Some people follow a straight path in their careers, while others take unexpected turns. Such is the case of Obianuju Okafor, of Brand and Corporate Communications, AFEX. Obianuju studied Home Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, however, fate had other plans for her.
Today, she is the creative force behind AFEX’s communications strategy, crafting stories that showcase the impact and value of the organisation.
Obianuju has a passion for writing and editing and uses her skills to empower and educate her audiences.
She joined AFEX without prior knowledge of agriculture and commodities, but she quickly learned the ropes and became the go-to person for any questions about AFEX.
She is an example of how one can leverage their skills and interests to succeed in any field.
We had a chat with her to find out more about her journey and how AFEX has evolved since she became an Xpert.
She shared her story…
Tell me about your first impressions of working at AFEX. How did you end up joining the team?
I didn’t join AFEX at the very beginning; my first insight into the business was through the website at the time, which I looked through for interview prep, and three key solutions were front and center: storage, aggregation, and financial inclusion. One of the first things I wrote for the brand was two articles about financial inclusion.
The early days were actually quite hectic. I remember Deji (GCEO) asking me to do 50 things on my first day after walking up to my seat, introducing himself, and then asking me why I was not taking notes when he was on the third point. In my first week, we had to go for a documentary shoot in Kaduna, which was my first time there, and right in the car to the location, I had to write up the concept for a new weekly report template with a deadline for right there and then. The pace was crazy, everything was new, and everyone was incredibly helpful.
I joined AFEX after one interview with Yinka and Nancy, where I essentially asked them to hire me because I knew nothing about commodities exchanges, and so I would be the best person to learn and create content for the swathes of Nigerians who were definitely like me. At the end of the interview, Deji also asked me to write a poem about ag or farming, then exclaimed, “She’s got the job now,” and walked right back out after reading whatever I wrote.
Hire on the spot? Show us your ways!
Looking back at the past decade, how do you feel about your journey here? Was it as easy as getting hired? Share some of the memorable moments that shaped your experience.
It’s like climbing a hill; every day, you wake up and see that yesterday was a milestone that was reached. The hard part of this question is breaking down the journey; I’ll put it into three very generic signposts from my perspective:
Ancillary infrastructure was one of the new concepts I encountered in AFEX in the early days. I think about it as putting in place the necessary infra to achieve a goal
goal. We like to highlight that the first five years were about putting in place that infrastructure (one great example being our warehouse infrastructure and outreach structure) that continues to be instrumental to our growth today.
We have also built an impressive data bank, and I will always love the work that the Market Data and Research team does on reports and analysis of that data, which makes the knowledge available and accessible to a greater number of people.
Finally, shout out to ComX, which I believe gave many more people who loved the brand or were curious about our offerings a way to come in and interact with the Exchange.
What was your job back then and now?
My letter read Content and Communication Officer on entry, and now I am the Head of Brand and Corporate Communications.
What makes you happy to work at AFEX?
I think working at AFEX is in and of itself exciting. You get to do new things or at least do old things in a new way, and you are constantly juggling quite a lot of things, and it is always nice when you are able to catch all the stuff you have up in the air and lay them in the place where they fit.
What’s the biggest change you have experienced at AFEX so far?
I would say the number of Xperts. Food no dey go round again.
You love food and work for Food Security; it makes so much sense now. What would you consider your best memory with the Xperts at AFEX?
Ah. Again there’s a lot. One that pretty much is always at the back of my mind is preparing for the International Conference on the Nigerian Commodities Market (ICNCM) in 2019. We had gone to set up the day before and found out after getting there that “nothing was on the ground”. So myself, Sam, Adanna, and Khadijah basically called home to cancel our returns, spent the entire night setting up, and then went home, got changed, and came back to join the conference to run our exhibitions. It’s a good memory despite the stress because of how everyone essentially banded together to get what we needed to be done.
What is the most important lesson your work at AFEX taught you?
It has to be how to work with people. This was not particularly necessary in my former heavily content writing roles. Now, working in an organization with so many moving parts, I was forced to learn how to collaborate and cross-collaborate.
How would you like to see AFEX in the near future?
All the plans we have laid out in Project Black Panther are done and dusted, and everyone who contributed to it is reaping the benefits.
What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your time in AFEX?
Someone told me at lunch on my second day, “You have to learn and move fast” It’s good advice that I’m thankful I internalized since the very start. I think that I would add my renewed understanding that there is such immeasurable value in the relationships that you cultivate and keep with your peers.
An AFEX blog post
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