Celebrating the Value and Dignity in our Labour

On May 1, we celebrated working women and men, in Africa and the world.

Work gives us all dignity, it allows us to create value, to sustain our families, secure our futures.

As an African, creating sustainable, meaningful employment is what drives me.  It is why I champion entrepreneurship.

Through my own life journey, I have seen what a catalyst entrepreneurship can be, the UBA group now employs over 20,000 people in twenty African countries – these are jobs created directly by entrepreneurial spirit – and critically every job created leads to more jobs, more opportunities and more dreams.  When I fashioned my vision for UBA, as Africa’s global bank, I wanted to democratise finance and break down barriers, making it easier for all of us to trade with our neighbours, obtain credit, transfer funds and transform Africa economically and socially.

I was in Abuja last week, attending the AGMs of portfolio companies, Transcorp Plc and Transcorp Hotels Plc, staying at our iconic Transcorp Hilton Hotel.

It was a meeting I relished, we were able to showcase the $120m investment that we have made recently in that hotel and inform our over 300,000 shareholders how our Group had sustained itself in very difficult times.  But how did we come through it?  Yes, by tactics and strategy, but what creates that?  Our people, our human capital, our staff, our workers, our labour – I salute them.  I looked around the hotel and saw the extraordinary changes that have occurred, since Heirs Holdings invested.  Transcorp transformed – from essentially a hospitality business to a conglomerate, that is now one of the largest power producers in Nigeria and exporting power to our region; a co-investor in an oil producing asset that produces about 31,000 barrels of oil in a day and gives access to gas.  And that gas now supplies power generating plants and sustain industry, not just the integrated value chains we are building, but schools, hospitals, workshops, and homes.  When Transcorp speaks of improving lives, I see this happen day in, day out.

But even as we celebrate labour, we know in Africa that our biggest task is to create employment, to end the despair of youth, stop the forced migrations, the conditions that seed radicalisation.  We all must do more: government, development allies, but most particularly the private sector.  We cannot fail our next generation.

Let me finish with an event that is close to my heart.  A few days ago, in an internal meeting with all Heirs Holding staff, it was clear how we had gotten to this place.  I like these townhall meetings, as it gives an opportunity to see at one glance, the legacies that are in place throughout our companies. Though the pandemic has confined us to virtual communication; it was wonderful to see some faces I had not seen in a while.  These gatherings also present a chance for conversations on wellness, solidifying our identity as a family – but most important of all, it allowed me to see greatest benefit of what I do, a confident and resilient staff, dedicated not just to our success, but Africa’ success.

So, as we celebrate work, let me commend both the workers I know, the entrepreneurs that are Africa’s future and all who share my vision of Africapitalism and an Africa transformed.

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