By Ayo Alonge
Sanyade Okoli is the Chief Executive Officer of Alpha African Advisory Limited, a multi-million dollar business which provides financial advisory services. In this interview, he spoke with our correspondent on public finance, investment, business development and the economy as well as roles and stakes of both government and key players within the private sector.
What challenges do you face running a company like this in Nigeria?
We started as a private enterprise almost 10 years ago and raised our first fund which was $107m in May 2008. But then, the financial crises happened and that caused our fund investors to change the business model to financial advisory. Financial advisory can create challenges just like the business can also create opportunities for any other business. Getting good clients that pay you for the service is one challenge. With the current economic crisis, companies need financial advisory services more than ever before to help them navigate the economic situation.
Since we are not selling products that people can touch, it is always a problem. We try to attend events on business development to widen our network.
I feel that financial advisory is not common in the lexicon of business and investment in Nigeria, especially among small and medium scale enterprises. What is the level of reception and awareness of Nigerians about it?
A lot of Nigerian companies soon realize they need help but they may not be able to articulate what it is and who best to provide it, especially the SMEs.
What’s your level of satisfaction with government in the area of financing both corporate businesses and SMEs?
I am sure you are aware of the various SMEs-focused funds put forth by the Bank of Industry, portions of which are also targeted at women.
These SMEs often complain that the funds from the Bank of Industry hardly gets to them.What is your take on that?
A lot has to do with the preparation of companies to be able to access the loans. The reality is that if you do what you have to do, you will get the funds. You may need to provide some documents. The BoI may need to see your financial statements to be sure that you can repay the loan. Unfortunately, a lot of SMEs may not be well structured enough to be able to provide these necessary documents. It is unfortunate that it is just not something that lenders can overlook. We provide financial advisory to individuals. We need to be careful who we call a financial expert. We are not asset managers.
What do you have to say about business development in our economy?
As it is with any economy, business development is about taking steps to build relationships with people that need your services in the future.
What’s your advice to government in the area of financing, appropriation and revenue generation?
I cannot really comment on that, because that is very divergent but I would say that to be able to attract investors, you need an attractive business environment and I think government should continue to take steps that would ensure that the Nigerian business environment is attractive. There is a global competition for capital and we should always bear that in mind when we are talking of Nigeria as an investment destination.
Investors often complain that their major problem has to do with the business policies in the country. Are they right?
That is a very difficult question which would be unwise for me to answer simply because there are overall macro policies and so many policies per sector. It would be very difficult for me to say that government doesn’t have the right policies as regards that.
What then is your advice to government in the area of entrepreneurial development and investment in the private sector?
Again, I would just be cautious about giving an advice to government. We have so many sectors. There are different things that government needs to do for different sectors. It is not a one-size-fits-all. I can say we can always advise government should there be areas advice is needed. It depends on the arm of government too.
Some economists and financial experts have faulted the recent plan of the Federal Government to borrow about $30billion. Where do you stand on this?
If we want to borrow, it should be based on planning how much it costs to execute the plan. You have to ask how do we come about that. Government borrowing is not a bad thing per se. As long as it makes sense for the nation and as long as one can pay the debt as at when due without negatively impacting the future of the people.
What’s your remedy for Nigeria to get out of the current recession?
What I would say is that at this time, confidence has been eroded and a lot needs to be done to ensure that confidence is restored across the business and social angles of the country.
To what extent have you been able to achieve your corporate goals?
Over time, there are different corporate goals. Generally, we have been able to achieve our corporate goals.