advance their common interests and a regulatory body to that would regulate and standardize advertising practice. A meeting of the agencies held at Ebute Metta, Lagos in 1971 was to metamorphose into Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN) with the objective of protecting practitioners against unfavourable business. The association was later renamed Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria. As the industry continued to grow in volume of business and complexity, more and more people were attracted to the industry. The need to establish an institution to regulate advertising practice became apparent. This gave rise to the establishment of Advertising Parishioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) by Decree 55 of 1988, later renamed Act 55 of 1988 by the civilian administration on November 1989, the first meeting of the association held somewhere in Ebute-meta, Lagos finally culminated to the birth of APCON.

APCON started operation in 1990 with the employment of the pioneer registrar in the person of Dr Charles Okigbo.The era of economic restructuring and liberalization opened up the Nigerian business to global economy. Foreign investments started flowing into the economy the expatriates who once left the shores of the land due to the indigenization policy gradually returned. And with them, the boom in economy. Aside, privatization of mass communication medium in the 1990’s also witnessed the setting up of private owned media houses which are platforms for advertisement placements.

"But in the 1990’s the sector came alive. Not only that alarming and ambitions agencies such as Prima Garnet, Sotu and Casesrs sprang up, the sector began to expand beyond advertising as full services public relation firms such as the Quadrant JSP and Quest were established. Also the era witnessed the mad rush of foreign affiliations. While some agencies sought this affiliation to help boost their human capital, others just joined the bandwagon just to feel among."
As the business expanded, related services providers joined the fray to cash in on the boom. Not long after they formed themselves into association to also further heir cause and protect their interest. Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN) emerged. Not long the industry became an all corners affairs. Competition became very stiff and practitioners started adopting unwholesome means to undercut one another. Industry debt became a major issue to the extent that it attracted the attention of past federal government who encouraged the practitioners to find a way of resolving the perennial problem. Just as competition continued to get stiff, agencies did not rest on their oars as they embarked on training of their staff who will be able to meet the challenge of modern day advertising.

As creativity took centre stage, the industry witnessed a lot of innovation and creative ideas. The foreigners who started coming back brought with them standard and professional which changed the advertising landscape.Restructuring, training and brand building and creativity have taken centre stage.

Today, Nigerian advertising industry, is making efforts to ensure that they measured up to global industry practice. Affiliations also avails them of technical knowhow in the areas of creativity and training.

From deploying foreign adverts, the industry has grown to shooting their adverts locally and injecting a lot of local content in their campaigns. Consumers can now better connect with advertisements that run on their local media.

To ensure continuous improvement in creative standards, AAAN setup an annual creative awards, festival Lagos Advertising and Ideas Award (LAIF). A brainchild of the immediate past executive led by DDB Lagos Managing Director and Chief Executive, Mr Enyi Odigbo, the festival sets out to encourage the members of the association to continue to develop their creative ideas and improve creative standards in order to retain clients confidence. The second edition of the festival comes up on October, 2007. Aside local advertising festival, stakeholders are venturing outside the shores of the land to participate in international advertising festivals. Last year and this year, a number of Nigerian agencies participated in the annual Cannes Lions Advertising Festival holding in Cannes, Frances. Though they are unable to win awards, there is no gainsaying that they have gained a lot of knowledge through exposure to award winning creative and through networking.

Away from creative awards the regulatory body of advertising, APCON, is living up to expectations by the measures put in place to sanitize the industry. Of note is professionalizing the practice to ensure that qacks are reduced if not flushed out completely. Again measures are adopted to ensure practitioners operate within set advertising standards. Chairman of APCON, Mr Chris Dogwudje has said one of his cardinal objectives is to fight quackery in the industry. One major step taken towards achieving this objective was the recent notice to all agencies to settle the arrears of their practice fees by the end of last month. The council will any moment from now publish list of registered practitioners. In recognition of the role APCON plays in the industry other sectional associations sought for seats and today al stakeholders including broadcasting organisation of Nigeria (BON), Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN), Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN), Newspapers proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), the stakeholders are working together to ensure that the standard of practice in the country compares with global practice. In addition, the bodies are collaborating to ensure peaceful coexistence among them.

A key area where the stakeholders have agree to collaborate was in tackling the persistent industry debt. Over the years debt burden had threatened to tear apart the stakeholders. Recently the group took a bold step to resolve the issue.

A 13-member committee was recently appointed by APCON to seek an enduring solution to the problem that threatened to destroy the industry. Another major achievement in this area was the landmark signing or a communique by the heads of all sectorial groups to bring the debt issue to an end. Prior to this period, it had been an arduous task to get them to agree. But with this major break through, brighter days await the industry in future.

From a humble 23 membership strength in early 1970’s to its present 93 strong membership, from three big agencies to about ten presently and from a cumulative advert billings of about N20 million to projected estimate of N50 billion by the end of the year, the industry has recovered a colossal growth, in the volume of businesses, number of practitioners and in improving standards. Worth of note is the role the industry plays in job creation and branding Nigeria project. As more foreign direct investments come into the country, it is expected that in the years ahead the industry would continue to experience quantum leap.

Sourced from Daily Champion Monday, December 10, 2007

Nigeria Customs and the Re-Branding of Nigeria

By Buba Gyang Sunday, December 16, 2007

Excerpts of an address delivered by Buba Gyang, controller-general of the Nigeria Customs Service at the Guild of Editors conference in Bauchi recently

The strategic role of the Nigeria Customs Service in the economic development of the country and its ongoing reforms and modernisation must have influenced the decision to invite me to speak on this topic. While acknowledging the fact that the wealth of a nation is the fountain from where it derives its strength, it is also obviously important to note that the image of the country has a lot to do with its role and influence in a globalised economy. The Nigeria Customs Service being one of the key agencies in the management of the fiscal policies of government must strategically, functionally, operationally and attitudinally reposition itself to play this vital role using internationally acceptable practices.

In re-branding Nigeria, the public sector reforms, which started from the last administration and are being vigorously pursued by the present administration are central to the subject under consideration. The Nigeria Customs Service which is one of the public sector agencies placed in the fore of these reforms makes the choice of the topic most pertinent. My understanding of this topic is simply to speak on how far the Service has gone in its various concerted efforts at evolving a fresh image for our country. This is a country , which has been branded as being very corrupt with very high cost of doing business. The Nigeria Customres Service as weall know is one of the public sector agencies that unfortunately wear this dirty toga of corruption - rightly or wrongly. To re-brand Nigeria therefore, the Nigeria Customs Service has a major role to play.

The over-a-century long history of the service has witnessed various reforms aimed at repositioning the Service in accordance with the dictates of any particular epoch. Thus, under the current wave of re-branding Nigeria, a reform committee charged with the responsibility of making an in-dept assessment of the Nigeria Customs Service to identify key factors militating against optimal performance in the Service and making recommendations that will further reposition the service for effective and efficient service delivery was set up during the last administration. Implementation of the accepted recommendations of the Committee led to the ongoing structural and operational reforms which are invariably translating into the modernisation of service operations.

While the service is still being headed by a comptroller-general, the previous six departments each of which was headed by deputy comptroller-general are now merged into three while the former six administrative zones headed by assistant comptroller-general have been reduced to four. In the same vein, the erstwhile 53 operational area commands headed by comptrollers have been merged and reduced to 26. In this connection, a sizable number of officers and men were retired as a result of the changes. Also in conformity with the ongoing reforms in the public sector, a further down-sizing and right-sizing was carried out in line with the new scheme of service. This is more so in view of the introduction of the much talked about Information Technology which is the trend worldwide.

Thus, with the new scheme of service, only the best will henceforth remain in the service. The implementation of this scheme alongside the general reforms in the public sector has seen many of our officers and men being painfully disengaged from the service. However, the scheme provides a wide room for officers and men who aspire to rise to the highest promotion level, to develop themselves academically and technically so as to remain relevant in the scheme of things. Presently, promotion progression terminates at the assistant comptroller-general level while the positions of both the comptroller-general and deputy comptroller-general which have never been promotional positions still remain by appointment at the discretion of the President. One of the objectives of the current exercise is to ensure high quality personnel/workforce and hence high quality service delivery. This objective is being pursued vigorously.

The strategic role of the Nigeria Customs Service in the economic development of the country, more than anything else, makes modernisation of customs operations uncompromisingly imperative. Thus, in aligning with the re-branding of Nigeria, we have taken many bold steps to keep pace with emerging and developing trends in international trade. Particular attention has, therefore, been focused on major areas such as data automation and computerisation of the service operations, electronic scanning system of examination of goods, destination inspection of all imports, inter-connectivity between customs and stakeholders, training and capacity building, concession of port facilities as well as reinvigorated anti-smuggling machinery. The general objectives of these reforms are geared towards the facilitation of legitimate trade in the country, ensuring credible economic growth and hence self actualisation.

Destination Inspection of Goods:

The destination inspection of imports now reverted to by the government is neither strange nor new to the Nigeria Customs Service. For the avoidance of doubt, the term 'Destination Inspection' in customs terminology is indeed a misnomer. The concept is only correct to the extent that the goods are no longer subject to pre-shipment inspection. Within the Nigeria Customs Service context, it is nothing but the handing back to the service its core duties that deal with assessment valuation, classification and origin. This has been the practice with all customs administrations the world over until the introduction of the Pre-Shipment Inspection Scheme. Even, during that regime, the service, despite being denied its core duties, was able to prove its competence as it challenged quite a number of large sums of additional revenue usually collected as underpayment on goods that already went through the pre-shipment Inspectors as well as seizures of banned goods, which such inspection was expected to prevent. In this regard, may I state categorically that the Nigeria Customs Service is alive and responsive to its statutory obligations at all times despite the fact that the scheme denied the service of developing capacity through training in those core areas.

Since its reintroduction, the Service accepts the success of destination inspection as very crucial to the re-branding of Nigeria project. Hence, various strategies have been mapped out and introduced to ensure a resounding success in guaranteeing legitimate trade facilitation using international best practices. Some of these include, erecting DTI cyber-cafes for use of traders/agents who are yet to automate their offices for online documentation, the simplification of Customs processes and procedures and introduction of fast track clearing as well as risk assessment and management techniques. We are not unmindful of risks associated with fast track clearing hence our determination to strengthen the risk management mechanism to cope with such risks. The newly instituted risk management team is working closely with the service providers who are also building their capacities for optimal performance while legitimate trade facilitation is a task that must be achieved. The service is conscious of issues that border on security. Consequently, we have decided to strike a functional balance between facilitation and security for maximum effect.

Still on the re-branding project, the government has concessioned out the nation's seaports to private operators. Most of these ports which were built for handling bulk cargo and transit shed system of the then international trading order, still maintain the status quo in spite of the shift to modern cargo containerisation system of trading. The concessioners have now opened up the ports for container traffic and created open stacking space as a result of the demolition of the obsolete transit sheds. The ports are strategically equipped to take in more cargo traffic thus eliminating the usual congestion of the past, while enhancing speedy clearance and movements of cargo within the spot. That is not to say that all is well now. In actual fact, the concessioners need to redouble their development pace in order to justify the confidence reposed in them.

ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS:

This Scheme has collapsed all Customs barrier to legitimate regional trade in goods and services wholly or substantially produced within the sub-region. This is the exclusion of goods and services wholly or substantially produced in third world countries, the purpose is to address fundamental issues of developing the productive sector of the regional economies, employment and integration. After all, it is a well-known fact that with importation from third countries, we pay for the labour of the youths of those countries while ours languish in unemployment.

Anti-Smuggling Campaign

Notwithstanding the cancellation of the pre-shipment inspection scheme which was attributed to some of the smuggling activities of that time, as a result of some impatient traders who were cutting corners to avoid the cumbersome process of the scheme, we are not unmindful of some hardened smugglers who rather than take advantage of the reversal to destination inspection would prefer to take undue advantage of the extensively porous expanse of land that constitutes our borderlines to smuggle. Combating smuggling which is one of our main statutory duties is of utmost interest to us and we are determined to leave no stone unturned in ensuring unqualified success. Thus, our reinvigorated anti-smuggling onslaught is poised towards a total war on the suppression of smuggling activities by whatever medium of perpetration. With air surveillance being added to our anti-smuggling offensives, it is our resolve to ensure that any perpetrator of smuggling activities be made to realise how highly unprofitable and difficult the illegal business can be. Our records of interception of smugglers and their goods year-in-year- out is a clear evidence of our resolve on this matter. Apart from the ordinary goods, we are also not relenting in our secondary duty on security items such as arms and ammunition as well as dangerous drugs. Thus, seizures of such items are always promptly transferred to the concerned agency of government.


The Nigeria Customs Service is fully conscious of its responsibilities and will strive to remain an important player not only in the re-branding of Nigeria, but also in the world economic integration process. It is in view of this that we have not lost sight of the challenges associated with the need for expediting simplification of customs procedures, expansion of the introduced fast track clearance, improvement of the risk assessment and management techniques, further improvement and implementation of a software solution that will meet the requirements of a modern customs organisation, mobilisation for attitudinal change and advanced personnel skills development. While we are resolute on these challenges, it is, however, important to mention at this juncture that the responsibility of cargo clearance operation, albeit the implementation of import procedure in general, goes beyond the purview of the Nigeria Customs Service only. There are other stakeholders without whose cooperation, the attainment of the desired goal of re-branding Nigeria shall remain a dream rather than reality.

On the whole, nothing has challenged the integrity of the service more than the vexed question of corruption. It is very unfortunate that it has beclouded public appreciation of the successful performance of the service in many aspects. As you are well aware, we are faced with multi-dimensional attitudinal problems. It begins with us as officers, then the trading public, the licensed customs agents and other regulatory agencies in the trade facilitation business. Therefore, we must all brace-up for meaningful results in our efforts to facilitate international trade. With a positive change in attitude, compliance and automation of procedures, every tendency for corrupt practice will naturally be frustrated.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Intercontinental Bank Rebrands

New Identity for the Biggest Bank

By Sebastine Obasi Sunday, November 25, 2007

Intercontinental Bank rebrands itself in line with its vision to play a leading role in the banking industry. Intercontinental Bank PLC is determined to be a major global player in the banking industry. As part of measures to actualise this vision, the bank last week unveiled a new corporate identity tagged, "Good to Great." The new corporate logo has the hexagon as its primary identity icon with dominant colours of blue and yellow.

At the unveiling ceremony, Erastus Akingbola, group chief executive officer of the bank, stated that the hexagon represents the six continents of the world where the bank wants its presence to be felt.According to him, it is in line with the bank's new vision of being number one in Nigeria, number one in Africa and among the world's top 100 banks. "Our new identity represents the stronger and more dominant role the bank now plays in the global banking landscape. This rebranding is orchestrated by a strong drive and commitment to insightful partnership with our customers and other stakeholders," he said. According to Akingbola, the rebranding was underscored by the need to be more visible and bold in reshaping the Intercontinental Bank brand in the eyes of the public.

He further explained that with the rebranding, Intercontinental Bank would raise the bar of customer service, continually delight customers with services and products and consistently guarantee customers' safety and personalised service. "Our promise to the investors is that we are ready to re-enact the impressive performance that has made us to stand out in the banking industry," he said.

He pointed out that the bank believes in creating and sustaining happiness for its customers, hence it is constantly raising its services to meet the needs and expectations of its increasing, discerning customers and other stakeholders. The hexagon, he added symbolises the bank's foremost attributes and strength, which are in the power of its relationship with customers and stakeholders. He highlighted other attributes of the brand as safety, stability, visionary originality and being responsive.

Raymond Obieri, chairman of the bank, said the nation's banking industry was on the threshold of a new revolution, global competition and partnership. This means that in the new dispensation, only the bank that is a compelling brand on a global scale, one with a strong financial muscle and outstanding managerial competence will compete effectively. "Our vision is to enthrone a truly world class and Intercontinental Bank with presence in all the continents of the world," he said, adding, "The new identity will help position the brand in good stead for global competition."

The chairman further explained that the bank has embarked on a bold global expansion strategy that will project it to be a major global bank in the near future. In that regard, Intercontinental is operating a five-brand offshore subsidiary bank in Ghana. It equally plans to open more subsidiary banks in Africa and leading business centers of the world soon. "Our growth is primed at further enhancing our reputation for outstanding financial performance, excellent customer service delivery and leadership of the banking industry," Obieri said.

Intercontinental Bank is one of Nigeria's biggest banks by capital, the fifth biggest bank in Africa and the only Nigerian bank among the world 500 banks. According to the Banker Magazine a subsidiary of Financial Times of London, Intercontinental is the second fastest growing bank in the world currently. It has a shareholders fund of N177 billion, a network of 300 branches and total asset base of N8.18 billion. It started operation in 1989 as Nigerian Intercontinental Merchant Bank.

culled from Newswatch magazine

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

FBN Capital Ltd Launch Heritage Fund

FBN Capital Limited, the wholly owned 'investment banking' subsidiary of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, (Nigeria's largest bank by assets) yesterday launched on behalf of the First Bank Group, the FBN Heritage Fund, an open-ended mutual fund investment product. The fund would be the largest fund from initial launch in the history of the country. It is balanced in its asset allocation structure, and has the objective of providing optimum risk-adjusted returns to prospective investors. The economic reforms, deepening of the Nigerian Capital market and increased market sophistication have created an impetus for financial products diversification. An extension to this, is the increased, and growing demand for professional management of portfolios and expertise in the delivery of services to ever discerning investors.

The Fund is the first among a series of Funds to be launched by the Group to satisfy demand for new and varied products and services by the investing public. ‘’Our long-range plan is to roll out specialist Funds and sector Funds to sustain the interest of every class of investor’’ Managing Director of FBN Capital Bayo Adeleke said at the formal launch of the investment fund held at The City Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. The event was attended by the Oba of Lagos, Rilwanu Akiolu 1, financial analysts, chief executives of blue chip firms including Bismark Rewane, Ayo Teriba and Akin Adesokan, the Managing Director of Dangote Cement. First Bank Group says it has remained focused on its strategic vision to be a 'world- class financial supermarket' with the mission to deliver a full range of first class banking and financial products. ‘’With the launch of FBN Heritage Fund, our retail and wholesale customers and indeed the investing public at large would enjoy access to an investment product across our extensive network’’ Adeleke said.

FBN Heritage Fund is an open-ended mutual fund with initial tranche of 50,000,000 units being offered at par, at N100 per unit. The fund is balanced in its asset allocation structure and will invest proceeds between the ranges of 50-65% in stocks; 15-25% in quality fixed income instruments (bonds); 5-10% in money market instruments and maximum of 5% in real estate investments. The expense ratio is therefore projected to be among the least. The primary objective of the fund is to return through a combination of growth and income. Accordingly, the fund aims to achieve long term capital appreciation of its assets through investment in a portfolio mix of high quality equity securities quoted on the stock exchange and in other investments approved by the commission. The fund seeks to achieve its stated objective of long term capital appreciation of its assets by investing he the following instruments including high quality quoted stocks on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, fixed income instruments, Money Market Instruments, real estate investment and securities and other securities specified under the trustees act as well as other securities approved by the fund manage in conjunction with the trustee and he commission. Asset Classes are as follows: Equity 50-65%, Fixed income 15-25%, Money market 5- 10%, Real estate 0-5%.

FBN Capital boss, Adeleke says an investment in the fund will provide the opportunity to spread investment risks over carefully selected securities. ‘’It will guarantees good returns from holding securities for numerous issuers, which may not otherwise be available in significant quantities, to individual investors’’. Adeleke went on further: ‘’The fund is primarily aimed at investors who have a long term investment perspective and it also welcomes participation from other foreign and non resident investors and the fund manager will assist non resident investors to facilitate the remittance of the net proceeds arising from a foreign currency investment in the fund a the point of divestment’’.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Oceanic Emerges Most Capitalised Bank in Nigeria

With public offer proceeds of N175 billion, Oceanic Bank International Plc is now the most capitalised bank in Nigeria. Oceanic Bank's initial capital base of N38 billion in addition to its public offer proceeds (N175 billion) has now raised the bank's shareholders funds significantly to N213 billion, representing a growth rate of 461 per cent. The closet bank to Oceanic Bank is Intercontinental Bank Plc, which has a shareholders' fund of N177 billion.

Oceanic Bank's recently concluded public offer was oversubscribed by 215 Per cent. With this development, the bank has now emerged the largest bank in Nigeria by capital base and is projected to be the first Nigerian bank to cross the $2 billion capital base. The bank's capital base is expected to be over N220 billion when the results of its 2007 financial year are announced next month.

In effect, this quantum leap in capital will further consolidate the bank's position in the management of the country's foreign reserve. The public offer, according to the bank, was undertaken to give investors opportunity of being part of the bank, increase its capital base as well as working capital, invest heavily on information technology, and to increase its branch network locally and offshore.

Photo : Cecilia Ibru welcoming guests at an Oceanic Bank event in Lagos recently.

With the increased capitalisation, the Managing Director and Chief Executive of the bank, Dr. (Mrs.) Cecilia Ibru, said the bank would be a global player in various corporate and investment banking related services.

As the winner of various real sectors financing awards ranging from small and medium scale and top tier companies, Oceanic Bank has good understanding of business dynamics of medium to Mega Corporation towards contributing to their growth with its array of financial solutions. She assured that the bank would continue to optimise its resources to expand and deepen its participation in the real sector of the economy as well as give adequate returns on shareholders investments.

Ibru during the offer projected a profit of N18.9 billion for the bank in 2007, N24.9 billion in 2008 and N28.6 billion in 2009. The bank also projected a dividend of 56 kobo in 2007, 58 kobo in 2008 and 67 kobo in 2009. Analysts however described the bank's projections as grossly conservative, noting that the bank would significantly surpass the projections going by its nine months results. The bank for the nine months grossed N46 billion made a profit before tax (PBT) of N16.2 billion and a profit after tax of (PAT) rose by 54 per cent to N13.4 billion per cent as against the preceding year's N8.7 billion.

Capital market analysts are of the view that since the bank went to the capital market in 2004 to raise funds, its story and that of the investors have changed for good. Aside an enhanced financial performance that made it close 2006 as the third most profitable financial institution and the fifth largest bank in Nigeria, the bank's high rate of returns on investment has been highly commended.

It would be recalled that the bank gave a dividend of 42 kobo for the 2006 financial year as well as a surprise bonus issue of one for every four shares held. This was insignificant when compared with the capital appreciation gained by the investors. Since the end of the public offer (which was sold for N16.50 per share), the bank's stock has continued to increase in value. As at the close of trading last week, Oceanic stock closed at N30.36 per share, a significant increase of 85 per cent.

Chairman of the bank, Apostle Hayford Alile, had also during the public offer assured investors that the bank would enhance their wealth through consistent dividend, bonus and also capital appreciation. In the last three years, the bank has effectively shown resilience as one of the strongest banks in Nigeria going by the comparative analysis with the industry performance. The bank has posted excellence performance on virtually all indices. The growth rate of its capital base for the reviewed period is 461 per cent compared to the industry's 178 percent, exhibiting rare financial soundness and ability to transact high volume businesses.

Besides, the bank's aggressive deposits mobilisation is another driving force for its performance. Going by the industry average deposit growth rate for the period, which is 101 percent, Oceanic grew thrice more than the industry by posting 399 percent growth. This confirms the bank's ability to generate deposits to fund its banking business more than any bank in Nigeria and to meet financial obligations as they come due.
With each passing year, the bank has recorded tremendous growth, making it the fifth largest bank in the country and the third most profitable financial institution as at the end of 2006 financial year.

The bank's performance so far in the last three quarters has shown clearly that it would exceed its targets and set a standard in the industry. It is clear from the performance that the bank's vision of becoming the most dominant financial institution in the industry in terms of profitability and excellent service delivery is also realisable.

Sourced from This Day newspaper (Lagos) 8 October 2007

Click here for pictures and report from the Oceanic Bank July 2007 International Breakfast meeting themed : What The World Expects From Nigeria, Post 2007.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Place Branding In Nigerian Perspective

Bethel Obioma of Business Day Newspaper in conversation with Uche Nworah, senior lecturer in marketing communications at The London Metropolitan Business School and publisher of on the state of branding in Nigeria.

BO: How would you rate the status of brand Nigeria Today?

UN: Brand Nigeria is currently an underperforming brand; it could be classified as a question mark/problem child on the Boston Matrix. Because of Brand Nigeria’s huge potentials and promise, further patience is required by all including Brand Nigeria’s managers and its various stakeholders.

Photo left: Uche Nworah

There is also a need for further and continued investments in the brand. Although Brand Nigeria is an overdue adult, but still, as a problem child, it has to be nurtured to the point where all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria would be truly proud.

Despite the challenges, the beauty of Brand Nigeria lies in its great potentials, Nigerians and foreign investors all know this which is why despite our constant wobbly steps, people are still reluctant to write it off because they know that if only the sleeping giant could wake up from its slumber, economic opportunities and prosperity would spread easily and fast.

With all the reforms of the Obasanjo government in the financial services and other sectors, we can see that economic activities have actually increased; we now see more foreign companies and global investors pitching their tent in various economic sectors, especially in the thriving telecommunications and financial sectors. Who would have thought that MTN could reach a subscriber base of over 13 million in Nigeria within 6 years? Using the MTN case study, one can safely argue that potentially Brand Nigeria could be a cash cow for other investors who chose to ignore its imperfections, and focus on its potentials and opportunities.

These are all positive signs, and hopefully the trend will continue, it is good for everybody, such activities attract further foreign investors into the economy and in the long term will greatly impact positively on the image of Brand Nigeria. At the moment FDIs into Nigeria stands at about $5 billion, according to figures released by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), while this figure pales to that of South Africa which earned the most in the whole of Africa (51%) over the same period, but it is actually not bad considering that Brand Nigeria was still considered a no-go territory a few years back when it was largely regarded as a pariah state in the west.

BO: How does brand Nigeria affect the performance of Nigerian brands globally?

UN: The negative perception of Brand Nigeria used to be a major drawback for Nigerian citizens and businesses in the global community. Nigerian citizens have at different times fallen victims to such misconceptions, we are treated shabbily by immigration officers at international airports, genuine Nigerian businesses have missed out on lucrative business deals with foreign companies as a result of Brand Nigeria’s 419 baggage, social, political unrests and other issues. It has been a huge burden to bear but at the same time, one can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

If you go on the British Airways website, in their country guide section, they described or rather qualified Nigeria as being chaotic and even a little dangerous. They called Nigeria a challenging destination, while these comments may be hurtful, unfortunately they are the truth.

Photo left: BA Country guide on Nigeria

This is just an example of some of the baggage slowing down Brand Nigeria’s progress. Think about what potential visitors to Nigeria will say when they read such comments on BA’s website and on other websites. On the positive side, the BA website describes Nigerians as colourful and hospitable people. Remember also that Nigerians were declared as the happiest people on earth in worldwide poll a few years ago.

Recently, Nigerian banks such as UBA PLC, GTBank and a few other ones have been active in the international funds and bonds market, and the fact that there were western financial institutions willing to trust and partner with them in this area that is quite new to the Nigerian financial industry shows that the level of confidence the west have in Brand Nigeria is indeed increasing. It is early days still, but such deals that have already been done by these banks could trigger further deals and activities in the financial as well as other sectors.

The deals also provide immense opportunities for some of these Nigerian bank brands to grow beyond the Nigerian borders and be recognised as strong and viable financial institutions. UBA PLC recently relocated its New York office to a more central business district, Zenith Bank has recently opened an office in London with GTBank scheduled to follow suit. FCMB has also announced that it will establish a representative office at Prince George County in the United States of America as part of its offshore expansion programme. These are all good signs and I can tell you that they are exciting times as well for Brand Nigeria and those associated with it.

BO: What is the best approach to repositioning brand Nigeria both in the minds of Nigerians and foreigners?

UN: There is no such thing as a best approach in our present circumstances, what we have to do is to adopt incremental approaches to the issue of repositioning brand Nigeria. When Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu (the former minister of information) launched the Nigeria Image Project, I sent him a position paper. At the time, I commended his thinking but at the same time warned that he was placing the cart before the horse.

The thrust of his strategy was media-based, asking known Nigerians such as Sade Adu, Akeem Olajuwon, Augustine Jay-Jay Okocha to feature in testimonial ads for Brand Nigeria in CNN, FT and other international media could have been likened to nothing but whitewashing, such public relations strategies are not sustainable in the long run, especially if the facts on the ground fail to sustain the interest and hype generated by the campaigns.

You can not run a national repositioning or rebranding campaign without carrying the citizens along, anybody advising otherwise is nothing but a rogue fly-by-night consultant. I told Frank Nweke who succeeded Chikelu at the ministry of information the same thing after I saw Alder Consulting’s strategy document on rebranding Nigeria. The strategies outlined looked good on paper but I took up issues with Nweke not only on the name change but also on the viability and timing.

Regarding the name change from Nigeria Image Project to the Heart of Africa project, I told Nweke that it was a ludicrous idea because Uganda, Libya and a few other African countries had in the past laid claim to the same phrase; I didn’t see the need to start selling Brand Nigeria as the heart of Africa when it is not, such a strategy confuses Brand Nigeria with other African countries which have made similar claims of being the heart of Africa in the past. This was not original thinking and does not in any way add value to Brand Nigeria’s image.

There are still fundamental issues in the polity that requires government attention before such a programme should be rolled out. Nigerians largely do not trust their government at the three levels hence the low patriotic zeal we show, corruption is ripe, unemployment is high, electricity is epileptic, transport and roads are almost non-existent, and the Niger Delta issue remains like a festering sore. Recently The NOI/Gallup polls showed that 92% of Nigerians are seriously concerned about the Niger delta issue. We can not be talking about nation branding and repositioning when our backyard is burning, daily news of kidnappings and unrests in the region are very damaging to the image of Brand Nigeria and may potentially undermine the little gains made so far in the sectors I mentioned earlier, as such huge threats to security of lives and investments play a key role in influencing investors’ decisions.

It is indeed a huge expectation from the government if they thought that Nigerians who are hungry will happily sing along with them as the various Heart of Africa project jingles come on air. This is not what nation branding is about.

Such a repositioning programme must start with the government putting its house in order, after all one does not invite visitors for a feast without first cleaning the house. The thrust of the programme should revolve around the area of internal orientation first before launching the external part. If you succeed with the internal part through sincerity in government and active citizens’ involvement, then the external part becomes easier because Nigerians would then feel proud to sell their countries to foreigners.

This would be quite easy because a recent report by Rena Singer of the Christian Science Monitor claims that about 12 million Nigerians live abroad, not all these Nigerians think positively about Brand Nigeria, imagine a situation where the government could convince these diasporas to change their thinking and get them to start representing their country where ever they are in a much more positive light, that would beat any CNN commercial as attempted by Obasanjo. The government should first sell Nigeria to Nigerians, if Nigerians can adopt Nigeria as their own brand, then the rest would be easy.

I was indeed surprised by an email I received from a potential respondent to an online research I conducted with some Nigerian professionals in the diaspora sometime in 2005. The gentleman who is a professor in an American college politely declined to participate in the online survey, and gave me reasons why he did not want to take part. He said that he no longer considered himself a Nigerian and has since lost interest in Nigerian affairs and listed a catalogue of his grudges against Brand Nigeria. There are many more like him.

Like they say, action speaks louder than words; there is no better way to convince foreigners to adopt Brand Nigeria as a favourite destination for tourism, trade and investment than through running a people oriented government, investing massively in infrastructure and increasing capacity and opportunities for citizens to thrive, this will reduce crime and re-focus people’s energies into more productive areas.

BO: In terms of economic value, how much have we lost to the negative perception about Nigeria and how much could be in the offing if our image improves?

UN: It would be difficult to put a definite figure to what Brand Nigeria has lost as a result of internal and external negative perceptions, anyone quoting hundreds of billions of dollars may not be far wrong.

We’ve got to understand also that not only has the poor image affected foreign direct investments (FDIs), but it has also limited inward direct investments (IDIs), poor enabling environment has seen Nigerians take their capital to neighbouring African countries where the infrastructures are much better and the costs of running business much lower.

We have to understand that we are now in direct competition with countries like Ghana and South Africa who remain the major beneficiaries of capital flight out of Nigeria by Nigerians. The jobs being created by Nigerian entrepreneurs in these countries could have been created in Nigeria for Nigerians, the taxes they pay could have been paid to the Nigerian government, so while chasing foreign investors we have to also ensure that we have the right environment supporting our indigenous entrepreneurs and see that they are not leaving. Take for example the way the federal government handled the SLOK Airlines issue, SLOK is now a successful regional carrier in neighbouring African countries and has even been adopted as the national airline of Gambia.

Otunba Michael Balogun of Globacom also suffered from such harsh political decisions in 2006 as his company had to relocate some of their operations to Ghana when the EFCC harassment became unbearable, at the same time we read a report that Globacom was planning to foray into India. While it is good for Nigerian brands to seek greener pastures and financial conquests abroad, however one would have expected that such companies would be encouraged to take advantage of the limitless opportunities that abound in the local Nigerian market, but we shouldn’t really blame indigenous entrepreneurs if they decide to broaden their outlook especially if they feel suffocated by the actions and inactions of the government, and the stifling business environment.

Obviously as the image of Brand Nigeria improves, and the economy really opens up in several other non-oil sectors, it would be safe to guess that Brand Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Product (GNP) would increase tremendously and would inch closer to those of some European countries, and may even surpass that of South Africa which at present stands at about $576.4 billion (purchasing power parity) compared to Brand Nigeria’s current GDP of $188.5 billion (purchasing power parity).

BO: What should be the roles of Nigerian leaders and other Nigerians in the rebranding project?

UN: We have to understand that rebranding a nation is a continuous process rather than a destination. Due to the dynamic nature of international tourism and investments, countries, cities and regions constantly rise and fall in their ability to attract tourists and FDIs. People will always seek out where their dollar or pound spend would give them much more value, for example people may flock to the beaches of Mallorca today, tomorrow they may move to Malta and next tomorrow it may be Barbados.

The same happens to investment capital, in the late eighties the Asian tiger economies held the most attraction for international investors because of the huge returns on investments, but today eastern European countries predicted to be the fastest growing economies are now increasingly favourite investment destinations.

The Nigerian government and its people should first understand that there is global competition for investments and tourism dollars, this is not about sentiments. It does not matter the number of adverts we take out on the pages of the Financial Times plugging Nigeria, people who make the decisions simply will place such adverts into context with the facts on the ground, and then compare the critical decision factors such as security, stability, infrastructural development and returns on investments (ROI) against those of competing countries.

The onus really is on the Yar’Adua government to lead the way, Nigerians are indeed good followers but we need good leaders to bring out the best in us. The new government should show honesty, sincerity and compassion in all their actions, if Nigerians can sense a real desire in the government, then they may follow suit in turning the bend. Convincing Nigerians to tag along for the ride won’t be so much a problem and in so doing the government would have achieved their internal re-orientation objectives. There is no sense in asking people to be honest and not to take or give bribes when they see the same government officials chastising them doing the same thing, it can not work like that because baby goats learn how to chew chord from their mother. Take for example the news coming out of the Federal House of Representatives over the past weeks, the ‘Ettehgate’ and the rumble amongst honourable members in the house, these are disheartening tales.

Rebranding Nigeria shouldn’t just be in the pages of newspapers or on CNN like we saw Obasanjo try to pull off in that infamous CNN debacle. Governments at the three tiers should show the people that they really mean business, genuine efforts at national reconciliation and healing should be made, and every Nigerian should be made to feel that they really have a stake in a united, peaceful and democratic Nigeria. The charade that reportedly took place during the April 2007 general elections has not helped matters either; it has instead increased people’s mistrust of government and its institutions.

All those clamouring for separation from Nigeria are only doing so because of the perceived injustices in the system which the government is not really trying to address, despite the experiences of the Nigeria/Biafra civil war, the causes of which are still evident, one is really surprised at the lackadaisical manner the Niger delta issue is being handled.

During the PDP presidential campaign in the run up to the April 2007 elections, President Obasanjo accepted that there has been neglect of the region at both the federal, state, local governments and at oil companies levels, but disappointingly did not give any indication of any sustained strategy at addressing the issues and concerns of the militants. A Marshall plan for the region at this point is imperative, constructing bridges all over the region as the government is proposing would have hardly addressed other core issues, neither has the billions of naira poured into the NDDC annually yielded much results, we can see that something is not quite right somewhere. A dancer should learn to change his steps to the change of the beats.

How can a government dependent on oil go to sleep every night when its chief source of revenue is constantly under serious threat? Such ‘I don’t care’ attitude really makes the job of repositioning and rebranding Nigeria a tough one because how does one start telling the militants to lay down their arms and embrace peace when the issues at the heart of their campaign have not been addressed? Gas flaring and oil spillages still continue in the region causing environmental degradation, waters are polluted, farmlands wasted and people’s source of livelihood permanently destroyed, how can you speak the grammar of nation branding to such a people?

Brand Nigeria must heal first, starting from the top, and maybe then the people would wholeheartedly tag along for the journey, anything other than this is just plain talk, and talk we know is cheap, very cheap.

BO: Can you critically appraise the Heart of Africa project?

UN: The concept of nation branding is potentially beneficial to countries that understand and apply it the way it should. It has benefited some countries that have implemented it and which still do. There is a seminal work on this by Eugene D. Jaffe and Israel D. Nebenzahl in their book - National Image and Competitive Advantage: The Theory and Practice of Place Branding.

Uganda was able to refocus its citizens and also win some sympathy in the international community following the Idi Amin era with its Gifted By Nature campaign, the state of New York has been very effective with its I Love New York campaign, successive mayors have through various policies helped to reduce crime and increase the profile of the Big Apple state as an international shopping and business centre. The United Kingdom through its UK: OK campaign is helping change the image of the United Kingdom from that of a conservative and dour European country to that of a vibrant, stable and democratic country.

South Africa was able to rise beyond the ashes of apartheid which clouded its past, buoyed by a government determined at driving the economy forward and reconciling South Africans, they launched the Proudly South African campaign which has indeed paid dividends, but the interesting thing is that their campaign wasn’t just only gimmickry, there were real efforts in the social, economic and political system to move the country forward. They established the Desmond Tutu - chaired Truth Commission which helped in the healing process.

Surprisingly, Brand Nigeria blew its own opportunity with the Oputa - chaired Human Rights commission which could have kick started our own healing process. They say that fish rots from the head, many people are still walking around Nigeria aggrieved because there has been no closure to the sad past visited upon Nigerians by previous brutal and wasteful military regimes.

Such beclouding shadows actually make the Heart of Africa project in its present form a doomed adventure.

BO: What should business organisations be concerned about most in their quest to build their brands

UN: To build a brand, you require a thorough understanding of the principles of branding, a brand in itself is doomed if it has no soul and fails to connect to the target users or stakeholders of the brand, do your customers wear your lovemarks proudly? Does your brand excite them?

You must know your brand inside out, its weaknesses and strengths, the brand opportunities and threats it faces. Every marketer should know the DNA of their brands which stands for the brand’s distinctiveness, novelty and attributes.

Brand building is a process; it is something that requires care and attention. You must see your brand like a baby and babies should be nurtured round the clock. Your brand is your most valuable asset and you must guard and defend it jealously. Who would have thought that a company with zero name recognition 10 years ago will now top the list of top 100 global brands now, but google has demonstrated that in today’s global business world, only brands that stay the branding course survive and add value to shareholder investments while also satisfying other stakeholders.

Organisations should move away from thinking just in terms of products, such approach is limiting and does not take into consideration the total picture. Everything is about image in today’s economy, you must not only be seen to be the maker of top quality products and services, but you must hype what you do as well. We have a different type of customer today, they are sophisticated, educated and in a hurry. It is the reality television generation, hence brands which fail to stand intense public scrutiny in their life cycle fall by the way side.

Marketers who still think Product Life Cycle (PLC) rather than Brand Life Cycle (BLC) may soon be extinct, the phrase ‘innovate or die’ is already a reality. This should have been the fate of PHCN, NITEL, Nigerian Railways Corporation and other such corporations whose continued existence despite their poor showings is only through the mercy of the Nigerian government and tax payers’ naira. When the Nigerian economy finally opens up, I doubt if we will still have such wasteful brands around.

You can see what MTN is doing in the telecommunications industry; theirs could be described as nothing but a brand revolution in Nigeria. You can not fault their aggressive branding philosophy; Globacom is doing well too, likewise GTBank, UBA, Oceanic Bank, ThisDay and Silverbird which are gradually evolving as strong and viable Nigerian brands.

BO: Tourism plays a great role in the branding of nations. How can Nigeria take advantage of this sector?

UN: To answer this question, I will suggest that you take a drive around 4 PM from Oshodi to the airport and tell me what your impressions are. Is this the type of impression you will like first time visitors to have about you? On coming back through the same route at night, if you were a tourist, the first thing that will hit you is the enveloping darkness around you as you drive through the airport road, this may trigger a feeling of doom inside you. But it is not supposed to be so, our first impressions of a country start form from the airport, from the kind of reception we receive from security and other agencies, from the drive into the city etc. Recall that Tuface Idiaba, the Nigerian artist was short by unknown assailants recently along that dark road on his way from the Murtala Mohammed international airport. There may be hope though judging by comments about the newly opened local wing of the airport. Such world class facilities should also be extended to the international wing.

Despite my long years of living abroad, I was stilled bowled over recently when I attended a conference in Munich. The Franz Joseph Strauss international airport was simply breathtaking, and was built to impress visitors and tourists. We really have to modernise our airports and increase capacities as well.

To attract tourism, we should also make our beaches usable, the kinds of things that go on in our local beaches at night may even scare the most adventurous tourists, there is no security at night so even the few tourists that come here end up being holed up in their hotel rooms at night.

Though Brand Nigeria is blessed with beaches, but we have to also harness other tourist attractions such as what Donald Duke has done with the Tinapa project. Each of the states is endowed with different natural resources, we hear about Olumo rock, Ogbunike cave, Nike Lake, Oguta Lake Etc. What are the conditions of these sites? Are they well maintained? And are the state governments actively marketing them using Nigerian embassies abroad?

BO: What do you think the future of branding will be in Nigeria?

UN: The future of branding in Nigeria is bright definitely; there are some upcoming marketing communications agencies and practitioners doing great things in Nigeria. Leke Alder of Alder Consulting sure is doing his best to improve branding practice in Nigeria; I also admire Udeme Ufot of SO & U Saatchi & Saatchi who is a bit like a bridge between the old guard and the new guard. There are also the likes of Charles O’tudor, Dr. Phil Osagie, George Thorpe and the rest of them.

The major challenge for marketing professionals is their ability to make that transition in thinking and embrace the new branding paradigm. In the days of Biodun Shobanjo (Insight Grey), May Nzeribe (Sunrise D’Arcy) and the rest of the old guard, practitioners only thought of advertising and later integrated marketing communications, but this is now the era of brands and branding, only agencies who are able to see the total picture will survive.

I believe that with the internet and the emerging technological applications, marketing communications professionals now have the opportunity to increase their services to clients, and bridge the knowledge gap with their counterparts in the west. We must be able to exploit the benefits of the global village concept by accessing branding know-how on the internet which would reinforce our practice.

Emphasis should be placed on new talent development, as well as on staff training and skills upgrading. Branding should be a key feature of the business curriculum in our universities. I believe that if we can help our clients’ brands to do well in the market and thus increase the clients’ bottom line, then the clients will in turn adequately compensate us for our services.

We are not at this stage yet in Nigeria but sooner rather than later, there will be an expectation from marketing and branding professionals in Nigeria to show how their professional practice contributes to the S.E.E (social, economic and environmental)
Triple bottom line, are we ready for this yet?

Bethel Obioma (

Uche Nworah (

October 2007.

FCMB To Open Office In U.S

By Moses Obajemu (This Day Newspaper)

First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Plc is to establish a representative office at Prince George County in the United States of America as part of its offshore expansion programme.
The board of the bank signed an agreement to this effect on October 3 in Lagos with the George County's Chief Executive, Jack B. Johnson who led a delegation of American businessmen to the country last week.

A statement issued by Johnson on Friday said the agreement pledged to bring a subsidiary or affiliate of the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) of Nigeria to Prince George's County .
"During the past week traveling throughout Nigeria , we have seen abundant opportunities, and FCMB symbolizesthem", Johnson said in a statement. "This is potentially a great deal from the people of Nigeria , as well as people in our country."

The 10-point agreement also outlined ways for Prince George's and Nigeria to encourage tourism and trade between them. The Head of Corporate Communications and Brand Management of FCMB, Mr. Tunde Shofowora, confirmed the existence of the agreement.
He, however, said the implementation of the agreement would be informed by the bank's business strategy and need to optimise the stakeholders' value as well as returns on investment.
FCMB is currently on the verge of raising the sum of N100 billion from the capital market and the international investment community. The bank hopes to raise N40 billion locally while the balance of N60 billion will be alloted to foreign investors.

The bank posted a profit of N7.5 billion in the 2006/2007 financial year which ended on March 31, and has continued to attract offshore funds as a result of the prospects for good returns symbolised by the growth in all its performance indicators.

sourced from This Day newspaper (October 6th 2007)

Friday, 5 October 2007

Yar’Adua Engages American Lobbyists

From Constance Ikokwu in Washington DC with agency reports, 05.10.2007

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has engaged lobbyists in the United States to project the image of his government in that country, THISDAY can now reveal.It was learnt yesterday that the Federal Government signed a deal with a consultancy firm in the US in a bid to win global support for his administration in the face of allegations of irregularities trailing his election.According to records the US Justice Department posted online, Watts Consulting Group has signed a preliminary contract with the new government of President Yar’Adua in the hopes of inking a longer-term deal.

Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also engaged lobbyists in the US for the eight years he was in power.Goodworks International, a firm owned by former US ambassador to Nigeria, Andrew Young, who had long-standing relationship with Obasanjo, was the former president’s lobbyist in that country.The contract with Good-works International ended last month.

According to, "The call just came out of the blue," a senior partner at J.C. Watts Companies, Steve Pruitt, said of the new deal with Yar’Adua’s government. Pruitt was invited to New York to meet with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. Watts Consulting Group is a subsidiary of J.C. Watts Companies, named for the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Goodworks plans to work with the Yar’Adua government as well, according to the firm's chief operating officer, Wallace Ford.Its contract is up for renewal and a new proposal has been forwarded to President Yar'Adua for approval.

The African continent continues to have a solid lobbying presence in US through a variety of agreements between various countries and top firms. Ford said Goodworks has opened up branch offices in Angola, Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda during the past two years. The April 2007 elections in Nigeria have led to a lobbying battle between opposing factions in Washington.Several candidates, including former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who contested the presidential election on the platform of Action Congress (AC) and former head of state and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate in that election, Major-General Muham-madu Buhari, have complained of vote fraud in favour of President Yar'Adua.Atiku and Buhari and a few other candidates in that election are at present at the election tribunal challenging Yar’Adua’s victory.

J.C. Watts’s firm has also lobbied for the former vice president in the past. Pruitt, a former Democratic staff director for the House Budget Committee, credited his long-standing ties to Nigerian officials for the contract. Having lobbied on and off for the Federal Government during the past two decades, Pruitt was very familiar with Maduekwe.It was gathered that as a young government aide 15 years ago, the foreign minister allowed Pruitt to make international calls to his daughter in the U.S. while the lobbyist was in Africa. "I consider him an old and dear friend," Pruitt said. Still "in the midst of ongoing negotiations," according to the contract filed with the Justice Department, the firm is coordinating meetings between Nigeria's new government and lawmakers as well as administration officials "in order to secure a more formal, long-term agreement with the government."Already, Pruitt is planning to take Maduekwe on a tour around Capitol Hill in late October and introduce him to key members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The lobbyist characterised the meetings as "introductory" in nature.

With Africa emerging as more of a common destination for lobbyists, the federal government may also sign more firms other than just J.C. Watts's group, Pruitt said. "We will be positioning Nigeria to work with the next administration here in America," he said.

sourced from This Day 05/10/07

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Nigerians In New York Celebrate

Nigerians living in New York and sorrounding cities have been celebrating the nation's 47th Independence anniversary on Monday, October 1st 2007.

Photos from Oyiza Adaba posted on NVS show several of them adorned in green-white-green themed attire. For full event photos, please click here.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Global Report Rates Nigeria Poor in Economic Freedom

By Martins Oloja, Miami, Florida

USING laissez-faire as yardstick, two United States (U.S)-based organisations have rated Nigeria poor on the index of economic freedom. The Washington-based The Heritage Foundation and The World Street Journal, in their joint rating of world economies for 2007 put Nigeria 131 among 157 countries. The result is contained in the 13th edition of their yearly book entitled: "Index of economic freedom: The link between economic opportunity and prosperity."
The organisations tie growth to the absence of government coercion in the economic activities of their states.

The book rates "Nigeria's economy as 52.6 per cent free," and put Hong Kong as topping the chart, followed by Singapore, Australia and the U.S. in that order.
The book defines economic freedom as "the absence of government coercion or constraint on the production, distribution, or consumption of goods and services beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty itself."

It explains the concept thus:
"All government action involves coercion. Some minimal coercion is necessary for the citizens of a community or nation to defend themselves, promotes the evolution of civil society, and enjoy the fruits of their labour... when government action rises beyond that minimal level, however, it risks trampling on freedom. When it starts interfering in the market beyond the protection of person and property, it risks undermining economic freedom..."

It had earlier explained the link between economic freedom and prosperity in this year's prelude thus:
"In an economically free country, individuals can pretty much determine their natural abilities, figure out how best to use them, and go about their businesses. Not so in an economically un-free country. There, people are constantly fighting obstacles, such as corruption, the bureaucratic maze, regulations, or being cut off from opportunities elsewhere in the world..."
Its findings: "Across the five regions, Europe is clearly the most free using un-weighted average (67.5 per cent) followed at some distance by the Americas (62.3 per cent). The other three regions fall far below the world's average: Asia-Pacific (59.1 per cent), Middle East/North Africa (57.2 per cent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (54.7 per cent)."

The authors give the parameters of the Index thus: "Of the 157 countries graded numerically in the 2007 Index, only seven have very high freedom scores of 80 per cent or more, making them what we categorise as 'free' economies. Another 23 are in the 70 per cent range, placing them in the "mostly free" category. This means that less than one-fifth of all countries have economic freedom scores higher than 70 per cent.

"The bulk of countries - 107 economies have freedom scores of 50 per cent-70 per cent. Half are 'moderately free' (scores of 60 per cent - 70 per cent) and half are 'mostly un-free' (scores 50 per cent 60 per cent). Only 20 countries have 'repressed economies' with scores below 50 per cent..."

The book measures 161 countries against a list of other independent variables divided into 10 broad factors of Economic Freedom. Low scores are more desirable they say. "The higher the score on a factor, the greater the level of government interference in the economy and the less economic freedom a country enjoys", they explain.

The report said of the country under former President Olusegun Obasanjo:
"...Nigeria faces significant economic challenges. Trade freedom, freedom from government, investment freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption; all need improvement. Non-tariff barriers are high, and regulations are enforced inconsistently. As in many other Sub-Saharan African nations, judicial enforcement is rudimentary, corrupt, and subject to the political whims of the executive. Corruption is substantial throughout the civil service..."

But it is not all gloomy picture for the country as the Foundation and World Street Journal say: "Nigeria ranks moderately well in fiscal freedom and fairly well in business freedom. The top income and corporate tax rates are moderate, and overall tax revenue is low as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Regulatory commercial burdens exist and inflation is fairly high, but the government does not distort market prices with subsidies (except for rail transport). The labour market is fairly elastic, and while firing an employee can be difficult, other factors are more flexible..."

The comment was written mid-2006 as references were made to Obasanjo's dispensation and the debt payment the administration made did not reflect in the data used on page 297 of the assessment. It says: "In recent years, democratic processes have replaced coups, and dictatorship. President Olusegun Obasanjo, who won re-election in April 2003 and is expected to leave office in 2007, and has sought to reduce government involvement in the economy through privatisation and de-regulation, although progress has been slow".
This is what the Foundation said about Obasanjo's administration last year when Nigeria was placed 146th.

"... President Obasanjo has assembled a reform-minded team to implement an economic plan focused on reducing government involvement in the economy through privatisation and deregulation. The pace of reform has been slow, however, because vested interests continue to block significant change. Per capita income remains low, and corruption, poor infrastructure and periodic labour strikes undermine economic growth and investment..."

The report adds this to the reasons for its conclusion on Nigeria's poor showing:
"Despite stronger efforts to hold government officials accountable for illicit activities, corruption remains common at all levels of government and in the judiciary. Much of economic activity is carried on in the informal sector. Nigeria' government intervention score is 0.5 point worse this year. As a result, its overall score is is 0.05 point worse this year, causing Nigeria to be classified as a 'repressed' country."

Becky Dunlop, Vice President of the Heritage Foundation told The Guardian that "critics who are not satisfied with the verdict in the book should feel free to write to the Foundation. But they should note that the data used were collected from the World Bank and from public records of the countries listed. But we welcome challenges and discourses from people who are not satisfied. We just want to improve the way we do things. And surely thing are improving..."
She said Georgia (formerly of the Soviet Union), has asked questions about "what she can do to improve its rating..." It is number 35 this year.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is rated as world's No.1 (89.3 per cent), a position it retained last year. It is closely followed by another Asian Tiger, Singapore (85.7) while an Asia-Pacific country, Australia (82.7) is number three in the rating that places the biggest economy in the world, the U.S. (82.0) as number four. There has been a fundamental shift in the balance of economic freedom power in the last one year. Reason: The U.S. tied last year with Australia and New Zealand in ninth position. Australia is now No.3 while the U.S. is No.4.

In the same vein, New Zealand is now No.5 while the self acclaimed financial centre of the world, the United Kingdom (81.6) is No.6 while Ireland (81.3) is world's No 7. It was No.3 last year.
The last three of the world's biggest 10 went to Luxembourg (79.3 per cent) No.8, Switzerland (79.1), No.9 while Canada whose currency is now at par with the U.S. dollars is world's No.10 freest economy.

Chile is the closest to the big 10 as it is the 11th freest in the world. But the North Korea that came last as No.157 last year still retains the same position in economic freedom index.

sourced from Nigeria Guardian (Monday October 1st 2007)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Nigeria Meets The World At The This Day New York Summit

Additional photos from the This Day summit (Nigeria Meets The World) held at Waldorf Astoria New York on Monday, September 24th 2007 are avilable here.

The full summit report by Paul Adujie is also available here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Is Nigeria A Prefered Tourist Destination?


THERE has been a debate on whether Nigeria is a preferred destination for tourists. The debate has further led to questions as what has largely affected the country from being ranked as a top tourist destination in the world.

The proponents of the argument that Nigeria was indeed a preferred tourist destination hinged their fact on the numerous tourism destinations that abound in the country.
This issue however, came to the fore at the recently held aviation summit organised by Travel Business Magazine in Lagos. Managing directors of Six Continents and HRG Travel Agencies, Yomi Jones and Adefemi Adefope posited that the question of whether Nigeria was a preferred destination should not have arisen in the first place.

The duo, highly respected in the burgeoning travel industry, noted that the country had a lot of destinations to market and had done exceedingly well in that area. Jones, a former managing director of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, said the influx of foreign tourists to some tourism destinations signifies growth in the industry. He reiterated that he was not unmindful of some problems like erratic power failure, bad road network and insecurity, which he said were not limited to Nigeria.

He listed New York, South Africa, Kenya and so many other countries as worst in terms of security, adding that these countries have done tremendously well in the area of tourism, contributing heavily to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of their countries. He noted that the influx of foreign carriers (one of the great factors in promotion), readily shows that Nigeria is indeed a force to reckon with in tourism, if the sector was properly developed.

Mrs. Fatimah Garbati, head, Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said what the tour operators needed was to organise themselves very well, adding that "there are so many tourist sites to explore."

It is a well-known fact that the development of tourism could lead to non-dependence on oil, just like Dubai has done. Dubai has long stopped to depend on the black gold, but has channelled all its resources into tourism, which is the highest revenue earner for the economy, and trade, pushing oil to a distant third place.

Dubai is fast becoming a contender in the worldwide tourism industry. It is already one of the world's favourite travel destinations, and the region continues to develop innovative and imaginative projects to keep tourists coming. The three Palm island projects, The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali and The Palm Deira are to become one of the world's most iconic housing and tourism projects, each offering a host of villas and apartments for sale, as well as stunning resorts. They will be the world's largest man-made islands.

Tourism is essentially the industry of providing tours and services to tourists. Another key component of this industry group is attractions, which offer visitors a chance to explore the sights, facilities and wonders of their destination. Attractions generally include historic sites, heritage homes, museums, halls of fame, art galleries, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos, water parks, amusement parks, casinos and cultural attractions.

Francis Ayigbe, a travel journalist, however differed. He said the fact that foreigners come to Nigeria does not make the country a preferred tourism destination. Tourism in the country is at a low ebb, not only because of the economic hardship, but because of "all the ingredients like a national carrier, good hotels and others that make for a preferred destination are not there."
His words, "Lack of consistency in policy has militated against Nigeria becoming a preferred tourism destination. For tourism to flourish, there must be high concentration of internationally acceptable rated hotels. South Africa has about 60 five-star hotels in Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria. Lagos has just two, Sheraton and Eko Hotel."

According to him, insecurity and perennial conflicts have further added to the problem of tourism in the country. The Director-General of the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, however disagreed. According to Runsewe, "there is no country in Africa that can compete with Nigeria in terms of tourist attractions to offer. I can tell you that countries like Ghana, Gambia, South Africa that make a lot of money from tourism don't have close to probably 30 per cent of the tourism destinations (attractions) we have in Nigeria."

Runsewe noted that though there are problems of infrastructure in the country, this is being handled by the government. He said apart from the infrastructural problems, people often allude to the issue of insecurity in Nigeria, stressing that "the country is not as bad as other countries on the continent" as the issue of security should be that of everybody.
He explained that from the statistics at the disposal of the corporation, it shows that 53 per cent of those coming to the country stay in hotels, noting that the corporation has concluded arrangement with the biggest registration company in Europe called AA to classify the hotels in the country.

Turnkey Software Projects, a firm saddled with the responsibility of rating countries based on array of attractions they offer, in 2006 rated Croatia, China, Argentina, United States, Italy and Costa Rica as top travel destinations, while Kenya, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand also got mentioned.

Croatia is known for its beautiful coastline. Other attractions are cathedrals, churches and museums, the medieval architecture of Dubrovnic and the ancient Roman ruins at Split, which include the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, built in the fourth century A.D.
The United States has many tourists attractions. From historic buildings and museums to amusement parks and immense natural beauty. The country has an amazing variety of tourists of all ages. The White House, Capitol, Pentagon and Supreme Court Buildings in Washington D.C. The statue of Liberty in New York harbour, the museums and skyscrappers of New York and Boston.

Others are the glamour of Hollywood in Los Angeles, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the energy of Las Vegas, the amusement park at Disneyland, the wonders of Mount Rushmore and many others. Driving across America is a journey of discovery.