Reaffirming its commitment to support enterprises in Africa with the expansion of its presence in Nigeria, Orange hosted a press event in Lagos in May 2016.   At the time, I was the Head of Marketing, MEA and was responsible for the physical set up of the event, the PR and comms part, the invitations and the outcome.  This event was perhaps one of the most challenging I have ever experienced.

The security situation in Lagos and in Nigeria generally is fraught with difficulties.  Arriving colleagues have to be met at the airport by specialist security staff and escorted to their hotel and anywhere else they may want to go for fear of hijacking.  Setting up the security scenario involved appointing a third party company, and providing flight and passport details of 30 colleagues, and paying them in advance.  Can you see where this is going?!  So, having achieved that (phew!), the next issue was security at the venue.

The venue was a well established hotel brand in the heart of Lagos.  They claimed to work to international standards.  It just wasn’t true.  We faced “irregularities” with demands for payment to individuals for “included” services like AV and coffee and lunches.  We also had to face the fact that extra costs for placing security during a 24 hour period around the event was not a cost cutting element that we ought to consider.

As the organiser of the event I had some unexpected, but character-building, forced interactions including with the local government offices, advisors and conseillers of both France and the UK.  I guess my biggest challenge, which I failed to overcome was the fact that I was denied an entry visa to Nigeria, despite using the expensive services of a specialist agency.  I am a British National and I promise I have no criminal record….and I don’t even have any speeding points on my driving license!!  The error lay in one word on the application, which said “organising an event” instead of “attending an event” because “organising” suggested to the authorities that I wanted to “work” in Nigeria (and perhaps never leave?) 🙂 🙂

So, with my rejection in hand, I had to think quickly.  I needed a proxy who could overcome the same challenge, and so I engaged the support of the account manager within our S.A. PR company, Lionswing Brand and Communications based in Johannesburg. The Account Manager jumped through the visa hoops at the very last minute and was able to fly from South Africa up to WCA to represent me after a few online sessions about the event and its objectives.

Orange has a strong commitment to the African continent, which has been at the heart of the Orange business strategy for the last few decades. The Group has a long-term approach to its presence in the region and has invested heavily to support infrastructure development and innovations that have changed the social and business landscape.  It has established a new sales office in addition to the existing customer support activities in the country. The objective is to support senior IT decision makers with strategies to grasp the market opportunities being brought by digital transformation. The potential for businesses to expand in Nigeria is demonstrated by the size and rate of growth already achieved by existing Orange clients, especially in the financial sector.

Press release – 17th May 2016, Lagos

Image: Members of the Management, Sales and Consulting teams at Orange Business Services office in Nigeria:

From Left to Right:  Yannick Decaux, The Late Ababacar Mbaye, Giorgio Heiman, Valentine Utoh, Emmanuel Tita Sama, Mark McCallum

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