Dr Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., says the bank will leverage technology, capabilities and its heritage reputation to accelerate growth post-COVID-19.
Adeduntan said this on Thursday during a Digital Disruption Series webinar organised by the Surrey Business School of the University of Surrey, England.
The webinar was themed: “Digital Disruption: How Can Companies Thrive in Africa Post-COVID-19.”
Adeduntan noted that the bank had been in existence for 127 years, and had been strategically positioned for exponential growth through its ability to leverage innovation to reinvent itself.
According to him, it is about studying the environment and leveraging the digital space to profer solutions tailored to suit emerging challenges.
Adeduntan cited the mobile banking and the USSD platform as some of the digital disruptions that had impacted positively on the financial institution.
He stressed that reducing cost to serve would assist to develop a sustainable business model.
“We have the largest bank agents, over 9,000 of them spread across the country helping to bring in people that were financially excluded into the financial system,” he said.
On barriers to growth in creating innovative and indigenous knowledge, Adeduntan cited capital constraint, social infrastructure and cultural approach as some of the limiting factors encountered by businesses in Africa.
“In Nigeria, to solve the capital constraint, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Banker’s Committee contribute certain percentage of our profit to a pool of fund to serve as equity for entrepreneurs,” he said.
According to him, absence of social infrastructure in African countries has denied citizens the ability to lead better and quality life, thus leading to the migration of many young and brilliant minds from the continent.
He said the bank evolved a deliberate approach in its employment, remuneration, exciting work roles and talent development to inspire and retain its young workforce.
Adeduntan added that there were significant opportunities in Africa, with over one billion population, while noting that opportunities were available for young innovative people willing to work smart and work hard.
Also, Prof. Kenneth Amaeshi, Thought Leader, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, said COVID-19 had unravelled the need to realign Africa’s institutions, and convert challenges to opportunities.
Amaeshi said African governments should evolve more favourable policies and incentives that would encourage renewed innovation, increase investment in education, research and development and intellectual property protection.
“As much as we want to celebrate technology development in Africa, we need Africans to participate and contribute to the knowledge going on in the digital space,” he said.
He advised Africans to focus on diversifying to meet its basic needs toward enhancing the economic growth and competitiveness of the continent.
Commenting, Dr Christain Busch, Director, CGA Global Economy Programme, New York University, US, said African countries should think of effective ways to support innovators without caging them.
Busch advised that inculcation programme that would support and assist them scale up at their own pace should be encouraged.
Also, Razeeb Rajwani, professor of International Business and Strategy, Surrey Business School, said the webinar was organised to explore how companies could scale up in Africa post COVID-19.
Rajwani alluded that many impressive companies had sprung up across the continent that were changing the rules of the game.
He added that forward-thinking policy-makers were implementing solutions to problems that had hindered progress for decades.
According to him, both business and government leaders are leveraging digital technologies and working across borders to achieve connectivity and scale.
He affirms that with the right support, Africa has the potential to open a new era of growth and prosperity.