The Managing Director, Project Management Institute’s Sub-Saharan Africa region, George Asamani, speaks with HENRY FALAIYE, on the challenges and role of project management in Nigeria and Africa

How does the Project Management Institute leverage its members for community development?

PMI is the leading professional organisation for project management and the authority for a growing global community of millions of project professionals and individuals who use project management skills.

The institute was founded in the United States over 50 years ago but is now present in every region around the world. It is focused on creating an impact in the project management profession. A significant value for PMI is that we have a large volunteer base; we have over 12,000 volunteers around the world. They are professional project managers who spend their time with PMI to make an impact in their own countries.

For instance, the chapter in Nigeria is dedicated to supporting project management practitioners in the region and building the community. They focus on aiding the government, companies, and educational institutions through initiatives such as training programs, both paid and free. As PMI, we set the standards and offer training and certifications, which helps project managers to turn ideas into reality by effectively managing projects from start to finish.

How influential is the role of project management in organisations?

Effective project management plays a pivotal role in driving organisational success. Extensive research conducted by our organisation, which benefits from a vast network of partners, clients, and resources, unequivocally demonstrates that organisations that prioritise and invest in project management outperform their counterparts in executing their vision and achieving desired outcomes. Investing in project management enables organisations to consistently deliver projects on time, within budget and scope. By taking a holistic approach, mature organisations prioritise acquiring the required skills across different departments.

Is there a correlation between Project Management and Project Economy?

The project economy defines our present reality, whereas project management has become integral to almost every aspect of the business. Companies now operate through a combination of projects and traditional operations, with projects taking on a more prominent role in driving organisational success.

In the past, the operations of companies, such as manufacturing, followed a linear process leading to the final product. However, project implementation for system upgrades was less common compared to today’s scenario, where such projects are more frequent. Today, the prevalence of continuous improvement projects and project management has risen as organisations prioritise ongoing enhancement over standalone operations. This shift towards project-based work holds significant value for the global economy, with a clear correlation between successful project execution and overall economic impact.

Does project economy offer opportunities for innovation, learning, and impact, as well as challenges for leadership, governance, and ethics?

Absolutely, project economy and project management are driven by the desire to achieve outcomes and generate value. Inherent within this approach are innovation, impact, and creativity. By undertaking projects, organisations aim to address problems and implement solutions in innovative ways. From the very beginning, project managers must strategically plan and execute projects to ensure the desired objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. The project economy relies on fostering creativity, innovation, and impactful outcomes. By thinking outside the box and finding cost-effective solutions, organisations can achieve their objectives in novel ways.

What are the most important skills needed to succeed in the workforce of the future?

PMI emphasises the importance of a comprehensive skill set known as the talent triangle, which encompasses three key categories. The first category comprises technical skills, encompassing the hard skills necessary for project and software management. The second category consists of power skills, which are unique to human abilities and include traits like empathy and effective communication, often referred to as soft skills. The third category is business acumen, which focuses on understanding the project’s purpose, its significance, and the potential impact of successful execution.

These three categories are essential for success both today and in the future. As we consider the future, each of these categories may undergo distinct transformations or adaptations in response to evolving circumstances. As machines can replicate technical skills, the importance of power skills grows in the future workforce. Exceptional human skills and effective interactions become increasingly critical for individuals looking ahead.

How can Nigeria inspire creativity, nurture innovation and build skilled project managers?

Nigeria has experienced significant achievements to date, particularly in terms of innovation across various sectors. When examining the region, Nigeria stands out as a leader in entrepreneurship, business, and the creative sector. Nigeria’s innovation landscape is thriving, and the country has demonstrated commendable progress in fostering innovation.

PMI reports show that 86 percent of IT decision-makers cite a lack of software skills as the biggest challenge to digital transformation. To support youth in 4IR, PMI has collaborated with partners in its larger ecosystem to promote citizen development. Many universities in Nigeria have partnered with PMI to offer it free to their students. Citizen development simply means that everyone, even those without formal software skills, can learn to use low-code/no-code platforms, a type of visual software development that allows one to drag and drop application components, connect them, and build apps. It is now time for governments, businesses, and non-profits like PMI to re-energise public-private partnerships and invest in new ideas and approaches to skilling youth for the new normal.

If all learning will move online and is self-directed, aren’t we going to lose out on experiential learning and mentoring?

Learning is not exclusively moving online; there are advantages to both online and in-person learning. While online learning allows for broader reach and convenience, in-person learning offers unique benefits. At PMI, we provide a mix of e-learning and in-person training to cater to different preferences.

Do you foresee the future workforce questioning the university system? Why spend thousands of Naira on a degree programme when you can take a more targeted course with more guaranteed income generation potential?

It is healthy to critically examine its relevance and effectiveness. Learning needs have evolved, and what was applicable a decade ago may no longer be sufficient today. With the significant investment of time and money involved in pursuing a degree, it is reasonable to question whether it will remain valuable in the face of rapidly changing technology and knowledge.

Individuals should contemplate this question for themselves, and society should strive to provide a range of learning options that cater to different career paths and personal preferences. It is vital to create a flexible and adaptable education system that meets the needs of diverse individuals in the present and the future.

Nigeria has the fastest-growing economy in Africa and the highest GNP on the continent. How will the proposed government projects impact the continent?

Projects hold significant importance when launched for the right reasons, emphasising the need for project management training and certifications. This applies not only to project managers but also to senior decision-makers at both organisational and national levels.

It is crucial for these decision-makers to comprehend the impact of projects and make wise choices when initiating or rejecting them. As you rightly mentioned, projects have a tremendous impact in Nigeria and across Africa. The African Union Agenda 2063, which outlines the vision for the continent, heavily relies on projects to drive progress. These projects span various domains, such as infrastructure, education, and technology, underscoring the transformative power of project management. Consequently, there is a critical demand for qualified and experienced project managers to ensure the successful delivery of these projects and propel Africa toward its envisioned future as set by the African Union.

Project Management will play a vital role in the AU Agenda 2063. Does the continent have the skilled manpower to achieve the strategic framework for delivering on Africa’s goal for inclusive and sustainable development?

There is a shortage of qualified project managers in Africa, which is a global challenge. Our team is focused on addressing this need by providing certification and training opportunities. We aim to bridge the gap and ensure that Africa has skilled project managers who can execute projects effectively. Certification helps minimise blind spots and risks, and our network of certified project managers offers support for successful project delivery. The mission of PMI in Africa is to rally leaders in both government and business to recognise the importance of project management skills and collaborate to upskill the workforce to achieve the desired future.

Taking into consideration the different projects in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan Africa, do you perceive any integration with the AU Agenda 2063 vision?

The alignment of projects with the AU Agenda 2063 vision varies depending on their specific objectives. While some projects are intentionally aligned with the vision, others may have different purposes. However, it is essential to strive for sufficient alignment across all countries to collectively push in the right direction and contribute to the realisation of the AU Agenda 2063 Vision. Nigeria is also one of the signatories of the African Continental Free Trade Area and will surely see enhanced investments in building new infrastructure. Intra-African trade accounts for approximately 14 per cent of total trade in Africa currently, and with its promising and prominent economy, Nigeria has a significant role to play.

According to a Gartner survey, 80 percent of project management tasks will be eliminated by 2030 as AI takes over. Should this be a concern to project managers in Africa?

Continuous learning plays a critical role in keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology. It is essential for individuals and organisations to stay abreast of technological advancements through continuous learning and acquiring relevant qualifications and certifications.

As professional project managers, renewing qualifications with organisations like PMI every three years enables them to stay updated on emerging trends, network with peers, and attend events that foster learning and growth. The ongoing integration of AI in project management tasks is already happening and will continue, but continuous learning allows project managers to proactively adapt.

By embracing new tools and understanding the division of tasks between AI and human expertise, project managers can focus on more vital aspects of their roles. Rather than perceiving AI as a threat, continuous learning empowers project managers to leverage AI to enable them to concentrate on higher-value activities and contribute to overall project success.

 Some studies have indicated that on average, eight out of 10 project managers are accidental or have an inadequate project management knowledge base. What are some of the challenges facing project management in Africa?

It is commendable that many individuals volunteer for projects in government or within companies, showing their enthusiasm and willingness to contribute. However, as mentioned, a significant number of these individuals are accidental project managers without formal training or certification. While their enthusiasm is positive, the challenge lies in their potential blind spots and risks due to the lack of comprehensive training. The good news is that there is a clear path forward for those who have achieved success and aim to advance to the next level. PMI offers support through its ecosystem of training partners and chapters. These resources enable accidental project managers to formalise their skills, minimise blind spots, and enhance their capabilities to accomplish even more.

For those considering a career in Project Management, where can you advise they start from and what resources are available on PMI?

To begin your project management journey, I recommend visiting our website, which offers a wealth of information. Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to the field, we have certifications tailored to your level of experience.

The Certified Associate Project Management certification is ideal for those starting out, while the globally recognised PMI Project Management Professional certification is suited for experienced professionals. Alongside certifications, we provide a supportive community, networking opportunities, and valuable resources,like events to help you enhance your skills and excel as a project manager.At PMI, we also have student memberships and theyenjoy the same valuable benefits afforded to practitioners. Student members receive digital downloads of the latest PMBOK Guide, certification discounts, and access to tools and resources such as PMI’s Career Navigator, which supports career progression by creating a personalised plan. Student members also gain access to networking opportunities through various events and activities and instantly join a network of over 450,000 project professionals worldwide.

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