Dr Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of Ladol oil and gas company is the second Nigerian that participated in the 21 member 2012 Bishop Desmond Tutu Fellowship for young African leaders. A polyvalent scholar with intimidating professional experience in medicine and investment banking, the University of Oxford trained medical doctor in this interview not only shared her wealth of experience from the upscale fellowship, but also draws the reader into her world of deep intellect, which is manifest in the record strides of her company , Ladol: Nigeria's first indigenous oil service logistics company.
Tell us about yourself and the build up to your nomination for the 2012 Bishop Tutu Fellowship?
"I've followed an unconventional career path. Currently and during the Tutu Fellowship course for young African Leaders, I am the Managing Director of LADOL.
However, I started my working life as a doctor, after graduating from Oxford University Medical School, I then went into Investment Banking in London, before completing an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business, after which I moved back to Nigeria and started working at LADOL with my father"
Can you share with us some of the things you took away from that programme?
The number one take away was optimism for the future of Africa. I saw that young leaders from Africa, a diverse set of African countries, with different histories and challenges were all passionately committed to those countries and building a better future.
More importantly as we discussed, it became clear that we were all part of larger communities in our home countries filled with people, young and old, who were working hard every day to change the negative conditions their societies grappled with daily.
This is a very important point to emphasis - Africa is not a continent of the helpless or the needy, the international image of Africa as a place for charity and pity is not only false and insulting, it is very damaging and is directly fighting against the efforts being made by all our leaders to grow our economies and create jobs and infrastructure.
Africa is a continent filled not just with the potential for greatness, but with actual greatness today . It is our hard work and resources that have built up the West , now it is time to use that hard work and those same resources to build up our own people and countries. It was clear from the people I met during the Fellowship that this was a sentiment that was echoed throughout the continent.
Finally and critically, this sentiment is being backed by practical applications through all levels of society. The young leaders I met worked in a range of areas, from public to private sector to non-profit sector. Each one was working in their community as well. None of us is letting the history of our countries nor the current political and physical challenges be an excuse for not making a difference.
As a group, I think we simply represent the true African spirit of today - which is to face reality as it is and move forward by finding innovative, locally generated and tailored solutions to everyday problems.
That way, each day, we take a step towards our goals of creating jobs, security, stability, infrastructure, etc... in our countries.
Given the composition of the participants for the fellowship, would you say that the meeting helped in a particular way to understand and contextualise African challenges?
One phrase which I and many other participants kept repeating throughout the Fellowship was that: "Africa is not a Country" - meaning that we must not accept the bigoted short hand used by non-African's countries when they address us as if we were one nation and not a continent of 54 countries. We must also recognize that for our countries to thrive, we need to look inward and next door, meaning we have to focus on building local content within our countries to address the specific challenges each country faces. As a Nigerian, I am focused on infrastructure development and job creation through indigenous private investment. I believe that if we can get sufficient private indigenous investment into critical infrastructure and expand the enabling environment being created for such investment by our current government, we will definitely create the hundreds of thousands of jobs and the GDP growth needed for Nigeria to be the next Brazil and enter the G20.
As MD of LADOL, I know the personal and financial sacrifice that such indigenous investment and development takes but through the few successes we have had at LADOL , I know that such investment can rapidly grow the local market and lead to sustainable job creation and career development of thousands of Nigerians.
In addition, we must look more tour neighbours in Africa as allies and trading partners. For too long, we have relied on Western trade and Western trade terms, which often leave us swimming upstream against a huge tide. If we consider alliances such as "West African Local Content Initiative" that will allow West African countries to negotiate with one voice, leverage each other's infrastructure and jointly develop infrastructure that supports intra-African trade and collaboration, the research shows all African countries will benefit.
As a continent, we have a strong economic incentive to work together. As separate countries, we have economic and moral obligations to investment and develop ourselves and our countries through indigenous investment of time and money.
In Nigeria, for instance, the most teething challenge is insecurity and of course, followed by corruption. But in some other places, it is hunger, poverty or drought. How then was the course programme designed to help participants to engage these differing challenges?
According to the 2011 World Economic Forum Africa Competitiveness Report, the top four factors holding back competitiveness of Nigerian businesses are:1) Access to financing 2)Corruption 3)Inadequate supply of infrastructure and 4)Inefficient government bureaucracy.
These four challenges are not unique to Nigeria but the way in which Nigeria is addressing them is unique to its situation. By addressing these four factors, we will grow our GDP, create jobs and gain economic stability which will all help to improve the security situation. The recent history of Nigeria has also shown us that things change very quickly, so if we continue to aggressively address these four factors, as the indigenous private sector and some sections of the public sector are doing, we could see rapid improvements in Nigeria.
We know that Nigeria needs to improve and diversify its exports. Economic research has proven the importance and power of regional integration in fostering local growth and empowerment. Collective bargaining by African Regions with international companies on local content and pricing issues alone would save West African countries billions of dollars each year and create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the region. So again, our country has to address its own problems using specific local solutions but we should also look to our neighbours as allies and trading partners.
Most of the participants in the programme are private sector players. And the programme is designed to raise new set of leaders with re-defining visions for governance. Given the background of participants, how can the training benefit public governance in their respective countries?
Several of the participants were from the public and NGO sectors. This is one of the program's great strengths, which is bringing together Africans from different countries, sectors and backgrounds to share our experiences and specific challenges. We really have created a network of strong leaders throughout Africa that will share best practice, provide moral guidance and have long-lasting friendships.
How do you intend to domesticate this experience g in Ladol, where you sit as the Managing Director?
This program has reinforced my belief in our Vision and Mission at LADOL, which is to develop and operate a world class facility for maritime and deep offshore support. Over the past few years we have worked hard and achieved several firsts, including become the largest Rig repair facility in Nigeria and carrying out a complete Rig Refurbishment for another West African country, making Nigeria the Hub for West African Rig Repair.Going forward I feel re-energised and read for our next challenges which include a significant expansion of the facilities and creating 20,000 new jobs. This is a long-term investment of time and money but interacting with the Fellows on the Leadership course showed me how many Africans today have overcome even greater challenges and triumphed - from apartheid in South Africa to the genocide in Rwanda. I met many young people whose challenges were and are quite daunting and who have already climbed several mountains, but whom remain optimistic and strong. In such Company I really felt inspired and humbled, the least I can do in my capacity as MD of LADOL is give my time and energy to create as many opportunities as I can to for Nigerians to learn, work and move up, so they can also contribute to the our countries growth and stability.
Tell us about your involvement with New Era and how the idea keys into the principle of good leadership?
Amongst other things, New Era is focused on developing young people into future leaders - giving them the tools they need to be ethical, intelligent, critical and effective leaders of our country. LADOL's collaboration with New Era is focused on supporting this effort in every way we can, including providing internships for the young people that New Era identifies through their Spelling Bee Competition.
New Era is an example of the type of programs that we need to expand and emulate - with a growing youth population educate inside and outside the class room is one of the keys to Nigeria's future.