God, family come before my job — Oyeyimika Adeboye, Cadbury MD – Punch Newspapers
Oyeyimika Adeboye is the first female Managing Director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc. She tells TOFARATI IGE about her career, family and other issues
You are the first woman to attain the position of MD of Cadbury Nigeria Plc in over five decades. In what ways is this symbolic for you?
I guess having a woman as managing director of a manufacturing company in Nigeria has been something of a big deal, historically speaking. This is largely due to our socio-cultural realities where men tend to dominate in virtually all areas of our national life—be it politics or the corporate world. Perhaps, that was the reason my appointment as the first female managing director of Cadbury Nigeria Plc made the headlines.
There has been a global push for gender parity in the workplace, particularly at the board level, where critical decisions are made. Nigerian businesses are not left out, with numerous appointments of female leaders and Chief Executive Officers in financial services, technology, FMCG and even the oil sector. It is symbolic to have a female CEO in a manufacturing company, particularly as this traditionally has been a role held by men. As a global company, Mondelēz International— our parent company— has a growing number of women leaders across our functional operations and business units. This is in line with our diversity and inclusion agenda. At MDLZ, we have deliberately made it our focused objective to develop and promote our female talents.
What is your typical day like?
Each day is unique as I have reporting responsibilities to numerous stakeholders (local, international, internal and external). Yes, there are many meetings, market visits (customer and consumer engagements), employee engagement sessions, mentoring commitments, to name a few.
What is important for me is to ensure I have a constant connection with all my stakeholders, focusing on the ultimate goal – to achieve our business objectives.
How would you describe your experience so far as the MD of the company?
I am fortunate to work with the best talents, who have a great understanding of our business objectives and are clear on what needs to be done. One thing we did as a team a couple of years ago, was to spend time thinking through and aligning on our mission. This was very important for us as it also helped to define what we would need to do to achieve our business objectives. I see myself as an enabler, supporting our leaders and guiding the different teams as necessary, with the ultimate goal of delivering on our agreed objectives.
Of course, our consumers and our business partners are our biggest stakeholders and connecting with them is key to our existence. It is important to spend quality time with them as they are key to our success.
I have also learnt to prioritise the company’s relationship with other important stakeholders, including the government, trade associations and numerous regulators.
My corporate role as the Managing Director of Mondelēz West Africa means I am also responsible for our business in Ghana and chair the board of Cadbury Ghana Limited. We now have a growing export business across the ECOWAS region, and I am excited to see our brands growing beyond our borders.
I joined Cadbury Nigeria as the Finance Director in 2007 and over the years since then, I have come to understand the business quite well. With all the right support, moving from the FD role to becoming MD was quite seamless.
How would you assess the ease of doing business in Nigeria?
Governments all over the world strive to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, essentially from the standpoint that the private sector is a key engine for growth of the economy. While our government acknowledges the role of manufacturers in creating jobs, boosting gross domestic product, and adding value to our economy, manufacturers grapple with a myriad of challenges in Nigeria.
Today, we struggle with numerous economic issues including unpredictability of our foreign exchange and rising inflation, which makes decision-making and planning challenging. Most manufacturers in our sector generate power, as the national grid is unreliable and we cannot afford to have persistent power cuts in food manufacturing. Our ports are congested and have huge negative consequences on imports and exports. Our road network is poor and hauling products across Nigeria is an ongoing nightmare. And now, we worry about the security of our people with the rising wave of kidnapping across the country.
While the government has put in place several laudable incentives to stimulate economic growth, there is often a disconnect when it comes to implementation of these initiatives.
For example, the Export Expansion Grant scheme introduced some years ago to stimulate non-oil export is a commendable initiative. The scheme is very relevant to Nigeria, especially now that the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement has kicked off. We need to ensure that Nigerian businesses compete favourably with their counterparts in other African countries. The EEG was designed to encourage the export of ‘made in Nigeria’ products with a view to creating more employment opportunities for Nigerians and generating forex for the country. Several companies took advantage of the scheme as part of their business growth plan.
However, implementation has been an issue and the scheme has left many companies short-changed. At a point, the government suspended implementation of the scheme, citing abuse. Yes, it is unfortunate that some companies have abused the scheme, but those who have made bona fide investments and commenced export activities based on the rules of the scheme, have also suffered because of the actions of a few culprits and the inability of the regulatory authorities to police the system. Today, the government is still owing several legitimate exporters, including Cadbury, a backlog of EEG credit notes running into hundreds of billions of Naira. This defeats the purpose of the scheme. As we strive to encourage non-oil export, I believe the government needs to revisit the EEG scheme.
When it comes to matters relating to the economy, we must ensure that we follow through on implementation of policies as our credibility to our local and international business partners is at stake when we don’t. Foreign Direct Investment will only happen where an investor has confidence that the government will ensure full and lasting implementation of its policy initiatives. We often struggle to get additional investment into Nigerian businesses because investors are worried that the government will change policies abruptly.
In what ways did the COVID-19 pandemic impact on the activities of the company and how were you able to mitigate them?
The COVID-19 pandemic has really disrupted lives and livelihoods across the world. During the nationwide lockdown announced by the Federal Government in the early days of the…