By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
The growth of business in Nigeria is fast entering into strategic connections, locally and internationally. The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank Limited, Ifie Sekibo, is at the hub of the welcome development. At the recently concluded 2019 yearly meetings of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in Moscow, Russia, Sekibo made the case for a stronger partnership between Nigeria and Russia for technological and infrastructural development.
Sekibo who has his finger on the good health of business stressed that Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, needed to learn from the Russian Federation on how growth and development should be driven. He argues that Nigeria can leverage on stronger ties with Russia to enhance development in the multiform areas of infrastructure, aviation, technology, solar, hydropower energy, and mining.
According to the insightful banking guru, “If we carefully listen to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian investment in Africa had increased over the years to almost $20 billion in 2018. This clearly shows Africa and Nigeria especially, need to key into these investments and get the best out of them. What we are seeing in Russia today is a testimony that they are giants in several areas of development, and Nigeria has a lot to learn and gain from them. Today, Nigeria suffers from huge infrastructure deficit, and a lot could be achieved from other countries of the world including Russia.”
Sekibo insists that Nigeria has a lot to gain in accessing Russian feats in technology and mining, stating: “Russia is advanced in technology and in mining and I feel such cooperation with them will help Nigeria harness its mineral resources. We have huge mineral resources deposit in a lot of states in Nigeria and we can tap from the wealth of experience of Russia either in training of geologists or mining practices.”
Building on this, Sekibo harped on the importance of Nigeria becoming a principal part of the African Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA). For him, it is important for Nigeria to quickly join forces with other African countries on the agreement as the acclaimed biggest economy in Africa.
“Nigeria today is seen as the ‘Big Brother’ when it comes to the economy and African trade and we cannot shy away from such agreement,” he said, adding, “Such agreements give access to big markets and improved competitions among the member countries. I feel strongly that Nigeria has a lot to gain from AFCFTA. I also believe if it is properly leveraged on, it will do us better as a nation.”
With the requisite international connections, the irrepressible CEO of Heritage Bank believes strongly that no business can succeed without committed and hardworking people who are driven by excellence. Heritage Bank’s support for small businesses to achieve their goals of transforming into bigger companies cannot be gainsaid, as Sekbo says: “Heritage Bank’s philosophy is to create, preserve and transfer wealth across generations. We are in the business to provide service per excellence and to grow with our customers. We are here to help our customers create wealth for themselves, assist our partners preserve their wealth and guide them in transferring it to the next generation. We have specialized products that enjoy zero commission on turnover charges and high interest yields, amongst others for our partners. These products help us in supporting our customers’ businesses and taking them to greater heights.”
Innovation is crucial to the Heritage Bank drive. In Sekibo’s words, “We provide innovative services. To us, innovation isn’t only about creating something new, it is also about taking something that exists and transforming it into something bigger and better. As a new entrant to the banking sector, our edge is that we are starting from where our competitors stopped while being able to avoid all the mistakes they made along the way. Having imbibed a culture of continuous innovation, I am confident of Heritage Bank’s ability to adapt to envisaged customer and sector changes.”
Sekibo’s vision and mission at Heritage Bank are ongoing thus: “Our plans for Heritage Bank are unfolding. It is a gradual process. With the acquisition of Enterprise Bank Limited, Heritage Bank is now a bigger and better bank. One of our major strategies is to work with our partners to grow their business and take them to the stock market. As a service organization in the business of banking, we must be in the stock market ourselves for us to achieve this feat. That is our direction. My tools for success are people and good processes. But most importantly, people, because people drive the processes. I believe that success is largely hinged on people who have been able to key into my vision, believing in such vision and turning it into a common goal. They are people who invested their time, efforts, ideas and energy in the business. They are people equipped with good business processes, and benefiting from lasting support from partnerships built over time.”
Sekibo’s laudable initiatives in boosting business are indeed great ideas whose time has dawned.