Mr. Niyi Yusuf is Country Managing Director of Accenture Nigeria, a software company dedicated to the provision of consulting and outsourcing services to industries. Yusuf tells Funke Olaode what Accenture is doing to empower and equip Nigerians for business in the 21st century and how its intervention programmes, targeted at the youth, small and medium scale enterprises, and rural communities, have positively impacted many citizens. Excerpts:
ou have been with Accenture for over 23 years, though the company began operation about 40 years ago. How has Accenture impacted the country and its people?
The company has done well, as we are going beyond being commercial to nation building and helping improve the nation through our services. Accenture has been around since 1978. Basically, we deal with government and corporate organisations, but having realised that we operate in an environment, we believe that we need to contribute our quota. About eight years ago, Accenture started a programme called “Skill to succeed”, which is our own way of helping to improve the readiness of individuals to either get a job or improve their business. For us, it is our own way of working with non-commercial clients and giving back. So in the last eight years we have been able to help well over half a million Nigerians who have been impacted by our various Skill to Succeed programmes.
Do you have partner organisations?
Typically, we work with partner agencies, which we do in three ways: by financial grant, our employee volunteering their time and by pro bono consulting, where we consult free of charge for our partner organisations. Our partner organisations are Fate Foundation, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and every year we support the mentoring of 50 small and medium enterprises through LCCI. I have been a mentor in the last four years. We work with LEAP Africa, which focuses on leadership empowerment, and the former MD of Accenture, Omobola Johnson, is one of the co-founder of WIMBIZ. Today, we have Accenture women who are volunteering as mentors. We also support WIMBIZ with financial grant. We also work with Junior Achievement Nigeria, an international NGO where the focus is on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship. Accenture sponsors pilot schemes of about 30 out of school programmes on how to start business, keep an account to ensure that their businesses thrive. Accenture was part of the formation of Nigerian Economic Summit, which again is our own way of improving partnership between private sector and the public sector. Today, we are providing mentoring services to eight of the starts-up that won at the last Nigerian Economic Summit in 2017. Over the last five years, in the course of building human capacities through various programmes, we have spent more than 10,000 hours free, supporting not-for-profit organisations and using them to impact Nigerians and small businesses.
Apart from empowerment programmes, what other areas is your company involved in?
In the last two years, we changed the model a bit. We brought to Nigeria the Accenture Development Partnership. Mr. Osato Noah, a staff of Accenture, is saddled with that responsibility of driving that vision. ADP is just our own way of working with multilateral donors to make significant impact because Nigeria is a population of about 190 million and the youth constitute about 70 per cent. If what we impact is just half a million we feel we need to do more. So we bring ADP to help us do more. The ADP brings the vision of Accenture to life and what we do is to leverage on the capabilities in Accenture; the tools and the resources that Accenture has to serve the development sector. And who are these people? International NGOs, Save the Children, Society for Family Health, Dangote Foundation, Danjuma Foundation, MTN Foundation, and UBA Foundation, etc. At the same time, we provide services for private sector organisations that fall within. Besides the bilateral and multilateral organisations, like the Department for International Development as well as US Agencies for International development, the services that we do are cost effective and sustainable. We focus on areas, such as agriculture, energy, livelihoods, humanitarian services as well as health.
What specific initiatives have you supported?
We have supported a lot of initiatives by working with a leading global philanthropy to digitalise the process for social investment programmes, which is aimed at enhancing financial services to the poor in a public private partnership model. The essence of the initiative is to ensure that everybody is included. Today, financial inclusion in Nigeria is about 42 per cent and the plan is that by 2020, with the support of this programme, we would probably have the number of people who are financially excluded. We are targeting about 10 million people under this initiative, which cuts across women, youths, urban and rural poor. We have also supported an organisation to set up a medical facility, which focuses on treatment and management of non-communicable diseases. Today, every year, Nigerians spend over $1 billion on medical tourism and if these medical facilities are well established, it will definitely help to curtail those going out in terms of medical care. That facility will also help reduce mortality rate from some of these diseases. Also, it improves the survival rate because the challenge in this part of the world is that most people present late diagnosis and as a result most people die. But when the facilities are available, there would be early detection and early treatment will save lives. We have also worked with Pan African Foundation that is focused on entrepreneurship that provides some form of acceleration and incubation programme to enhance and empower entrepreneurs. For instance, through its incubation programme, the organisation teaches and empowers entrepreneurs on how they can run a successful business and through its acceleration programmes it affords them some seed capital to either start-up programmes or to scale up whichever area they are in the group. We have also supported an organisation focusing on nutrition in helping to develop the country’s strategy that would help them focus on reducing some of the malnutrition with children under five years as well as pregnant women in the rural areas. We have worked with a Nigerian state to develop ST Cluster, which is aimed at enhancing the economic potential of a state by helping to create an enabling environment for starts-up in technology and innovation such that they are able to contribute significantly to the economy of the state.
What are your criteria for getting involved in a partnership? And how do you monitor and follow up the partners?
We are working with partners that are credible and reputable to carry out these services. They equally have an evaluation and monitoring team that monitors during and after the programme. So we get reports on annual basis that tell us who is doing what and the challenges. For instance, we are working with Fate Foundation free of charge to put digital system called “Sky is the Limit” that would be used to enable Fate Foundation to access more and monitor their entrepreneurs or students who have passed through them. Also, some of these entrepreneurs have progressed to becoming credible businesses that we are proud of.
Why are you coming out now, after 40 years of existence?
We have supported various causes over the past three decades. It was only eight years ago that we decided to formalise it and to also streamline it, so that instead of supporting millions of organisations, we focus on one thing, which is providing skills that will make people to be successful. Junior Achievement is 19 years and we have been working with them for over a decade. And for affordability of health care, there are two things: accessibility and affordability. What we are doing is to create the access and manage the affordability. Accessibility is a major problem because the facility is not readily available and so they (patients) don’t have accessibility, while affordability can be managed from health insurance perspective. We have also worked on a model that will aid affordability through family, society, donors, etc. What the accessibility does is to reduce medical tourism, particularly, the $1 billion spent on health annually.
How do you select sponsors for your CSR projects?
The projects being sponsored are projects that answer certain questions. For instance, would they help improve skills? And skills can be in different forms: technical or vocational, etc. Also, would those projects enhance the probability of recipients becoming more successful in their own ventures? If you can answer those two, I think the next question is, who are we partnering with? Do the organisations have a track record? Do our values align with them? So when we find the right partner who submits a proposal of ideas and we choose from the ideas. So far, we have committed more than 10,000 hours in providing services in the last five years. Every year, we have a budget and because we are committed to making a difference we sometimes overshoot our budget.
How do you ensure sustainability in your various projects?
The key thing for sustainability is choice of partner. The organisations that I have mentioned earlier are credible and that gives us a platform to maintain sustainability. Again, we have integrated technology in our services. So we are automating, which means less manual input and more technology driven. The third one is the involvement of our volunteers, who are both Accenture staff and Accenture Alumni and because our people are involved also gives us assurance that we have come to stay. And lastly, the monitoring and evaluation system that has been put in place gives us impact assessment study annually that tells us how much we spent, the impact we have and the challenges. The challenges actually form the base of our focus for the following year. I am happy today that the photographer for Accenture events is one of the participants under our SMEs skills. The video and recorder passed through us, likewise, the guy that does Accenture corporate items branding is one of the students that passed through this scheme, which tells us that we are making impact.