Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank

By Bolaji Israel

Dr Adesola Adeduntan, Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Limited has said technology, innovation and enhanced capabilities have become necessary to achieve significant business growth in the post-COVID-19 era.

Adeduntan made this remark on Thursday during a Digital Disruption Series webinar organised by the Surrey Business School of the University of Surrey, England.

The webinar was themed: “Digital Disruption: How Can Companies Thrive in Africa Post-COVID-19.”

According to the FirstBank boss, it is about studying the environment and leveraging the digital space to proffer solutions tailored to suit emerging challenges

Adeduntan cited FirstMobile, the Bank’s mobile banking and *894# USSD platforms as some of the digital disruptions that had impacted positively on the financial institution, the banking industry and the financial ecosystem as a whole.

“We have the largest bank agents – close to 90,000 – of them spread across the country, helping to bring in people that were financially excluded into the financial system,” he said.

On barriers to growth in creating innovative and indigenous knowledge, the CEO cited capital constraint, social infrastructure and cultural approach as some of the limiting factors encountered by businesses in Africa.

“In Nigeria, to solve the capital constraint, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Banker’s Committee contribute certain percentage of our profit to a pool of fund to serve as equity for entrepreneurs,” he said.

According to the FirstBank CEO, absence of social infrastructure in African countries has denied citizens the ability to lead better and quality life, thus leading to the migration of many young and brilliant minds from the continent.

He said the bank evolved a deliberate approach in its employment, remuneration, exciting work roles and talent development to inspire and retain its young workforce.

Dr. Adeduntan added that there were significant opportunities in Africa, with over one billion population, while noting that opportunities were available for young and innovative people willing to work smart and hard.

The FirstBank boss noted that the bank had been in existence for 127 years, and had been strategically positioned for exponential growth through its ability to leverage innovation to reinvent itself.

Also speaking at the event, Prof. Kenneth Amaeshi, Thought Leader, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, said COVID-19 had unravelled the need to realign Africa’s institutions, and convert challenges to opportunities.

Amaeshi said African governments should evolve more favourable policies and incentives that would encourage renewed innovation, increase investment in education, research and development and intellectual property protection.

“As much as we want to celebrate technology development in Africa, we need Africans to participate and contribute to the knowledge going on in the digital space,” he said.