By Dennis Katungi
Topic: Execution: Getting Things Done in 2023
With the irony of NSSF lately featuring in the Press for the wrong reasons - Mr Patrick Ayota still captivated the audience at Serena Hotel on Tuesday 14th March.
Extolling the best in corporate strategy and governance, the award winning strategist referred to the Fund’s recent bad press as just ‘noise’! Mr Ayota said that not all good leaders are good managers and put up a spirited defense of NSSF’s overall strategy to grow the fund and protect the saver’s money.
He reckons he still maintains a winning team and a winning strategy at NSSF. His opening remark was - “Your Money is Safe”. He out lined the Fund’s strategy hinged on identifying the key stakeholder [the savers], and creating value for them.
He highlighted the Fund’s strategic objective as ‘growing the fund to 25 trillion by 2025 and assured the corporate big-wigs that he is part of a team that knows how to get there.
Mr Ayota emphasized the idea of ‘Trust & integrity’ as key and urged senior managers to keep their Boards in the loop.
The high profile panelists included Proscovia Nabbanja, the CEO of National Oil Company, Fabian Kasi, the MD of Centenary Bank and Patrick Ayota of NSSF.
The audience was the width & breadth of the corporate scene in Kampala -CEOs and their ‘A’ teams. Banks, Insurance Companies, Regulators, Fund Managers, Industrialists and the professional elite of Lawyers and Accountants.
Patrick Ayota’s robust defense of NSSF’s medium term strategy will boost confidence and give hope to the savers that the fund will avoid serious economic damage from the recent shenanigans.
The Public sector was thin on the ground and the private sector movers and shakers had a dominant footprint at this corporate event.
Proscovia Nabbanja highlighted the strategy engaged by UNOC in recruiting talent, retraining and retaining them. She said that her teams have to sing from the same hymn sheet in order to ensure first oil by 2025.
“Even talent needs recalibration and agility” otherwise they could misdirect the effort, or channel the vivacity wrongly if not mentored. She explained that at UNOC, managers down to the drivers know why they wake up and go to work every day-and emphasized ‘agility and resilience’ as key in UNOC’s pathway. Nabbanja talks to all her staff about UNOC mission and strategy from top echelon down to the lower-rung of employees including assistants and drivers. Hers is a unique approach to known corporate hubris.
Fabian Kasi highlighted the corporate strategy adopted by Centenary Bank in the over ten years he has been at the helm. He said that he never shies away from sharing a winning strategy for fearing competitors might pinch it. As such, he emphasised buy-in from his employees – in what he termed the “unity of purpose” approach.
However, he warned that some employees may remain reticent like one of his own who, whenever she meets the MD (Fabian Kasi) in the Bank corridors walks to the nearest Bin – pretending to throw away rubbish. She does this just to avoid direct contact with the MD. The audience laughed at the aside. When He was asked to indicate a failing strategy and how he knew it was failing; Mr Kasi gave a case in point at his own Bank. He said that Centenary Bank went through a failed strategy while trying to solve the problem of long ‘Queues’.
The MD explained that they tried opening up small one stop service points to alleviate the Queuing problem but it failed miserably because the Bank was then swamped by even more customers lining up. The original problem got worse. Their customers complained and this forced a re-think. They had to go back on the drawing board and find a lasting solution which he said they did. He encouraged corporations not to fear re-designing a strategy if it failed.
It was Proscovia Nabbanja who averred that the corporate Boards ought to have a proper skills set to hold their managers to account. “Boards should be in position to ask the right questions” to those who run the entities.
“The Boards should be hands off” while the managers should be hands-on’. She contends that strategy should never be amorphous. All panelists agreed that a page or slide ought to summarise the strategy of a corporate entity.
Highlighting the challenges in the oil & gas sector, Nabbanja raised the issue of ‘unfair competition’ with the long established oil producers and the more recent global go-green transition effort. Though she did not specify which countries - I can volunteer appropriate examples. The US recently offered $370 billion in federal subsidies for clean energy. This distorts the sector giving competitive advantage to developers of projects from electric car plants to green hydrogen refineries. The ripple effects hammer new entrants.
While these green efforts are commendable as the thrust towards ‘net- zero’ they should not stop countries like Uganda exploring her recently discovered natural resource.
America’s imports from sub-Saharan Africa for example have fallen since 2008, mainly because it has bought less African Oil. Non fuel imports including garments, nuts, etc rose rapidly in the years of AGOA, but have grown only modestly since. This explains why, as a trade partner, the US has been overtaken by China. This trend may well be irreversible.
Then, the double standards. On February 01st 2023, the US bureau of land management advanced a colossal Oil drilling project. The Conoco-Phillips project, known as Willow could produce 180,000 barrels of crude each day. Environmentalists are not as vocal on the US as they are on the East African Oil Pipeline project. We have a more concerted campaign against our projects in Oil and Gas than there is elsewhere.
The expected approval of the Willow by the Democrats may indeed seem contradictory for a government which pledged to ban new oil and gas development on public lands. Sanctions on Russian crude oil and petrol-price shocks in the US have revived a slogan usually associated with Republicans: ‘drill baby, drill’. The US bureau of Land Management has granted slightly more permits to drill oil and gas wells in the first half of Mr Biden’s presidency than in the first two years of Donald Trump’s term. You then wonder why the hullabaloo about Uganda’s well thought out oil and gas strategy. Uganda must soldier-on. The Event at Serena Hotel was organized by Motivation Hub Limited and headlined by Pepe Minambo – the Organisational, Culture & Strategy Consultant.
The Writer is Head of Communications & Media Relations at Uganda Media Centre @Dennis_Katungi