For about four months now, the country’s economy has been locked down, with businesses charting new ways to remain afloat. However, for the marketing and communications industry, a lot more has to be done for sustainability, especially with the uncertainty the Coronavirus pandemic has thrust on the world.

Recently, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) held a webinar to interrogate issues in the sector. Themed, Marketing Communications Business Sustainability in the Post Covid-19 Era, the live discussion had as resource persons, experts such as, Lolu Akinwumi, the immediate past Chairman of APCON and Group CEO Prima Garnet, Africa.

While commending the industry regulator, APCON, for putting together this laudable initiative, Akinwumi projected that the pandemic is likely to have a devastating effect on the economy, which could lead to the worst recession in three decades as the Naira has continued to slide. Businesses are not as buoyant as before, people are being laid-off, and this is impacting on the marketing communications profession. Inevitably, APCON has no choice than to invest massively in technology.”

He added, “as soon as a new governing council is put in place, one of the first things they need to do is to upgrade APCON to meet the current trends to able to regulate on a wider spectrum to cover the digital space.”

On the path to sustainable growth, efficient service delivery and a value driven industry, Founder & Group CEO, Media Fuse, Dentsu Aegis Network, Emeka Okeke, said much could be achieved at this time and beyond by doing things differently with the deployment of technology.

According to him, “technology is the leveller of everything. Nobody will have thought that before COVID-19, APCON will be organising a webinar with over a hundred attendees or even more if we had wanted. Mode of engagement has changed; number of offices will have to reduce as face to face meetings and presentations are becoming more virtual. Today, we have several mobile video-conferencing apps such as, Teams, Zoom, Blue jeans, Google meet, etc. that have made the world an easy place.”

While expressing his views, George Thorpe, chairman, Media Reach OMD Nigeria, pointed out two key elements for business sustainability in the marketing communications during and after the pandemic.

Firstly, “we need to put strategic thinking and planning processes in place to navigate the future that is uncertain and changing but calls for a framework that ensures everything in the organisation aligns with strategic thinking, plan and framework to a future that calls for a redirection.”

Lolu Akinwunmi, GMD, Prima Garnet

The second point is “the need for leadership; because good leadership is what you need for certain unique standards and managing change. We need to learn new skills by being more entrepreneurial with scarce resources to create a new and better future.”

Other industry specialists who also provided insightful perspectives at the virtual seminar included, Mrs. Ify Onukwuba, MD/CEO, Nigeria Advertising Services Ltd., Dr. Kachi Onubogu, CEO Frutta Juice & Services Lead Consultant Zuriel Consulting, Mrs Hanna Onyebanjo, MD Redwood Consulting Ltd., as the event moderator, while Mr. Joe-Eugene Onuorah, Deputy Director, Professional Development, APCON, coordinated the proceedings.

The Acting Registrar of APCON, Mrs. Ijedi Iyoha, explained, with rapidly shifting new cycles and growing concerns about COVID-19 around the world, it has become imperative for the Council to adopt new strategies by shifting towards the cloud and embracing a digital-first business/service model and technology which has become the new normal, in order to provide professional excellence for the marketing communications industry in line with our mandate and best (international) practices.

“Through this fast-paced information-rich live event, we were able to identify the changes impacting the industry and how professionals, brands, and stakeholders can deploy strategies to navigate the uncertainty which the global pandemic has brought. The tremendous success recorded on our very first virtual seminar and the overwhelming interest and demand for more by stakeholders in the industry has given us the idea to partner with a variety of marketing communications experts to host one or two webinars before the year runs out,” the APCON boss said.

In a similar vein, stakeholders in the country’s capital market, asset management and banking industries have called for a rethink of the nation’s economic philosophy and a reset of the financial market architecture. This was part of the major takeaways from the ‘Zimvest Economy Conversations’, a thought-leadership series of Digital Private Wealth and Investment Management Firm, Zimvest (Zedcrest Investment Managers) held on Saturday, June 20, 2020.

Giving the opening remark during the virtual event, Business Head of Zimvest, Gbenga Adigun, noted that investors are gravely concerned with investment returns in light of the current low yield environment while financial institutions are thinking of how their product development and service delivery should evolve with the changing needs of investors.

Bola Onadele Koko, CEO of FMDQ Group while delivering the keynote speech on the event theme, The Economic Landscape and Investor Preferences in Post-pandemic Africa, talked about the toll the growing pandemic has had on African markets.

He laid emphasis on the slow down in key segments of the economy including the financial markets, tourism, remittances and foreign direct investments.

Koko called for a rethink of Nigeria’s economic philosophy with clarity from the fiscal policymakers, which will be critical for gaining investors’ confidence.

According to him, “now is the time to develop new and ingenious ways to develop and drive the Nigerian financial market and in the continent at large. Private capital will especially be more essential as recent shocks have shown the limits of Government’s abilities particularly in developing countries.”

The capital market leader also stated that FX reforms would be critical for the Nigerian economy at this point, noting that trading activities in the Nigerian Fixed-Income and Interbank Currencies market is down by 55 per cent due to economic crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Onyekachi Onugbo, CEO Frutta Juice & Services

All panelists in this first episode of the thought-leadership series pointed out that most investors were affected by the pandemic and were looking for further ways to diversify their portfolios that may end the year on a negative real return.

Speaking during the session, Abiola Adekoya, Wealth Expert and Ex-CEO at RMB Securities, stated that one of the key things that investors are concerned about in this era is the need for diversification, more liquidity and higher investment returns.

In her words: “A lot of investors have been focused on one product and this pandemic has shown that that is not enough. The nascent interest in alternative assets have shown that there is strong liquidity in the overlooked retail space and Investment managers should pay keen attention and develop alternative assets products, and reduce the reliance on the traditional Fixed income, Money markets and Equities offerings.”

Buttressing Abiola’s position on alternative assets, Esiri Agbeyi, Partner and Head Private Wealth Services, PwC Nigeria, emphasized the need for investors to take keen interest in private equity and other alternative assets investments. She shared a PWC survey on Family Offices.

The survey revealed that 63 per cent of family businesses leaned towards private equity as an investment portfolio. Local pools of private capital are important to drive economic development

Onome Komolafe, Divisional Head of Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS), stated the need for improved product development and differentiation, clear market segmentation and smart communication as tools that financial services firms can deploy in evolving with the changing consumer behavior. She also pointed to premium service delivery and technological innovation as crucial to democratisation of investment opportunities in Africa.

First published on Guardian Newspaper