‘Why We’re Getting Youths Involved in Civic Discourse’
Bekeme Masade has been the brain behind CSR-in-Action, a non-profit organisation that has been bridging the gap between the old and the young people in the country. Today, The Third Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference 2014, is holding at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos and Masade has been in the midst of all. In this interview with Chidinma Elechi, she says besides looking forward to a successful conference, there’s another goal at the back of her mind, which is to shake off youth apathy in the extractive industries, awaken their interests and see them climb up the ladder in the sector
The Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference is in its third year. What is the focus of this year’s event?
The Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference is an annual seminar where captains of industries from the extractive sector, policy makers, entrepreneurs and professionals converge to discuss and brainstorm on resolutions to critical issues and challenges in the industries.
The first edition in 2012 which we co-organised with the Deputy High Commission of Canada (DHCC) and had leading speakers from Canada, Nigeria and other parts of Africa, addressed how companies in that space can manage their value chain. The second in 2012 addressed the existence and nature of policies covering the sector, including current challenges on implementation of policies promoting long term unity and development and relationships with host communities. From the experience of these 2, we realised that a recurrent theme is human capital and in the case of host communities, youth.
As a result, the theme for SITEI Conference 2014 is ‘Local Content Participation, Accountability and Transparency,’ with a focus on addressing the challenges of local entrepreneurs, job seekers, policies and critical issues surrounding the implementation of quality local content participation in the Extractive Industries. Going forward, I believe we would always have youth and to a large extent financial and social opportunities as our focus.
We’re hopeful that with the series of strategic workshops that will be anchored by a team of high resource persons, we would by the end of the event be able to proffer practical solutions towards improving entrance, accountability and transparency in the sector.
These are noble objectives, no doubt. But how do you hope to implement the goals of the conference, the promises and commitments made by key players in the industries?
CSR-in-Action fully understands such sentiments; which is why we have developed report and feedback models with the support of our partners. So, one of the expected outcomes of this year’s conference is the formation a stakeholder group aimed at implementing solutions at the conference. In order to avoid duplicity, though, we have entered into an agreement with a recently formed
As an addendum, don’t forget too that our other targeted programmes like CSR-in-Action’s The Collective Social Investment Report (CSIR). Our annual CSR report is a high quality first ever widely disseminated and inclusive compendium which covers CSR activities all over Nigeria every year from indigenous businesses, to multinationals, governments and multi-lateral partnerships and is modelled after international reports on sustainable investment.
In 2013, we introduced the country’s first sustainability index, the Corporate Citizenship Index (3C-Index), which is West Africa’s first ever competitive index on corporate social responsibility and strategically addresses the notion of 'holistic' approach to CSR.
The report polled, researched, analysed and ranked a total of 117 private sector companies from all over Nigeria from Automotive and Transportation to Business Services, Manufacturing, Construction, Education, Energy, Financial Services, FMCG, Media, Pharmaceuticals and Telecommunications. Through this approach, we tried to capture all aspects of a company's footprint in relation to its stakeholders, and its policies and strategies to balance people, profits and planet concept.
The CiA index was developed to measure performances of companies on the CSR index and a reliable ranking framework for peer review of corporates. The CiA 3C-Index ranking pillars are culled from Nigeria-specific aspects of the MDGs and the United Nations Global Compact Principles of community investment, environment, labour, anti-corruption, and reporting. We are passionate about good governance and so we encourage socio-environmental reporting in order to promote transparency and accountability.
At the risk of sounding immodest, CSR-in-Action is also the first organisation to train practitioners on sustainability reporting using a standardised and certified framework in Nigeria. We have trained over 80 professionals in corporate Nigeria on the internationally certified GRI course, including Chevron, First Bank, FCMB, Oando, GTB, Flourmills, Shell and others.
You are also organising an essay and logo competition as a run-up to the event. Is this an invitation for increased youth participation?
First, it is a youth competition targeted at bringing out the intellectual ingenuity from campus students, recent graduates and generally young and upwardly mobile Nigerians as regards propositions on improving the extractive industries and the economy as a whole. The competition is in two categories - essay and logo design - and entrants can submit their work to either or both of the categories.
The title of the essay is: “Driving Local Content in the Extractive Industries: Opportunities and Challenges” and the logo design should reflect the theme of the conference. Winners will get special invitations to the conference, an exclusive opportunity to address participants at the event and go home with brand new laptops and phones from donors.
While that is the immediate objective, you are right, the long term goal is to increase youth participation. The conference this year has been planned to be all-inclusive, with particular focus on the youth and women. We are hoping young Nigerians become more and more active in the extractive industries. There are myriads of opportunities waiting to be explored both as professionals, contractors and small entrepreneurs; but we as young Nigerians can only have limited views and perceptions if we continue to stay on the fringes.
So we are hopeful the conference will expose them to these latent opportunities and they will be able to better position themselves to take advantage of them, at least from a point of technical competence, awareness and networking. You may ask, why the youths? Well, it’s simple. We have more energy, are more dynamic, more futuristic and adaptable to changes in the industries. We the youth are the future of this country and boosting our GDP and potentials for economic prosperity and hope lie on our shoulders.
But do they have the economic capacity to play competitively in a capital intensive field like the extractive industries?
Increasing youth participations in the extractive industries isn’t limited to being business men and entrepreneurs. Acquiring the right professional and technical qualifications, skills and experience is a good start point for them.
Be that as it may that there is low access to funding and loan facilities by contractors and sub-contractors there is the issue of too little publicity given to a number of genuine government initiatives to help indigenous players in the industries secure necessary financial and technical support. It’s the reason we have organisations like the Bank of Industry (BOI) and the Bank of Infrastructure.
The government also recently released - through the CBN - N220 Billion for small businesses, plus an additional N150 Billion for interested entrepreneurs in the extractive industries. These initiatives are complemented by a huge $350 million loan fund made available by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), through its Nigerian Content Fund, to entrepreneurs and managed by BOI.
We can’t deny the existence of unnecessary bottlenecks, but these are part of the critical issues that will be analysed at the conference with the view of alerting relevant authorities to the practical solutions proffered.
Through what channels are you reaching out to the youths?
We have printed flyers of the essay and logo design competitions and distributed them on selected campuses. We are equally liaising with the DOS of different campuses to get students take part in the competition as well as register for the conference. We are also exploring other venues to reach out to them, as well as other young and upwardly mobile Nigerians through our website, www.csr-in-sction.org, newsletter Facebook banners, Twitter and blog sites of partner organisation. The full information is available on our website, particularly www.csrinaction.org/SITEI2014.
Who are the key participants at the conference?
Every attendee is a key participant. But if you’re talking about conference speakers and guests of honour, we are happy to inform members of the public who have registered for the events and those intending that we can confirm the attendance of His Excellency, the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke as the Guest of Honour and Speaker. The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), which regulates local content participation and polices in Nigeria, Engr. Ernest Nwapa is also expected to be one of the speakers at SITEI 2014.
Others include our Board of Trustee, Prof Wale Omole; CEO of Oando Downstream, Yomi Awobokun; Country Director, Empretech Foundation, Owanari Duke; Managing Partner of Zenera Consulting Limited, Meka Olowola; Raymond Wilcox, General Manager, Nigerian Content Development; Lara Banjoko, Chief Executive Officer, Zone 4 Energy; Niyi Yusuf, Managing Director, Accenture Nigeria; Christine K, Director, Heinrich Boell Foundation Nigeria; Jeffrey Corey, COO, Seven Energy; Fidel Pepple, Immediate Past General Manager, NAPIMS; Taofiq Tijani, Hon. Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Lagos State; Innocent Lagi, Attorney General, Nasarawa State, among several notable dignitaries.
We have also secured the endorsement and full support of relevant agencies like the Nigerian Conservation Fund (NCF) and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA).
What are some of the key issues that will be discussed at the conference?
The conference will have series of solution-focused workshops with panellists of discussants analysing critical issues. They examine and scrutinize germane issues like ‘Addressing the Progress Of Local Content Participation,’ which will focus on delivering local benefits in the communities where extractives industries operate as a commercial necessity and one that is increasingly mandated by law.
Conference speakers will also discuss the topic: ‘Exploring the State of Accountability and Transparency Within The Extractive Industries,’ with focus on how the legislative branch of government could serve as constructive leaders in improving the oversight and management of Nigeria’s natural resources
Other subjects of discussion include, ‘Supporting Collaborative Governance Within The Extractive Industries In Africa;’ ‘Preferring Next Steps In The Sustainable Implementation Of The Local Content Act;’ and ‘Setting Up Strategic Frameworks For The Implementation Of Governance Policies Within The Sector’ as a final workshop to recommend key solutions from experience.
I am confident that this year’s conference will be one that will be ultimately satisfactory to all involved as it would tick all their boxes of expectations.
It must be hard work doing all of this. What motivates you?
The intrinsic love for my country! One of my driving forces is getting people to that level of selflessness where they work for the unity and growth of Nigeria only because we are Nigerians, not because Nigeria has necessarily done anything for the individual specifically. Trust me, you can only imagine the amount of work involved, and the personal financing and sweat involved in this. But I read about people like Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, and I know that I want to be remembered for something good.
Article Credit: Thisdaylive