How Business Managers In Africa Can Succeed

Paul Butler is the executive development director, Aston Business School, United Kingdom. In an online interview with LEADERSHIP, he provided insight into some of the challenges facing African Business organisations 

What are the key strategic challenges facing African Organisations?

Strategy is about creating a unique position for an organisation, a winning strategy can be achieved when an organisation outperform rivals by establishing a difference that it can preserve. Organisations need to be able to align their strategies with their own environments and in so doing help them in achieving higher performance. African managers face many strategic challenges including globalisation and international competition, high political risk, tough operating environment characterised by weak institutions and limited infrastructure as well as inadequate capacity to develop and retain human capital.

How can Nigerian executives address these key strategic challenges facing African organisations?

In order to meet these challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth for their organisations African managers need to change their managerial approaches to cope with these increasing demands. They need to consider new leadership styles and competencies to become more efficient and effective, particularly in areas such as managing change, leadership for results, formulating winning strategies and performance management which our forthcoming executive development programme at Aston Business School in the UK will address. More information about the programme could be found at

From the training development point of view, what would you isolate as the critical development issue that African countries need to address?

A major challenge for many African countries, including Nigeria, is the inadequate infrastructure. Many sub-Saharan African countries lack a stable electrical grid, creating the need for scarce resources to be expended on inverters, fuel and generators. Some organisations will expend up to 25 per cent of the revenue for these basic needs. Rail networks for the transportation of goods and people are either moribund or ineffective in most African countries.

The health care system is limited and unreliable, often resulting in quality health care being available only to those with financial or political influence. The large Gini coefficient (the gap between haves and have not) in many African countries contributes to political and personal insecurities.

There is a significant divergence between planning and actual implementation. While Nigeria’s 2015 transition budget is in Trillions of Naira a large portion of those funds will be earmarked for projects that will never be implemented or are rife with mismanagement upon completion if history is anything to go by. The approval and disbursement system of the National budget is inconsistent and often delayed.

All the above mentioned challenges reveal that poor leadership is the bane of African countries development which our forthcoming executive development programme at Aston Business School in the UK will address. More information about the programme could be found at

An example of the dearth of leadership is exemplified by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s inability over three consecutive years to find a creditable former African President upon which to confer its award for outstanding leadership and governance. It is not that African leaders are bad people, but often they lack the leadership training and skills to deal with the critical issues facing the continent. Africa has a bright future with the potential for impressive growth and a real chance to improve the lives of the people. However, for that to happen there is an urgent need to provide the training that will lead to better leadership to take advantage of these opportunities. My view is that once it gets the leadership quotient right, Nigeria will be on the path to greatness.

Aston Business School is partnering with These Executive Minds (TEXEM) to deliver an executive development programme next month, what would be the focus?

Today and Tomorrow’s dynamic plus fast paced global economy demands leaders with a systemic view of organisations and a revolutionary perspective which our forthcoming executive development programme will address-Thus, participants will develop their cross-functional competence, make better decisions and expand their outlook through the forthcoming executive development programme ‘Leading and Managing Human Capital’ organised by Aston Business School in partnership with These Executive Minds (TEXEM). With world renowned academics, Aston Business School in the UK has unparalleled reach and scope to provide delegates with an experience that will amplify the promise of their career by enhancing their strategic and leadership quotient. More information could be found at

Furthermore, the course will provide analytical insights and industry expertise into how to build high performance organisations, achieve effective organisational practices and attain superior outcomes particularly in a developing country context characterised by weak institutions and limited infrastructure. In addition, the skills and expertise you need to empower your organisation and get more from your most talented people will be explored and developed during the programme. Upon completion of this programme participants will hone their management skills after covering the following overarching themes:

Leading for results, aligning human capital with competitive advantage, boosting organisational performance, Inspiring change management for maximized benefits and addressing key strategic challenges facing African organisations.

Who would you be attracting to the programme?

The programme is focused on senior executives from both the public and private sector who are keen to learn more about how to formulate strategy, improve leadership quotient and enhance organisational performance. Our executive development programme is specifically tailored for Chairpersons and Members of Boards, CEO’S, Managing Directors, Executive and Non-Executive Directors, Vice-Chancellors, Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals, Human Resource Director, Chief Financial Officers, Company Secretaries, Directors of Procurements and Chief Operating Officers just to mention a few roles.

We also welcome Senior Managers and Directors engaged in strategic roles in prominent national and international firms within Nigeria. Of course, we also would welcome and encourage the participation of senior public sector bodies involved in policy and strategy formulation. Senior Officers in Government sponsored economic and industry agencies, as well as senior consultants involved in large infrastructure projects, are equally welcome.

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