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April 15, 2021
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How Businesses Are Coping With Covid-19

A KEYNOTE SPEECH BY THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE ABUJA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY, MS VICTORIA AKAI 2021 LINKEDINLOCALABUJA4.0

The Host Team for Linkedin LocalAbuja, my co-panelists, government officials present, leaders of private and public businesses, captains of industries, professionals in diverse fields, distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for having me at this august event-Open Dialogue Session of #LinkedInLocalAbuja 4.0.

I am particularly honored to be selected as a keynote speaker and one of the panelists at this meeting and I look forward to an interesting conversation that would further connect and consolidate relationships amongst businessmen and professionals.

I would like to admit that tonight’s event is not only timely, but it also connects with the real challenges that businesses, employers, employees, government, professionals and the world in general, is currently wrestling with as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus has changed the dynamics of businesses, reconstructed professional relationships, and challenged the previously held business models and customs.

Notwithstanding the presence of vaccines to minimize the negative impact of the covid-19 virus, there is a new normal on how businesses and relationships across various strata is being conducted.

Also, even though it seems unseen by most people, the coronavirus has been functioning as a catalyst for the fastracking of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in our world (marking the integration between the physical, digital and biological spheres). The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) stands out for the fact that, machines have become active, unlike other industrial revolutions where machines were passive.

Since Linkedin is a professional platform of databases and profiles of experts, whose services may be needed by companies, governments and third parties. My expectation is that beyond this moment, we would consolidate this discussion by re-strategizing our business models and professional relationships in such a way that our services would still be relevant and accessible by those who need them.

I am happy to share my personal working experience in the midst of the covid 19 outbreak. I assumed assignment at the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry as the Director General in January 2020, just at the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic.

But knowing that the job of a CEO is to provide solutions, i reorganized the team at the ACCI secretariat to navigate through looming obstacles and challenges and still deliver on my responsibilities.

So we re-strategized. At that point we decided that achieving something is better than achieving nothing.
We looked at the programs planned for the year 2020 to decide which programs might still be possible for implementation given the new realities.

To that extent, the ICT, membership and the research and development department became the epicenter for replanning of activities, where we developed strategies on how to continue conducting our business as a Chamber of commerce. We revamped our ICT architecture to conform with the realties on ground and began to conduct our meetings using digital platforms such as zoom, skype, google meet, Microsoft teams, and streaming public events on YouTube, facebook, Instagram and other possible online platforms.

We started to sensitize our members on possible ways of continuing some business transactions in the midst of the catastrophic lockdown measures under implementation. This was part of our emergency response to the rate at which businesses were closing down. We were able to match our members with international businesses and close deals to the tune of over 70million USD during the lockdown.

We continued advocating for the government and donor intervention funds through our policy advocacy center, to save the businesses of our most vulnerable members.

Movement Permits were obtained for our members who needed to move essential products around the country. One thing that happened for us during the lockdown period was that we were able to make contact and bond with certain regulatory agencies that hitherto, seemed distant.

It may interest you to know that one of our major events as a Chamber, the Abuja International Trade Fair, which is one of the foremost trade fairs in Nigeria, was held as a hybrid event, using a combination of virtual and physical means.

Although physical exhibitions were carried out when the lockdown was relaxed, we organized a number of virtual business networking meetings. We organized the events successfully and recorded a sizable number of participants both on ground and on digitals platforms. Thankfully, the digital platforms have become a global tool, webinars as against seminars.

The ICT infrastructure we built to navigate through the covid-19 pandemic has not been discarded, but in fact, is being upgraded. We continue to leverage on it to conduct our business as one of the foremost chambers of commerce in Nigeria even in this post pandemic era.

Currently, our yearly planning and budgeting has changed. The Chamber now has a strategic plan on how to approach service delivery in the wake of current realities. We have applied current realities to our planning and service delivery. For instance;

  • Our website has been upgraded and a membership application is now available to provide more user friendly options that allows members to carry out more transactions online thereby reducing physical visits to the chamber.
  • We have adjusted our office work environment to align with covid 19 measures, all physical meeting spaces have also been adjusted to align with covid 19 measures;
  • We started the young CEO Club ….

It is gratifying to note that a gathering like this thus provides avenue for review of the LinkedIn, as a social convergence of professionals who would want to optimize their expertise in adding value to government, business, and their communities.

Once again, I thank the organizers for the opportunity to present this keynote address and I look forward to an elaborate conversation on the theme, Adapt-Agility: How Government & Businesses, Professionals, Policymakers, Executives, Entrepreneurs Can Prosper in a Post-Pandemic World.
I wish us all happy deliberations.

Victoria Akai
DG, ACCI

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