AHEAD of the start of the 23rd All Africa Public Relations Conference, the president of the African Public Relations Association (APRA), Kate Bapela would visit Information and Communications Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili in Abuja. Bapela, a senior officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), South Africa, arrived in Nigeria along other officials of the continental PR group.
The visit, according to APRA scribe, Nigeria’s Wole Adamolekun is designed to wrap-up preparation for the three-day outing with Public Relations and Corporate Governance in Africa as theme.
The opening ceremony at the International Conference Centre, Abuja tomorrow is expected to feature President Goodluck Jonathan as Special Guest of Honour. Jonathan’s investiture as Grand Patron of APRA is one of the highlights of the opening ritual that will also parade Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Bala Mohammed among other personalities.
Tagged APRA Abuja 2010, the conference will dwell on corporate governance in some strategic sectors such as banking and finance; oil and gas, telecommunication; multi-national corporations; regulatory agencies; and manufacturing.
List of speakers includes Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; Onno Ruhl of World bank; Group Managing Director of NNPC, Alhaji Shehu Ladan; Pro-Chancellor, Lagos Business School, Dr. Christopher Kolade; Ms Flora Okereke of British American Tobacco Group, United Kingdom; Hussaini Abdu, Action Aid; Ahmad Farouk, MTN Nigeria; Robert Oya, NEXIM Bank; Dr. Phil Osagie of JSP; Vincenzo Di Lorenzo of Brass LNG; Mazi Mike Okereke, President of Business Education Exams Council (BEEC); and General Ishola Williams (rtd) of Transparency International, Nigeria.
The choice of the theme, he explained, was informed by the need to actively canvass corporate governance at all levels of government and in the private sector.
“The initiative by Mo Ibrahim to reward honest leadership in Africa and promote the tenets of democracy and excellent leadership are some of the reasons APRA decided to contribute to the growing awareness that development is not possible where people are not transparent, disciplined, accountable, incorruptible and productive.”
In specific terms, he marshaled benefits of the conference to participants. “We expect all the participants to have a better grasp of all the perspectives of corporate governance in all the sectors of the economy in Africa. They will avail themselves the opportunity of learning the success factors that have helped several organisations and country to grow and sustain their development. All the sessions would emphasize experience sharing and concrete solutions would be proffered for all the identified problems.
“Eminent international public figures, CEOs of blue chip companies, renowned public relations scholars from across the continent and beyond are scheduled to speak at the conference.
“The APRA Accreditation Programme and the Consultants Forum, which various committees have been working on, would receive special attention during the conference. It is only through these strategic projects that the public relations profession in the Continent can attain its rightful place in the scheme of things.
“Also the Annual General Meeting would also deliberate and evolve strategies to actualize the desire of the Association to gain official recognition by the African Union pursuant to the positive steps taken in Banjul in May 2009.”
On how hosting of the conference in Nigeria will leverage on the country’s 50th independence anniversary, Adamolekun noted, “Nigeria strategically elected to host the conference this year because APRA encourages our member associations to host the conference when they are convinced that the programme would be most beneficial and meaningful to all concerned.
“Our conference in Kumasi, Ghana in 2008, for example, was held under the auspices of its Patron, His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King of the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana as he celebrated Otumfuo Education Fund for that year.
“This year’s conference, coinciding with Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations promises to be very exciting and rewarding as it will give all the participants the opportunity to know more about the good people of Nigeria and her several achievements in all fields of human endeavour.”
And in less than 24 hours before the commencement of the conference, Adamolekun is happy the stage is already set for a successful outing. “APRA is ready for the conference,” he announced with confidence. “Delegates have started arriving since Sunday. Already we have over 100 confirmed participants of which there are more than 30 participants from many countries including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We are looking forward to a very successful conference.”
To those who intend to compare this year’s conference with the 17th edition hosted also in Abuja in 2004, Dr. Adamolekun, who is also General Manager (Corporate Services), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) has final words. “They will cherish the experience for a long time to come as we have structured the conference to emphasise experience sharing and wider perspectives on corporate governance.”
The arrival of APRA President from South Africa and other officials on Sunday gladdened Adamolekun’s heart as he commented, “As it is customary with APRA, we ensure that we maximise our annual meetings to exchange ideas as we have several areas of common successes and challenges. APRA intends to use the opportunity to press further the observer status with the African Union, develop its continental accreditation system, vigorously promote the activities of its Consultancy Group, commence action on the proper establishment of the headquarters and the African Public Relations and Communication Academy in Abuja, Nigeria.”
The PR group, he stressed, would forever be grateful to Mr. President “for his endorsement and acceptance to declare the conference open as schedule. This is because of Mr. President’s conviction that corporate governance through accountability, transparency and responsible leadership and the various reform programmes enunciated should continue to guide both the public and private sectors of the nation’s economy.”
While acknowledging the theme’s link to global economic meltdown and monumental loss at the capital market, Adamolekun does not think events in recent time, such as the report that Nigerian stock market had recovered fully as well as World Bank prediction that Nigeria economy would witness 4.7 per cent growth this year, may have overtaken the relevance of the theme.
He explained, “this is precisely the time that all of us must worry about enthroning corporate governance best practices so that we do not become complacent about such issues in future.
“One of the enduring lessons of the economic meltdown is that no matter how well a system or practice appear to be working; there is need for constant reviews and evaluation with the goal of improving the processes.”
He reiterated APRA secretariat’s expectations from the conference. “APRA’s expects to use the opportunity of this conference to properly establish Nigeria as the headquarters of the continental body following the Council decision in Kampala in 2007. Since then, APRA has been registered as a corporate body in Nigeria and is finalizing the protocol for the land where the headquarters as well as the African Public Relations and Communication Academy would be established in Abuja.
“We expect that this project will complement the government information programmes across the continent, facilitate continuous education, training and make available highly skilled consultants for all the stakeholders.