Obi Emekekwue is illustrious. He’s the poster boy -never mind that he’s 60 -for honesty, transparency and ingenuity. He’s the one who’s done big things and still lies low. Emekekwue is a game-changer and when age enforced his compulsory retirement at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) recently, nobody wonders what’s his next step. Bayo Akinloye revisits his past and his appetite for the big occasions
His blue tailored suit sits exquisitely on his well-built square shoulders, his bespectacled face glistens with understated glee. As he takes a few steps toward you in a characteristic gait that signposts his grace and gumption, his countenance softens more as a smile forms on his lips. He extends his hand, gentlemanly, to shake yours, holding it firmly but gently. Obi Emekekwue is a corporate communication giant that often stoops to conquer.
He possesses a communication prowess not commonplace and every word he uses lends credence to his desire to sustain and improve relations.
Emekekwue’s approach was similar when he sent a recent email announcing a milestone in his professional career at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
“Today marks my last day at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank). I am proceeding on retirement on reaching the statutory retirement age of 60. I am, therefore, writing to express very special thanks to you for all your cooperation and support during the last eight years when I served as head of the Bank’s Communications Department,” says Emekekwue, the former Head of External Communications of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
He represents everything dynamic and forward-looking.
Since joining Afreximbank, a Pan-African multilateral trade finance institution focused on promoting and expanding intra and extra-African trade, in 2012, Emekekwue has overseen the establishment of a substantive external communications unit and has been responsible for designing, managing and implementing the bank’s communications strategy, including its outreach activities.
At 60, life has just begun for the critically-acclaimed public speaker, highly-skilled writer and editor, to explore further and pass on the baton to younger co-travellers in the communications field. Being a result-driven communications and public affairs manager with over 20 years of international and United Nations experience, Emekekwue has a proven track record in managing high-producing strategic communications, media relations, and public affairs teams. Besides, he has extensive international affairs, program management, and public advocacy experience which cover areas like Africa, the Americas and Asia/Pacific.
A flip of the pages of Emekekwue’s CV reveals his outstanding communications and programme management skills with over 17 years of high-level international multilateral experience; cross-team and issue work skill at national, regional and international levels.
As a communication expert, he had successfully initiated a campaign that grew into a multimillion-dollar advocacy effort focusing global attention on the problem of obstetric fistula, raising funds in excess of $40 million. That’s not all.
Emekekwue pioneered “novel” public health awareness campaign by persuading television network to launch reality show focusing on the life and challenges of the HIV-positive individual.
To his credit, he successfully managed development programme budgets totaling more than $6 million; managed planning and organization of six multi-nation conferences and special events.
Emekekwue brims with ideas, passion and zest as illustrated by his time (1994 to 2012) at the United Nations, serving as a senior press officer in the Department of Public Information at the New York Headquarters. Over the course of 18 years, he worked variously as a public information officer, media specialist and programme specialist in several UN agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
At the UN’s secretariat, he oversaw press coverage of the UN General Assembly and its main committees. At the UNDP, Emekekwue managed communications activities in Anglophone Africa, including building and maintaining a network of UNDP’s Africa-based communications officers. He also served for one year as the UN communications specialist at the UN Country Team in Papua New Guinea.
At UNFPA, after serving initially as an information officer in charge of the Africa Region and as editor of the Fund’s flagship magazine, he took up responsibility as the programme specialist responsible for managing population development programmes and activities in 11 African countries as the desk officer in the West Africa Unit of the Africa Regional Office in New York.
With engagement in the United States, Africa and Asia the Asia-Pacific regions, Emekekwue’s connections are unparalleled.
Prior to his UN career, Emekekwue was the bureau chief of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at the UN and North America. In that capacity, he oversaw reporting of international news from the UN and North America for Africa’s largest national news agency, contributing at the same time to the Pan-African News Agency. He was previously a senior political correspondent for NAN before being posted to New York and also served as a business correspondent, editor, sub-editor, and sports correspondent during a NAN career that spanned from 1983 to 1994.
Emekekwue’s stature in media and communications is humongous having organized international delegations of media leaders and practitioners to development projects across Africa, including in Angola, Mali and Senegal. He also led the organization of several major international conferences, including the 10th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development in Dakar attended by 52 African countries.
One of Nigeria’s best brains, Emekekwue represented Afreximbank in high-level meetings with senior government officials, political, economic and cultural leaders, including at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
As a studious professional, Emekekwue has a master’s degree in international relations at St. John’s University, New York, with a 4.0 GPA and received a postgraduate certificate in international law and diplomacy from the same institution. He graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication.