UK-based expert leads Bonny Chamber of Commerce in ‘treasure hunt’

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– Shows 200 grant-giving organizations ready to help African entrepreneurs

– Says Africa is waiting for Nigerian entrepreneurs

– Reveals 8 economic belts in Africa forged by partnerships

– How Francophone West Africa is zone with best ease of doing business

By Paul Emeka Chimodo

Members of the revived Bonny Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BOCCIMA) are set to begin hunt for opportunities that are said to abound in the world, especially in Africa. They are to be led in the hunt by a UK-based expert, Dr Akanimo Odon, who is said to be a master of the ‘Art of Hunting for Money’. The chief hunter himself revealed he has signed about 40 million dollars in grants in 2020.

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Business owners in Bonny Island in Rivers State are right now being given the secrets to unlock huge funds waiting in some places out there in the world for focused and smart Nigerian entrepreneurs. Thus, the revived BOCCIMA which will carry out its first induction ceremony after its revival, is the first group to get the key to the floating vault.

Dr Odon, who revealed this Wednesday, November 18, 2020, during a two-hour web-seminar, as pre-induction web conference, caused huge excitement when he disclosed that there is rather much money out there around the world waiting to be plucked by focused entrepreneurs from Africa.

Speaking as guest speaker at the event with theme: ‘Business Resilience Beyond Bonny’, Odon disclosed that there are at the moment over 200 grant agencies any focused entrepreneur can apply to.

Talking more on how to hunt for money, the expert hinted how proper clicking in Google could open a business guru to funding agencies in one’s area of business. “You cannot be looking for money without knowing who gives money and know why they give money. I know 200 organisations that give money.”

In the art of looking for money, he said the funding groups could be segmented. The seeker could think about such issues as; “How do you partner, who else do you speak to? Think of partnerships, consortiums. Its about how to access money.”

He also talked about what he called positioning. “Separate your social media friends from your career helpers contact group. Be intentional with your type of contacts. If you are starved of information, you remain in one location. What news station do you listen to or watch? These things make the difference.

Odon said he once worked as consultant to NLNG on a community project in Bonny. “I had an over-fly over Bonny island. It is a wonderful sight. There is light always, something most top cities in Nigeria does not have. It is obvious Bonny is an energy hub. It is a premium island surrounded by water.”

He went on: “Africa is now seen as a destination for prosperity, no more destination for charity. It is important to get the right perspective because it decides everything. Recognise your position in Bonny and use it to frame your perspective which would decide what you want to do and how you want to do it.

“Remember the story of two sales executives who went to a remote community for market survey. They found that the natives did not wear shoes. One came back to write that shoe is no business there. The other wrote that future of shoe business there was huge because none wore shoes yet. So, its about perspective. Decide your scope. If you restrict your space, you restrict your face.

“Other oil/gas countries are looking for you. Use your experience in that space to advantage. So, look at your areas: Mining, Agric, oil, and think of other countries with same areas so you sell your expertise to Africa.

“Africa is 1.2 billion people in 55 countries. So decide if you want to be a Bonny SME interested in some work abroad; or an international SME based in Bonny. Remember, oil/gas has massive supply chain. It demands huge level of international standards. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)-approval standard is very important. So, you can deliver anywhere especially in Africa. Multinationals wont do anything mediocre, so the approval you have in Bonny that makes you serve in the sector regulated by DPR is enough to take you anywhere.”

He said there is a big world out there looking for Nigerian entrepreneurs. “Local content is selling fast around Africa. Nigeria leads the way in local content initiative and packaging. Many African countries copied and are still copying from Nigeria. Countries are looking for you but you don’t know.

“Let your curriculum vitae (CV) in LinkedIn be longer than the one in your computer file. This way, you can be in Bonny and work in any country. LinkedIn is the biggest professional platform everybody sees but that is what you make look small? It’s about positioning. Look for the ‘research’ button there and use it always. Look for Africa partners on LinkedIn. Be in Bonny, operate beyond Bonny.”

Speaking more on abundant opportunities out there especially in Africa for Nigerians, Odon said 50 per cent (600m) of Africa’s 1.2 billion people do not have light. “Africa is big, and people are looking for you. Be activated, not motivated. International players will come and compete with you in your Bonny if you do not go out there and contend with them. If you do not go international, the international community will come to you. A Chinese company can come and set up next to you via virtual systems.’

He said Africa struggles for water and sanitation. “Food is important, agric is good business. Waste management is expanding everyday. Try and replicate the things you do outside.”

Saying more insights would reveal the structure of Africa business groupings, Odon said the print (cloth) is hot cake in some African countries such as Zambia. “Africa has eight economic zones (not just geographical zones) which are defined by strategic partnerships on regional frameworks for purpose of reaching easy deals;

“There is Central Africa, East Africa, Egypt and Sudan, Francophone West Africa, the Maghrebs (North-West Africa), Nigeria, Other West African countries, South Africa, and Southern Africa. Note that Nigeria is standing alone. Africa is looking for incredible relationships. In Africa, Nigeria unique: See our music making heavy waves, dress, real estate, film industry, etc. You are the one restricting and limiting yourself. Francophone West Africa economic zone is the smoothest in ease of doing business in Africa because they can strike deals easily there. But, many Nigerians think you must speak French to go there. Just partner with them.”

He revealed exciting work plans for the BOCCIMA including exchange programmes; initiatives, tours, getting partners, etc”. He talked about training, too, so they can fly.

NACCIMA DG: Create strong secretariat, pursue a blue economy

In his keynote address, the DG of the Nigeria Association of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), the ambassador, Ayoola Olukanmi, a graduate of the University of Ife who served in the diplomatic missions all over the world said he was impressed with the DG of the BOCCIMA, Constance Nwokejiobi, and activities the Chamber led by the President, Lawrence F. Jumbo.

He said: “You are looking beyond Bonny and tapping from global resources. We will look at significant developments in recent months that have impacted on businesses and major steps to take.

“He said Covid-19 has emerged as the single most impacting occurrence in recent history. Over 50 million persons have been infected and about one million have died. The economy has contracted massively. There is looming recession with contraction estimated at -6 per cent for Nigeria.

“The economy is prostrate because of oil slack; the gloom circles. There is massive unemployment and huge infrastructure deficit. So, how do we overcome these? The options we have involve strengthening the BOCCIMA secretariat and position of the DG. The effectiveness of the DG and the secretariat would determine the rest.

“Provide enabling environment for the management to perform and lead the membership. They must have strategic plans. Medium term plan with strategies for effective implementation must be developed with adequate consultations. Write down the plans. Take note of your immediate environment and this leads to the concept of the Blue Economy.

“Think of online trade and economic drives. Focus on SMEs because that’s where jobs are created and the economy is boosted. Let the government around you realize you are the private sector leaders. Let the government know you can work for them. Prepare your members and position them to deliver when called upon so government will know this.”

On funding, the NACCIMA DG insisted that members must learn to tap into funding and palliatives available. “Most times, they do not. Many missed the many versions of palliatives and funds that were rolled out. There was a N50Bn fund and another survival fund available with 40 per cent reserved for women. Help your women to tap into them. Not many persons know about them.

“Create capacity to do online transactions. Exhibitions are important so people can know exactly what to expect in Bonny. Try and do some, even if its virtual. Youth and women programmes are very important.”

BOCCIMA president: We want Bonny businesses to grow beyond the island

The elder, Lawrence F. Jumbo, is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) who set up his own accounting practice as far back as 1974. He is board chairman of Royal Belt Academy, the proprietor of an NGO, Club 401 on Safety & Good Governance.

Welcoming the VIPs, Jumbo made it clear that they need businesses into Bonny Island so as to build up the kingdom. “By the webinar theme; Business Resilience Beyond the Island, we do not mean that businesses should migrate from Bonny and go elsewhere but w mean that we do not want our businesses to depend only on oil and gas in the island but to look outside and bring businesses to Bonny.

“Also, we want businesses here to extend their tentacles and perform at their best so they can compete anywhere. We want to build a smart city; so business resilience is important. BOCCIMA is the leading voice in the island. We have been helping businesses in the island along their value chain. We look forward to getting more companies so we can do more.

“We urge our members to endeavour to improve on business relationships so as to attract more businesses into the island, enhance supplier-capacity for men and women businesses. Diversification of Bonny businesses is our goal, and to achieve the Green Bonny project; these will underscore the FG policy initiative. We hereby commend His Majesty, the King of Bonny, for resuscitating the BOCCIMA. He is the grand-patron of the association.”

The president also commended the NACCIMA for conferring all recognitions needed to make the world feel safe to transact with them. “We commend the LNG for helping us to become viable. We now have the ability to utilize business potentials in Bonny.”

The GM, External Relations & Sustainable Development of NLNG, Eyono Fatayi-Williams, who was represented by Sophia Horsfall, Manager, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, said the seminar validated the deepening capacity of the private sector in Bonny. “Bonny is critical and has been a focal location over the centuries especially in export matters from palm produce, ivory, coal, to oil and gas. It is also an entry point of goods.”

Fatai-Williams studied in the Unilag and Leeds University and she has 30 years working experience especially in banking, oil/gas, etc. She was said to have joined the NLNG in October 1997 and has been in managerial positions delivering value to stakeholders. She is described as a game-changer and has been GM since May 2019.