Dr. Jean-Marc Ricca caught up with Agora Nexus to discuss the importance of physical security as Managing Director
Dr. Jean Marc Ricca
Managing Director, Country Cluster West Africa BASF s, paragraphs & more.
AN: BASF over recent years has expanded its footprint in West Africa and deepened its commitment in the region – As the Managing Director, Country Cluster West Africa and overseeing nine countries, how do security challenges and risk towards personnel, assets and operations impact your role as a leader?
JM: Security is an enabler for the business, it is something you must get right because you need to reach out to whichever geography and whichever individuals that need us as a company. We have a duty of care to not only our employees but also our business partners.
It is very much like safety but with security I don’t delegate. I believe that security is so much of a business enabler that if we can get it right, it will actually allow us to unlock the business. If we were do it too much, i.e. become overly secure, then we would stop moving around. We owe the support to our customers and we need to be able to go wherever we are required under the safest conditions.
This is very true for Nigeria, however it is also present in some other geographies where we operate, but for us as BASF being so intensely engrained in Nigerian business, security is a core enabler.
AN: There is the age-old debate around security being a cost vs. an investment. Do you feel security should have a raised importance as a board level topic?
JM: The first thing if we take a step back is that like safety, with security you just don’t compromise. Don’t even start the discussion on cost. Yes, you optimise, you work with the right people and there is of course a cost to do business certainly, however you deal with it. Again, it is consequence management and security should be a core element in your business plan.
At BASF we do not compromise on safety and security. The Ukraine war for us emphasized the importance and need to be prepared for no matter what may come your way. It raises the awareness and necessity to be prepared and if there is an associated cost, like any business cost, it needs to be optimised but cannot be compromised.
AN: We often look at the socio-economic and root cause behind criminality. Globally and regionally inflation is high, currencies are weakened, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis. Is there concern that the current environment will have a direct impact through increased criminality?
JM: There is clearly hardship coming from a macroeconomic situation that has been degrading itself very fast and is of course not unique to Nigeria. Unemployment is hitting hard in a very young population that is unsure on what to do so tension is going to build up.
So by default, yes it is going to impact criminality and impact on migrations, simply because some people have no better options to make a living. Everybody needs daily food, so is it getting worse? – It is very difficult to say. The fact we are moving towards the elections is just exacerbating lots of potential tension so the situation will surely stay volatile for the few months to come. Again, it is something we deal with, however it does not help us as a business due to the increased exposure.
AN: You are a ‘Veteran’ of the Energy-Ops Security Agora Nigeria, having been involved since its launch 4 years ago, what maintains your consistent participation?
JM: It is clearly the content, the network and the people. I believe it is outstanding and I am not just saying this to please you, you have just got it right.
You can see from the last session on September 15th (2022) the quality of the people in the room, the level of engagement, the transparency and the openness was superb. We discussed very difficult and sensitive topics, but you feel when you are in the room, you are surrounded by people who understand what they are talking about and know one another. As we go from year on, year out I have witnessed the quality getting higher and it is great to see highly respected figures in the room.
AN: Do you have any advice to senior management leaders considering being part of the Agora?
JM: Many companies have outstanding security managers who were present at the Agora’s, so I can fully understand some of the senior management believing that they have this covered. For me security is so entrenched in the business that spending time attending the programme is a very high value investment, simply because I also want to get to know the attending security leads and get a feel of the issues of which you can only learn about from professionals.
It would be great to have presence of more business-related executives, especially given the most recent session addressed core topics such as the upcoming election, banditry and pipeline theft. As a senior leader this information help gain insight that assists and helps draw a bigger picture of the business.