How has your company transitioned in recent years?
NIYI YUSUF In mid-2018, we reviewed the business while we were still Accenture, looking at opportunities for growth. We identified what we needed to do to become more successful. What we needed was local insight, presence, and the ability to be more agile, responsive, and to take on more risks with local clients. Our clients were asking for us to be more bold, flexible, and responsive, so we decided to create a local entity that would be able to respond to such needs, which we did in April 2019. Accenture still exists as a legal entity, but not an operating one. Verraki is an independent company created by the former leaders of Accenture Nigeria.
KUNLE ELEBUTE Everything revolves around our clients. The quality of our services ensures that we retain our clients, increase our penetration in the market, and are engaged to do more work for new and existing clients. In our business, quality is linked to our people: we hire the best people out of university, give them the best pay, train them, and offer them career opportunities. We lose some people once they are qualified and trained, because they tend to move on or leave the country, but we ensure we retain the best to deal with clients on the front line. As a firm, we are focused on start-ups, particularly fintechs. In late 2019, we held our annual digital conference, which was light on primary speakers and heavy on pairing up digital or fintechs with big players for synergy. For example, in the payment ecosystem, fintechs start-ups can bring elements that the big financial services players will find useful in their business model. We match them to enable alliances, JVs, and acquisitions, which is how we help smaller players find the right way to grow and leapfrog based on the solutions they offer.
What is your specific focus currently?
NY Our focus is solving the seemingly impossible problems of the continent and turning Africa into a place where my children and my grandchildren would like to live. For now, this means we are focusing on 13 sectors of the Nigerian economy. Those include the five biggest sectors and six fastest growing, plus the public sector, health, and education. For health and education, we will leverage the growing population on the continent and the significant youthful demography. The five biggest sources of GDP for the economy are manufacturing, oil and gas, ICT, agriculture, and trade. The fastest growing are health, education, telecoms, banking, finance, and transportation, as well as entertainment, my personal favorite. We have an opportunity in the creative entertainment sector to extract and create more value in innovative ways. To do so, we need to look at innovation and disrupting the basic process of hiring people, retraining them, licensing the content that fans or clients need, and making sure artists get the right value for their work. Then, it is about creating African content so that the average African youth can understand their culture and history. We all grew up within a narrative that civilization started in Africa. How can we then use entertainment to create content with characters that are Africa oriented?
KE There are a number of initiatives that need to be put in place to accelerate economic growth, as our current growth rate of 2.5%, which is less than the population growth, is not good enough. We need to drive our economy to 7-8% growth. We will not get there in a year though if we have direction, backed by the right policies, we will. For example, we can significantly accelerate the growth of the oil and gas sector by merely passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as this would send a signal to the world that we are serious and looking for business in the sector. Companies will be ready to invest once they see the PIB passed. Another area is agriculture. As a nation, we have policies to grow the rice sector. In the sugar industry, all the key players have adopted backward integration, i.e. going into sugar plantations, while players in soy, dairy, and tomatoes are enabling the farmers. However, we have to loop in those who are growing the raw materials and consumers via the commodities exchange. The food supply chain starts at the farm and goes to processing, consumer manufacturing, and then distribution. If we want to increase agricultural production, the supply side has to be certain there is uptake on the demand side.