The Managing Director of ACIOE Associates, Mr. Ekenem Isichei provides exclusive insights on how ACIOE Associates strategically and consistently churns out solutions that afford clients practicable solutions to drive ease of doing business in Africa.
1: As a preamble, can you tell us what inspired the establishment of ACIOE Associates?
ACIOE was born out of trying to create a narrative around how African business stories are told. We (the founders) have a collective experience working with different brands and different multinationals, so coming back to create ACIOE was our direct response to the need of projecting Africa as a viable business destination to the world. So we started to create our own narrative in an ethical way, and in a way that projects Africans as great entrepreneurs and influential business people. Therefore, going into advisory services demands that we become subject matter experts as the future of businesses will now be dependent on our professional feedback. It is, therefore based on this collective experience and vision that ACIOE Associates was established, to champion business advisory in the continent.
2: Can you tell us the distinctive offerings and services that ACIOE Associates provides and how these services distinguish the organization from other players in the industry?
At ACIOE Associates, we understand the local context, that is, we have clarity on how business is done in the continent. Thus, we guide our clients in four key operational areas. First is Government relations – we provide insights on policies and regulatory landscapes because we live in the country and across Africa and we interact with the environment, daily, thus we understand what is obtainable and what is not. We also carry outstakeholder mappings to identify key stakeholders to be engaged across various levels (Federal, State, and Local). Secondly, we provide health advisory services, we look at various health landscapes, especially in the areas of maternal and newborn child health and nutrition, and advise our clients along those lines, especially as interfaces with other agencies. Basically, understanding how we can reshape the health indicators in Nigeria. As we all know, the health sector in the country is not really prioritized, so it is one of our mandates to ensure that the sector is appropriately prioritized. Our third offering is in the areas of Digital Transformation, this requires looking at the digital landscape to ascertain how we can get players in the civil service, civil society, public service, and the tech ecosystem to begin to drive digital change. There is a need to understand what it means to adopt a digital skill for now and for the future, and our goal is to be at the forefront of driving this digital transformation. The fourth service focal area is the social development landscape which is the gender landscape and climate change narrative. We strategically create solutions for the purpose offiguring out how we can sort of drive a narrative that is pragmatic so that empowerment programs are not just about philanthropies but more about how we can increase GDP per capita for women and on the side of climate change, that we understand that the changes affect us all and to proffer sustainable solutions on ways to mitigate the effects of these changes on our environment whilst driving clear narratives that showcase the role each of us can play in the process.
3: As a leading advisory firm in the continent with specialties in the areas of government relations, economic development, and investment strategy, what can you say are the expected key trends in the industry within the next five years?
There are quite a number of trends to look for in the industry,number one isin the area of trade landscape, more and more countries are demanding more in trade, trade across borders, and trade with other countries, and these demands will open up a need for a lot of businesses. For instance, within the African space, African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) is an ongoing discussion that is already being manifested and utilized by players both in the public and private sectors, a clear testament to the need created by trade demands. The second trend to watch out for is the rise in insecurity as can be seen across various countries and continents. In the African landscape for instance, we have a series of coups coming up over the last two to three years, and we have to watch out for that and utilize information on how it affects businesses in those areas. It is vital to state at this point that African countries need to urgently look into how to address leadership shortfalls, unemployment, and citizen welfare to be able to caution or entirely stop these violent happenstances and allow for more sustainable development. The third trend to watch out for is in the area of tech transformation, in the past few years, we have seen significant improvements made in the areas of Artificial Intelligence which is currently automating processes and creating better ways of doing things. Across sectors like education, services, etc. we can see how these advancements are rapidly changing the process of learning and assimilation, thus, making it a noteworthy trend in terms of human capital displacements and available alternatives. We also have to look at population increase in some African countries as we see more babies being born annually, I mean, in Nigeria alone, NPC reported over 700,000 unplanned deliveries in 2022, and these deliveries are independent of planned births in the country. What this means is that there will be a lot of pressure on social amenities, attention must be paid to resource allocations and self-sufficiency drive. Another trend worth noting is the rise in debt outlook for some countries due it depends on imported raw materials, thus there is a need to grow local capacities and develop local content to drive self-sufficiency.
4: What would you say are the peculiar challenges faced by players in the industry and how can these issues be ameliorated?
I can that the first impediment is reduced access to information, clients are demanding more and need it at a very fast pace, especially with all the emerging economic trends and changes. Therefore, having access to information as and when needed so it can still be of value to clients is where the challenge is. Secondly, budgetary constraints and cost, for instance, if you look at players in the FMCG sector, you would see that most are cutting costs because of low margins, and this affects all other service providers that are attached to the sector, directly or indirectly. The third challenge worth mentioning here is a gap created by change in government. This simply means that with the emergence of a new government, players in the industry will most likely have to initiate new advocacy strategies as each government’s priorities are most times different from their predecessors. And this can be a challenge, especially for initiatives or projects that are already in motion before the government transition. Then we have the issue of brain drain in the industry which we can see with the high number of professionals and human capital exiting the country for a fresh start in another country. Although with the new way of working and functioning remotely, people can work basically from anywhere once they have access to the internet, the fact remains that some of these engagements require one-on-one interactions to create the needed impact and effective outcome.
5: As an organization with a Pan-African vision, what should your clients, both existing and emerging expect in terms of innovative offerings and tech adoptions?
There are quite a significant number of outcomes for our clients especially as we continue to put in effective measures to ensure that these clients are well-equipped to withstand market volatility across various sectors. So, to answer your question, the first expectation for our clients is the availability of invaluable benefits from our diverse workforce – diversity in terms of gender, language, and experience. This is invaluable in our business because for players in our industry, reach and network is exceedingly important in ensuring the success of any project or initiative because your in-house experts must understand the environment from which the client is seeking opportunity and how to harness these opportunities into valuable output. The second point worth noting is the collective experience of our people if we add it all up, we are looking at over a hundred years of collective experiences which we leverage for our clients to envisage possible hindrances and ameliorate them before it manifests. It also means that we are quite conversant with almost all the solution requirement areas by our clients, so it is sort of a situation of envisaging the need from the beginning and ensuring favoring outcomes in most occasions. We also have broad and diverse experts working with us, experts from both the public and private sectors who are always available to make clients’ wishes into a reality. More so, we have an endless list of valuable partnerships across the continent nurtured over the years, and are always readily available to collaborate with us in executing our clients ‘wish lists and solution requirements. More so, we are subject matter experts, that is, in the areas that we play in, we are well grounded in those fields. And as stated earlier in the interview, we are not in all industries, thus, our solutions are driven by top-notch experience that has been tested out by our long list of valuable clients. Finally, as a team, we are driven by the tenets of our core values – Accountability, Competence, Innovation, Optimism, and Excellence. And our long list of happy and satisfied clients is testament to our consistency in churning out solutions that get businesses thriving.
ABOUT ACIOE ASSOCIATES:
ACIOE Associates is an advisory services firm that provides solutions in strategy, policy analysis, government relations, regulatory affairs, economic development, advocacy, investment facilitation, and strategic intelligence on various sectors.
Click ACIOE Associates for more details