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As LCCI president Covid-19 pandemic my biggest challenge! I had to think on my feet – Toki Mabogunje

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Toki Mabogunje, lawyer, business consultant, capacity builder, corporate strategist and value chain developer, is the immediate past president of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). She recently had a one-on-one marathon conversation with SIAKA MOMOH. The interview will be run in two parts – this week and the next.

Toki Mabogunje

You have just done a two-term tenure as President of LCCI. Was this your first time stint in LCCI as president? Specifically what period did your tenure cover? How long have you been part of
LCCI?

At the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) you have just one opportunity to be President. The LCCI Constitution provides for a single term of two years. Yes this was my first and only time as President of the LCCI. The tenure of my Presidency was from December 2019 to December 2021.

I first began to interact with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the 1990s when I represented my employer, Minaj Holdings Limited at the Chamber. We were very active in our sectoral group which at that time was the Industrial Group. When I set up my firm Toki Mabogunje and Co. in
January 2000, I joined the Chamber in my capacity as a self-employed business-owner. So in my capacity as a business owner I have been a member of the Chamber for 22 years. However overall I have been involved with the Chamber for 27 years.

What was your agenda for LCCI during the term you just completed?

My agenda at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) was to achieve the mission and vision of the institution. The LCCI has as its vision: “To remain the foremost Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a role model for others in delivering sound business ethics and qualitative
services.”

The LCCI Mission Statement is: “To promote and protect the interest of its members and the business community at large through public policy advocacy, creation and facilitation of commercial and industrial opportunity, provision of business development service and observation of the highest
standard of business ethics.” Therefore I had at the core of my agenda the goal of achieving the mission statement of the institution, while remaining true to its Vision. This drove my entire Presidency.

Then something completely beyond anyone’s imagination happened. The entire world was hit by a global pandemic, the like of which had not been seen for 100 years. What did this extraordinary event do to my agenda? It fast tracked the development of the Chamber by demanding literally overnight a complete transformation of the way we worked (lived and played). The world economy was drowning in the sea of Covid 19 and Nigeria was similarly affected.

I had to take this 131-year old institution and bring it rapidly into this period of the 4th Industrial Revolution. This period that we are in where there is a blurring of boundaries between the
physical, digital and biological worlds. Where we have a fusion of advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D Printing, Genetic Engineering, Quantum Computing and other technologies.

Were you able to successfully execute your agenda?

 I believe I did. It was extremely difficult. The Covid-19 pandemic at the same time both helped and hindered the process. It required constant creative and innovative thought. This was because there
were no answers to be had anywhere. Governments, Businesses, Communities etc were all striving to make sense of what was happening.
All solutions were experiments as there were no precedents. There was so much at stake in the business environment. The Nigerian Economy was in Recession. With the pandemic raging there was social unrest to contend with. So it was a really tough time. But when the lockdown began in March, three months into my Presidency, I knew I had to turn adversity into opportunity.

With regard to achieving the Vision of the Chamber “To remain the foremost Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a role model for others in delivering sound business ethics and qualitative services. “ We accomplished the following, among others:

•Obtained our ISO 9001: 2015 Certification. The 1st Chamber in Sub-Saharan Africa to do so and the 2nd on the Continent of Africa. This ensured our leadership position was secured in the Chamber Movement as well as ensuring that we continued to deliver qualitative services to our membership and the business community in general.

•We attained the total digital transformation of the Chamber which had many components to it. Staff skills had to be upgraded, all systems, processes and procedures had to be digitized, digital
platforms had to be acquired and/ or developed to accommodate our now total engagement online with trade fairs and exhibitions, public policy advocacy, networking amongst sectorial
groups and all meetings…

•We engaged with the International Trade Center (ITC), an organ of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to conduct an assessment of our 131 year old institution as we concluded the installation of the ERP, Digital Transformation and ISO Certification. We were assessed to be positioned in the top 10% of our Band worldwide.

With respect to the Mission Statement, “To promote and protect the interest of its members and the business community at large through public policy advocacy, creation and facilitation of commercial
and industrial opportunity, provision of business development service and observation of the highest standard of business ethics”, the Chamber’s Public Policy Advocacy programmes took a giant leap
forward. The sudden and consistent use of digital platforms made it easier than usual to reach policy makers, government officials, public servants, elected officials etc…

As President of Lagos Chamber, I was able to Lead my members to various virtual meetings and fora where the discussions felt
more direct and close knit than would have been the case in the physical space…

By the beginning of May 2020 we were up and running fully. The more digital we were in our delivery, the more our coast expanded over the two years. For example we held the largest ever Agriculture event virtually, which discussed the agriculture agenda for South Western Nigeria and we had over 5,000 participants in attendance from all over the world.

There are too many things to talk about as it truly was a period of transformation. In fact during my Presidency, new sectoral groups were created and these were: Creative Industries Sectoral Group, E- Commerce Sectoral Group, Maritime Sectoral Group. The Chamber also explored cutting edge technology through the activities of the Committee on science, energy and technology…

What were your challenges as President of LCCI?

My biggest and almost all consuming challenge was the Covid 19 pandemic. I had to think on my feet. I had to function with very little sleep (two to three hours) in the heat of the pandemic in year 2020. The Director-General and I were working seven days a week with very little time for rest. It was mentally and physically tasking due to the fact that it was frankly a new experience for everyone.

NEXT WEEK: There’s A Lot Still to Be Done for SMEs, for Nigeria to Become the Powerhouse and Powerhorse that it’s Meant to be

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