Upward Mobility: Tapping into Africa’s Potential
The following excerpt is based on the book Tomorrow’s Jobs Today, available at fine booksellers from John Hunt Publishers.
It’s every job seeker’s dream to land both a financially and intellectually rewarding position doing something that they love. Or at least like! Yet these days, even amidst the abundant opportunities of the Information Age, folks of all skill levels continue to struggle with the best approach to a happy and successful vocation.
Business models are transforming the job market so rapidly that even the most accomplished executives and educated employees suffer from anxiety over the stability of their roles. They must routinely prove their intrinsic value to their superiors and define their personal brand within their organization. For new graduates and those looking to make a big career transition, the reality of a continually shifting corporate landscape can feel almost paralyzing. It’s a universal issue that we find throughout the globe, including Africa, where men like Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole are working to helping young people succeed.
“Having a society where quality records and information can be easily accessed must be a priority.”Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole
From the interview
Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole, FIIM, ERMS, RMEM, FIRMS is the Chairman of the Board at the Institute of Information Management based in Nigeria. Before leading the institute, he served in senior IT roles for Swedish firms and consulted on cybersecurity needs for the oil and gas industry. He received his BSc in Computer Science from Lagos State University.
Q: Amb-Dr. Oyedokun, your work developing new practitioners in Records and Computer Science fields in Africa is substantial and encouraging. You have empowered your students to harness their analytical skills, engage in professional development, and seize opportunity. What inspired you to start building a community of skilled practitioners that could make a difference in their communities?
A: My journey started in 2004 with a tremendous vision and mission. This was at a time when only a few organizations in Africa were implementing data science and information management technology. With the vast opportunities in those areas coupled with the societal challenges faced by the continent, I saw the need for us to bolster the demand for proper management and security of records in both public and private organizations. A huge chunk of organizations was still struggling with managing physical records and certainly not prepared for electronic documents. Poverty, corruption, and a lack of employment opportunities were crippling.
In analyzing all of this, I felt the only meaningful solution to both alleviating suffering and empowering people was through the advancement of this industry, information management, neglected for decades in Africa. Having a society where quality records and information can be easily accessed must be a priority in the face of several challenges ranging from lack of government support, inadequate legislation, poorly trained professionals and practitioners, to the absence of standards and necessary tools for adequate data governance.
Q: Most people around the world don’t realize that many parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, finally have sophisticated infrastructures despite being considered developing nations. The history of Africa is varied and rich, with much of its potential still yet to be unlocked. What if anything do you feel is unique to African nations that you might not find in places like the United Kingdom or the United States?
A: Opportunities in Nigeria are still blossoming, and there is a lot of potential and talent yet to be tapped. I think what we see in Nigeria, especially, but other parts of Africa as well, reflects a belief by young people that it’s becoming very possible to pursue success in a professional capacity. They carry a deep resolve to take their careers to the next level and make their lives better, despite a myriad of social and economic challenges less prevalent in the West. That’s what inspires me the most.
Q: You spent quite some time working for Chevron Nigeria Limited on its Agura Independent Power Project designing IT systems. Nigeria’s oil reserves are substantial, and as this sector develops, just like in the United States, there are social and environmental issues impacted by this progress. How much are projects such as those affected by laws and regulations in African nations, and what trends do you expect in the African regulatory landscape over the next five or ten years?
A: The regulatory environment in Nigeria is complex, creating challenges even for companies that strive hard to be compliant! There’s legislation to regulate almost every area of economic activity. The pro-transparency, anti-corruption inclination of present administrations are seen as helping ensure accountability and good governance. That means empowered regulators are comfortable with coming down hard on breaches of local regulation. However, there hasn’t been as much impact compared to other financial, telecommunications, and energy sectors operating in other parts of the world.
Yet amidst the mix of regulatory change and remaining instability, we do see opportunities for organizations to advance their local positioning and risk management approach. Performing necessary compliance audits and investing and internal capacity-building around compliance issues is being achieved. In Africa, I believe companies should learn to prioritize engagement and seek to build long-lasting interaction not only with regulators but across a broader base of public sector stakeholders. Engagement will intensify the understanding of regulators’ priorities and facilitate dialogue that will ultimately improve policy formulation, and consequently help organizations to shape the ethical business environment around their operations.
Q: You have hosted a plethora of international business leaders at your conferences to bring new ideas to Africa. What kinds of contributions are Information Age professionals in the rest of the world making to support the development of these professions in Africa?
A: A lot is happening in terms of development in the global information management space, which I think Africa is yet to integrate into, realize, or benefit from fully. Nevertheless, some professionals and organizations like the Information and Records Management Society (IRMS), the International Records Management Trust (IRMT), and the Information Governance Initiative (IGI) have been of tremendous inspiration and support to the development of our industry and job seekers in Africa. There are lots of opportunities for international professionals who might be interested in exploring, including business and consultancy services here. The records and information management profession of the 21st century is one for the brave-hearted, exciting, and with further potential than ever before.
To read more about incredible careers like Amb-Dr. Oyedokun Ayodeji Oyewole and change your life in the information age, buy the book today!