In the wake of the pandemic in Nigeria, the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA-COVID) was formed by private sector leaders to support the Nigerian Government’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis. As the Executive Chairman and Founder of BUA Group – one of the key stakeholders of the CA-COVID initiative – Mr Abdul Samad Rabiu, in this interview talks about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and how he joined the CA-COVID initiative to limit the negative impact of the crisis on individuals and businesses.
In leading through difficult situations, just like the current pandemic, Mr Abdul Samad Rabu shares what inspires him to seek out-of-the-box solutions.
One of my guiding philosophies is that if you are in a position to help, you should do so with little or no condition. We were inspired by the need to see Nigeria scale through this crisis given the challenges. We were inspired as a responsible corporate organization to take the bull by the horn in ensuring that the spread of the pandemic was curtailed. In the end, we can only thrive as a business if the people our business depends upon are alive and are thriving.
On Crisis Management
Crisis – predictable and otherwise, will always be part of a business and are bound to happen at some point. It is, however, important to plan and establish frameworks for a range of crises likely to be experienced in the lifespan of your business. This ensures business continuity in the event a crisis happens.
On Joining The Fight
With many countries leaving the fate of the economy to the government, Mr Abdul Samad decided to work with other organizations in the private sector through the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) initiative, as opposed to just giving money and walking away. He shares why he chose this approach and BUA’s role in the CACOVID initiative.
BUA has always believed in the power of sustainable partnerships to solve some of the greatest developmental challenges facing us – as a nation and as a continent. When the idea of the Private Sector Coalition was put forward, I strongly believed that it aligned with our existing plans to tackle the virus as a socially responsible organization. We would go on to be the first organization to commit and fully redeem our pledge of N1billion to the coalition. This formed part of a 20million dollars fund BUA set aside to support intervention efforts and help the country navigate this COVID-19 crisis at the start of the pandemic.
On Curbing The Spread
With the number of coronavirus cases increasing daily, and donations from BUA to some states and the COVID-19 task force, amongst other philanthropic acts, Mr Abdul Samad shares how BUA plans to help curb the spread of the virus and limit its impact during this pandemic.
Our approach to the virus was fourfold –
1. Seek appropriate partnerships for accelerated impact;
2. Ensure that our employees and their families were safe and business continuity guaranteed without risk to the lives of our people;
3. Support various interventions through the $20million BUA Covid-19 fund which we set aside prior to the full-blown crisis in Nigeria.
Let me add that the BUA COVID-19 fund has been disbursed in forms of cash donations to various states, the Presidential Task Force and some initiatives, food supplies, medical supplies/equipment, and Health infrastructure grants.
4. Provide technical assistance where possible and support capacity development efforts.
BUA is working closely with various stakeholders in the COVID-19 fight – private sector, government agencies as well as International Partners. Our interventions will continue to be shaped by monitoring the situation and expert recommendations. We will keep doing what is necessary to contribute our quota in ensuring the pandemic is completely eradicated.
People believe that big organizations can’t be adversely affected by the current crisis. But this is not the case as organisations of all sizes are making adjustments to stay afloat. Mr Abdul Samad tells us how the pandemic and lockdown has affected the production capacity of BUA Group.
I must say that we do not expect our major businesses in foods, mining, manufacturing and construction to be adversely affected by the virus in the short term. For instance, we had engaged our business continuity plans before the government lockdown went into effect and were well prepared to handle the potential shocks to the system. In addition, most of the industries we operate in – like Sugar and other allied foods businesses have had to ramp up production to meet local demand with the closure of our external borders. This coupled with a highly automated production process at most of our factories has helped mitigate the adverse impact of COVID-19 on our business. With respect to raw material sourcing, our tight value-chain integration at most of our businesses ensure that raw materials are readily available to sustain production over the period.
We are however hopeful that the virus can be curtailed sooner and things are returned to normal.
On Beating The Odds
Most production companies are considering pay cuts, downsizing labour and other stabilising strategies to stay afloat. Mr Abdul Samad shares his plans to navigate the waters of the crisis to stay afloat and meet expectations for 2020 and beyond.
We are not considering pay cuts or downsizing our workforce now. BUA Group has an incredible workforce and we have continued to keep channels of communications open throughout this period. When the pandemic broke out, we immediately activated our business continuity plans and remote work policy for over 90% of the BUA workforce. Almost all our employees are still working remotely and they have been able to achieve required results despite the constraints.
When the pandemic is over, we will only double our tasks and efforts to reach our set targets and goals.
A Call To Organizations
So far, what we at BUA have done has been to assist in expanding the scope of interventions, ongoing research, as well as support already stretched efforts dedicated to this fight. We also actively sought partnerships that we believe can help bridge the gap in areas where support is most needed. There is still a lot that needs to be done and organisations with the capacity should be looking at joining efforts to combat this pandemic
Mr Abdul Samad shares caveats and steps that the BUA Foundation have taken to ensure that the donated funds are utilised for proposed COVID-19 projects through the CACOVID initiative.
We have provided donations to areas where they are most needed. However, we have our independent structures amongst other mechanisms to monitor utilisation and measure effectiveness. CACOVID also has in-built audit mechanisms, which to a large extent, helps bring some form of accountability to the Coalition’s programme.
With limited food supplies and personal finance receding, Mr Abdul Samad talks about his long-term plan for BUA Foundation in working with CACOVID to battle the negative outcomes during and after this pandemic.
As a key member, BUA continues to actively work with CACOVID in solving key challenges in the fight against COVID-19. On our own, the BUA Foundation conducted a feeding programme to provide 150,000 processed meals across Lagos. On the other hand, our non-processed meals programme targeted about 100,000 individuals in Edo, 30,000 homes in Lagos and 1million individuals in Kano and some parts of the North. We will keep reviewing progress with all our partners including CACOVID to support areas that need further intervention during and post-COVID.
Advice To Small and Growing Businesses
Mr Abdul Samad shares his advice to small and growing businesses struggling to stay afloat during this crisis.
It is important to move fast and quickly. Despite this, businesses need to review their current operational models in line with the current challenges and prospects. There will most likely be a need to head back to the drawing board to rethink their strategies and come up with solutions that can sustain their businesses for the short-to-medium term whilst the pandemic lapses. They should also cue into government assistance programmes where possible and seek partnerships that can cut down the cost of operations significantly.
A Call To Africans
We must come together as one united country and continent to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic is eradicated by taking necessary precautions to help each other scale through the crisis. No one person, institution or government can do this alone.
We must all work together in mitigating the impact of the virus whilst seeking sustainable solutions to helping us navigate the challenges that the pandemic has created. All hands must be on deck.
Nwajideobi Lucy (GPHR, MABS, MCIPM, MCIA, MPMA) is a passionate, vibrant Management Professional, Administrator and Human Resource Development Expert, Founder and President of the Lucy O’ora Consulting Company with multiple international certifications. She's the publisher of Lucyora.com.