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Interview with Niyi Yusuf, Country Managing Director of Accenture, on the technological changes happening in Nigeria

How has Accenture adapted to the rapid technological change that characterizes the Nigerian market?

The changes observed in Nigeria over the past couple years centered around mobility. We have had 143 million phone subscribers, close to 30 million of which are smartphone users. Internet penetration is rising, and this has encouraged tech startups, whereby more apps are being produced for mobile phones than ever before. There are also many tech companies and GSM companies that are going beyond voice into data and multimedia. Nollywood is also highly active with digital video and music downloads and entertainment.. The second change I have seen has to do with the cloud, and GSM companies are now providing cloud-based services. An SME can now have operations in the cloud, and banking, too, is becoming cloud based. In the past Accenture had three functions including technology, consulting, and outsourcing. But today we deliver five major services: Technology, Digital (including mobility and the cloud), Consulting, Operations (outsourcing), and Strategy. Accenture realized that social media, the cloud, mobility, and other trends are here to stay. We started a new business called Accenture Digital that focuses on clients making decisions influenced by mobile devices and fast changing huge volume of data. We are also attracting talents to Accenture Nigeria, and we have a choice to either build or buy. We have had to do a mix of both in terms of training and recruiting.

Nigeria is considered to be one of the fastest growing technology and communications markets in the world. How does this market factor into Accenture’s global operations?

Globally, Accenture has five major industry groups with the government, financial services, communications, resources, and operations. Telecom is a major industry sector for Accenture, and is a major part of our CMT Practice (Communications, Media and Technology). Given the maturity level of the Nigerian market, we are mostly involved in the telecom sector in Nigeria, versus technology and the media. Those two sectors are still fragmented, while telecom is a major growth area, accounting for upward of 18-20% of Accenture’s local revenues. Telecoms is quite important for us, and we are working with two of the four telecoms providers to serve the public.

Has the devaluation of the naira led to an increase in more efficient technology services and solutions or an outsourcing, in line with national trends?

The devaluation and subsequent decline in revenue, as well as the uncertainty of elections all made 2015 a highly challenging year for our clients. In addition, we had uncertainty with security in 1Q and 2Q. Our clients have responded in a number of ways, one being to cut their discretionary spending. Some of them are also looking to make structural changes, and have looked at outsourcing their IT departments. They are changing their management strategies and are looking for wars to consolidate and rationalize their IT footprint. They are doing so to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ensure optimisation. A number of clients are making good use of this crisis to affect management changes and improve efficiency. They are going for local and predictable operations. We are working with two banks to develop strategies for digital banking. We are looking at using social media, the cloud, and digital analytics to provide banking services to the next generation. That will reduce the need for human interactions thus reducing costs. Some of the consumer goods companies are looking at how technology can improve their route to the Market to accelerate the number of goods sold, and how they handle customer service delivery sumer. This is to ensure a better customer experience and increase growth. For some it is a cost cutting measure while for some it is about using technology to improve efficiency and open up new sources of revenue.

With the telecom business being a major part of your clientele, what opportunities do you see for Accenture over the coming years?

We are focused on delivering technology solutions whereby a number of our clients are targeting us specifically for that. Another area of growth we anticipate is operations, and we will be working with clients to run certain parts of their business. Those are the two areas that we anticipate good growth from.

In terms of hiring, you identified that you either have to build talent or import it. When you look for talent in Nigeria, do you have difficulty finding qualified people?

There is a shortage of talent in Nigeria, and most graduates seem unprepared for employment. Therefore, we have started a one-year graduate training program. We focus on the skills that Accenture requires in their employees such as data gathering and analysis, communication, business writing, team building, interpersonal skills, negotiation, and basic technology skills. These form the basis of the skills we are looking for, and these are also all-important coupled with ethics and doing what is right for the business and in business. There are other areas where local Nigerians do not have the right experience and relevance, and we are having to attract Nigerians from the diaspora who are willing to return.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

A stable security situation and general safety would allow our clients to conduct business better in the different geopolitical regions of the country. Our clients would then be able to use technology to serve nationwide and improve their supply chain, especially the supply chain to the far north and the deep south. This will improve business confidence and allow the mentality that Accenture will be able to help more with operations once stability improves. The country will then be back on its growth trajectory that will greatly exceed 5% next year and will inturn also allow further growth for our clients. Accenture has been capable of growth of 20% over the past five years, which has continued year on year. This year we are not in that growth territory for the reasons outlined earlier, although we anticipate returning to it in 2016.

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