Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has a new President. He is Dr. Abubakar Al-Mujtaba, the Managing Director/CEO of Apt Pension Funds Managers Limited and also a non-Executive Director of Zenith Bank Plc. He was formerly Managing Director of defunct Assurance Bank.
Q? What background and wealth of experience are you bringing on board as the new President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry?
ANS – As you may be aware, I am a veteran in the finance Industry in Nigeria. So, my network and experience in the banking sector spanning nearly four decades will enrich the Chamber and take it to new heights. Aside that, I am an old member of ACCI who rose through the rank to the top. In the chamber, we have a succession structure involving stages in the leadership cadre. You have to be a Council member, a Vice President, a second deputy President and a first Deputy President before you can become a president. I have passed through all these stages. I have served under at least five Presidents. So, I am a President that has huge private sector background and long years within the Chamber movement. My experience serving under previous Presidents equipped me to effectively lead the Chamber at this material time.
Q? What are the innovations you are bringing on board to advance the Chamber?
ANS – First, I was part of two previous Presidency as a first and later second Deputy president. I have been part of previous innovations and achievements. But in continuation of ACCI tradition of creative engagement in supporting business, my Presidency is devoted to sustaining the legacy of policy innovations for the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies. We will deepen our robust engagement with government as the voice of business through various platforms and structures. Our target is to enhance our capacity to influence policies in favour of our members and the business community. We are recommitting ourselves to providing data driven proposals from which government can tap from for economic prosperity through facilitation rather than regulation of business sector.
To achieve that, my Presidency will adopt a deliberate policy of capacity building for the ACCI alongside development of management processes to enhance efficiency and productivity. As a membership base organisation, we will improve our membership base to align with our prime position as a Grade A national Chamber in the country. There will thus be a lot of training and retraining as well as repositioning of existing human resources to march capacity with responsibilities. An empowered workforce with best management practices will position ACCI as an indispensable voice of business in Nigeria.
Aside institutional building, we will be taken the legacy projects to the next level. As a system that adore continuity for stability, critical projects are to be fast tracked. Within the life of this administration, we plan to expand the infrastructural and investment profile of ACCI through world class additions to the brilliant records of my predecessors in office. A major part of our focus is to maximise the investment potentials of ACCI assets.
As part of our programme, we will strengthen the four centres of the ACCI. Our training arm, BEST Centre will continue to receive attention as training is a critical part of business and national development. The partnership model already in operation will be further polished to yield better returns. The Policy Centre, PAC is at the heart of the Chamber’s existence, hence my desire to provide it with all necessary tools to deliver. This is in recognition of the fact that a Chamber exists principally for pro-business policy promotion. The Dispute Resolution Centre (DRC) is a platform that has earned the Chamber recognition within and outside the country. We will continue to promote the Centre to attract even more business and recognition. The Abuja Trade Centre (ATC) is a trading arm of the ACCI and I am delighted with its many programmes which promise to earn the Chamber more resources and recognition.
We will also consolidate the centres as national centres under NACCIMA. On this count, I commend the leadership of NACCIMA for accepting the resolution towards adopting ACCI centres as national centres. This is a commendable step that will further strengthen the business movement in Nigeria.
As part our drive to give strong voice to the Chamber movement, it is my pleasure to announce the establishment of ACCI radio and television. Both are taken off through the ACCI Podcast and YouTube channels. We will later migrate to dedicated programmes on national radio and television through a PPP arrangement. The ACCI Podcast and YouTube will project policy issues affecting business while also airing interview with Chamber and business leaders.
Q? How would you rate the performance of the out-going President?
ANS – My predecessor performed wonderfully well. He executed several legacy projects. We are really appreciative of his service to the Chamber.
Q? It’s challenging times for businesses, considering the negative impact of COVID-19, which has plunged the economy into a recession. Though the economy has exited recession, many businesses are still struggling? What is your take on this and how can businesses survive this trying times?
ANS – Let me first put on records that the Nigerian government really reacted holistically to support businesses during and after the pandemic. The various interventions by the administration through the Central Bank of Nigeria granted succour and lifeline to SMEs in Nigeria. The effect on businesses would have been worst but for the multi-pronged support from the government. As to how businesses can survive these trying times, I think many business leaders have become very innovative in the area of cost management and balancing on human resources. Many businesses are now smartly run because waste is no longer acceptable. The way to go is innovation in deployment of scarce resources. As many are barely surviving, remaining afloat is a first priority as the economy gradually rebounds. The situation is likely to remain like this for some time to come.
Q What is your plan for businesses in Abuja in terms of participation in and benefiting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)?
ANS – ACCI is already supporting its members through training and networking for opportunities. We are closely involved in several governmental committees that are working to open doors for Nigerian businesses. We, in turn integrate our members into trading knowledge gained through participation in government policy support processes.
How can industries take advantage of the huge African market of over a billion people?
Again, the government’s plan of action for AfCFTA is deep and extensive. It covers all sectors of the economy. So, I advise Nigerian businesses interested in export market to look into various government Initiatives and be equipped with knowledge and available resources. The opportunities are huge.
Q? The Organised Private Sector (OPS), which the ACCI also represents, plays a crucial role in guiding the government on policy formulations and implementation. How do you intend to collaborate with the government to advance the nation’s economy?
ANS – We are strengthening our policy advocacy infrastructure. My Presidency has also created a standing presidential policy partnership with the National Assembly. The first of its kind in the country. The Legislative Policy series has conducted data analysis of all pending bills in the National Assembly with a view to sharpen inputs of business sector. We have also created statutory programme focussing on critical sectors such as the Energy Policy Series, the Digital Policy Series, the Fiscal Policy Series among. My goal is to make the ACCI a major policy voice in Nigeria and beyond. We are to deploy all tools of policy advocacy to engage and integrate business unit into public policy.
Q Going forward, as the world move away from fossil fuels, there will be increased demands for renewable products and diminishing demands for oil and gas products. What is your take on this and how do you intend to lead Abuja businesses on this transition?
ANS – The transition is already ongoing, going by increasing percentage of non-oil export in national budget. As to what we are doing at ACCI for Abuja businesses, we are doing a lot. We host the Nigerian Chamber of Mining. We are providing rallying points for businesses to venture into the solid mineral zone. We are also the host of Geomological Institute of Nigeria, the only body in Nigeria that train people on refining, weighing and recognising gemstones. We also have the waste to wealth programme. We are already into the transition stage and ACCI is at the forefront.
Q? ACCI is known for international trade fairs and exhibitions. What plans do you have to maintain the tradition and even improve on it?
ANS – We are expanding scope of our specialisation. We are no longer just a Chamber of Trade fair. We are now also a strong policy hub and a Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution. As to trade fair, we have expanded to organise more than one trade fair on annual basis. We are now going to be having annual Halal fair, annual Railway exhibition, annual real Estate fair among others.
Q Nigeria is battling high rates of unemployment and underemployment. How can this be addressed and how do you intend to continue using ACCI’s BEST centre to ramp up entrepreneurship among teeming youth in Abuja and the country at large?
ANS – Thanks for this question. Unemployment can best be addressed in several ways. First is the need to entrench practical entrepreneurship in our educational system. This is key. Secondly, there is need for retuning for new skills among unemployed. For us at ACCI, skill training is a major focus. There is a massive skill gap. We are going to strengthen Best Centre. We will build on previous achievements. There will be a deliberate policy of partnership with established training Institutions.
Q? What are your final thoughts on this enormous responsibility bestowed on you to lead one of the most prestigious Chambers of commerce and industry in Nigeria?
ANS – It is a great honour to become President of ACCI. Remember the body is a not-for -profit organisations of business people. As a Finance specialist and a business leader, there is no better honour than to be asked to lead a Chamber of Commerce and Industry. So I take the task with deep sense of responsibility.