The Office of the Mayor of Kingston:
On Thursday 24th January the Africa meets the Caribbean trade mission paid a courtesy call on Her Worship the Mayor of Kingston Councillor Angela Brown-Burke and the Town Clerk Town Clerk Mr Errol Greene JP. and at her office.
The trade mission team that greeted the Mayor comprised Mr Bola Akindele Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Solutions PLC, Mr Femi Niyi, Executive Director ( Projects , Strategy and Research, Courteville Business Solutions PLC, Mr Wale Sonaike,Deputy Managing Director (AutoReg Franchise), Mr Wole Oyewo, Courteville’s Communications consultant, Mr Del Atah, Managing Director Zeraxis, Mr Clyde Baker, Chairman Priority Group International and director CENUK: Ms Claire Jackson Operations Manager, CENUK and the CaribDirect.com team.
Mr Bola Akindele took the opportunity to commence proceedings by thanking the Mayor for receiving his party from Nigeria. He praised the efforts of Priority First UK and their affiliate the Caribbean Enterprise Network (CENUK) for making the trade mission possible. He said, ‘I bring you greetings from the Village…as you know you all come from Ebo stock.’ to which the Mayor agreed and laughed heartily.
Bola suggested that the challenges of Jamaica are very much the same as those in Nigeria and this presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica to benefit from the many successes Courteville Business Solutions PLC has achieved over the years. Though he recognised the nature of the visit to the Mayor’s Office being one premised on establishing cordial relations, he was curious about the general workings of the organisation and gleaning some idea of the commercial challenges that Courteville may be best placed to provide solutions to.
Her Worship welcomed the delegation and said it was hard to properly welcome the trade mission on this the last day of the visit to Jamaica. She confirmed her understanding that Courteville Business Solutions PLC were keen to establish offices in Jamaica and suggested Kingston be the base for their operations. She said, ‘We are working to pride ourselves on being the leading and innovative Council anywhere in the world…not just Jamaica…
As a municipality part of our remit is to ensure our businesses are adequately facilitated…local economic development is paramount and therefore any activity that is going to add to growth, increase GDP and so on will be welcome and supported by my office wholeheartedly’.
Mr Del Atah, Managing Director Zeraxis quickly alerted the Mayor to his Nigerian roots and deep Jamaican connection through his wife and provided a concise description of his business while rendering a synopsis of the specialist IT services it provides. This introduction was followed by David F. Roberts, Publisher of CaribDirect.com who outlined the remit of the organisation and its relevance to the trade mission.
Representing CENUK , Ms Claire Jackson, Operations Manager and coordinator of the Africa meets the Caribbean trade mission, and Jamaican by birth made it clear that Jamaica, for both personal and professional reasons was deliberately selected to be the first country to benefit from this new venture.
At this point Her Worship Councillor Brown-Burke mentioned having received a UK delegation from West Midlands UK and that there must be something good happening for Kingston and she was pleased.
Mr Femi Niyi, Executive Director (Projects , Strategy and Research, Courteville Business Solutions PLC, posed the question about Taxes and what method is used to collect vehicle and other municipal taxes. He described the efficiencies of Courteville’s flagship AutoReg vehicle registration and documentation program.
Her Worship Councillor Brown-Burke indicated her interest to receive further details of the many programs that Courteville offers with a view to examining their suitability and possible implementation. She pledged her support and looks forward to continuing discussions.
The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ)
The second and final meeting of the day was with President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the business advocacy organisation of Jamaica, Mr Christopher Zacca. Mr Zacca, one of Jamaica’s most prominent and prolific businessmen was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer, Mrs Sandra A.C. Glasgow and Chairman of KS Chemical Distributors Ltd., Mr Elon Beckford one of Jamaica’s longest serving Councillors.
Mr Zacca set the tone of the meeting by injecting some humour which was at the expense of the charismatic, flamboyant, and playful Mr Femi Niyi who Mr Zacca suggested needed to be kept close by as he suspected he was not one to be left unsupervised. This created much laughter and made for easy introductions.
Mr Denis St Bernard, director of Priority Group International and director of the Africa meets the Caribbean Trade Mission introduced the members of the trade mission and articulated the objectives. He said given the mandate of the PSOJ that a visit to Jamaica without calling upon the leaders of the PSOJ would have been foolhardy and a significant oversight.
Mr Bola Akindele Group Managing Director, Courteville Business Solutions PLC expressed his particular delight at meeting Mr Zacca and his team and said that he has had very productive meetings over the four days in Jamaica. He painted the backdrop of the Nigerian economy and the fact that Nigeria’s market is ideal for investment given its size (162 million population- 20 million in its smallest state Lagos) and GDP growth at a rate of over 7% per annum.
The Courteville chief provided a summary of the many services and areas of particular specialisation, data management and administration and stressed that as professional and experienced data managers they can critically assess and provide bespoke systems to solve most challenges associated with the management of large banks of data. Also that he had successful meetings with the Insurance Association of Jamaica and so on.
Denis St Bernard asked the critical question of what are the starting points for a lobby for South / South trade in Jamaica. Mr Zacca responded by confirming Jamaica has traditionally looked North to North America for trade opportunities and to some extent the East to China. Mrs Glasgow mentioned the inroads Grace Kennedy Foods have made with entering the Ghanaian market successfully.
Mr Zacca stressed that he would be very interested to learn of the ideas Mr Akindele had in terms of elucidating what sustainable opportunities exist in Africa that could be explored long term for Jamaica. Mrs Glasgow further made the point that she thinks Jamaicans are a little timid and tend to venture into markets where there are already established connections rather than seeking to penetrate new territories. She said Grace Foods have confirmed the Ghanaian market to be extremely receptive to their products and has proven to be a worthwhile venture.
At this point Priority Group International Chairman, Mr Clyde Baker informed Mr Zacca and Mrs Glasgow of the impending trade mission to Africa in June 201 3(The Caribbean meets Africa Trade Mission) and that this would be an ideal opportunity for Jamaican companies to test the potency of their products or services in a new and vast emerging market.
Mr Akindele and Mr Niyi together immediately challenged the commercial viability of setting up in Ghana versus setting up in Nigeria by enlightening the hosts that in Ghana foreign companies cannot ‘set up shop’ in the country without having a Ghanian on the Board of Directors or holding a significant position or stake in the company.
Also that the Ghanian market is so much smaller than that of Nigeria that it boggles the mind why a Caribbean company would consider test marketing a product in a market other than one with 162 million potential consumers…
Mr Elon Beckford came to make the point that he believes it was no mistake Grace Kennedy Foods chose Ghana first but that it could be seen as an experiment preparing them to enter the Nigerian market with confidence. He also said the South / South trade opportunity is possible and would need to begin at the private sector level first through establishing the right linkages and moving from there.
However, on the political side, he said Jamaica has been talking about this for many years but the global economic circumstances today are forcing political leaders across the Caribbean to take these opportunities more seriously and we should see movement very soon.
Mr Denis St Bernard announced that Priority First UK / CENUK are in the process of planning an African Caribbean Expo in Jamaica later this year that will seek to showcase much of what the Caribbean has to offer to Africa.
Opportunities for trade in food, low cost housing, financial services, sports and mobile money, Mr Zacca said would be excellent for Jamaica and would like to explore in some detail the feasibility of these areas with a view to initiating arrangements to commence trade. Mr Zacca implored the delegation and more particularly Courteville Business Solutions PLC, through Mr Bola Akindele to keep the lines of communication open to ensure both parties give the discussed opportunities a fair chance at success.
Jamaica Stock Exchange:
As part of the Africa meets the Caribbean Trade Mission Mr Bola Akindele was invited to speak at the special luncheon of the Jamaica Stock Exchange at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston.
To a packed room of influential public and private sector individuals including the Minister responsible for the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. G. Anthony Hylton,MP and General Manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Mrs Marlene street Forrest, Bola introduced Courteville Business Solutions PLC as a 21st Century company listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange doing revolutionary things in business in Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
He began by saying, ‘Greetings from the Village, Greetings from home.’ he further stated that given the population of Nigeria being 20% of the continent of Africa that Nigeria is Africa, meaning that the influence of Nigeria resides in every corner of Africa.
He expounded on the tremendous opportunities that exist in a dynamic African market, Nigeria, that is growing at a rate of 7% per annum, (far better than any European country) and the cultural and economic synergies that exist between Jamaica and Nigeria.
Bola suggested that the role of driving a country’s economic growth should not be the government’s but that of the private sector. Governments all over the world have being doing their best to improve their economies but with very little success while private organisations are more robust, nimble and able to generate profit that will create investments that will ultimately lead to economic growth and development.
With Nigeria’s GDP contributing 50% of the GDP of the entire African continent, Nigeria is an economic giant that is growing constantly. Mr Akindele affirmed that Nigerians in the United Kingdom outspent the Chinese, the Arabs, the Indians and the Russians in 2012. He was very adamant that if Jamaican businessmen and women are serious about growing their businesses they need to look to the South and not the North.
Following the presentation which was well received, Bola answered questions from the gathering and networked with the guests for sometime before meeting briefly with the Minister responsible for the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. G. Anthony Hylton,MP.
Bola was then given a tour of the Things Jamaican booth arranged by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, facilitated by Mrs Marie Elizabeth Casserly, Product Development & Implementation Specialist and Mr Colin Porter, manager Technical Services. It was here that Mr Akindele felt a particular kinship with the island of Jamaica when he saw two Richard Atkinson sculptures made from papier mache that he couldn’t pass up. He stared and stared, pondered and pondered and then decided, ‘I must have those!’ That signaled the end of a great trip to Jamaica! Article and Photography by David F. Roberts