ENGLISH SECTION / interview with Madam Sophia KUDJORDJI LISSAH

    1924

     

    INTERVIEW WITH MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH

    Panafrican Bilingual Corporates Magazine (PBCM):

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

     I am Sophia Lissah (nee Kudjordji). I am a Development Communications Expert with expertise in Public Relations, Communications, Marketing and Sustainability. I have about 26 years of work experience in the field Journalism, Public Relations and Marketing. I started my career as a Journalist with the Ghana News Agency, during which time I also had a stint with community radio and at the same time consulting in the area of Public Relations for a donor-funded Water and Sanitation Agency. I had the opportunity to work with the British High Commission as a Website Editor and later doubled as a Media and Police Relations Liaison.

    I started working with the Private sector in 2006, when I joined the UT Group. It was then just Unique Trust Financial Services, which later became UT Bank (now defunct) and others, a Group Company of six subsidiaries with operations in Nigeria and South Africa. I was part of the lead for the corporate identity change, initial public offer of UT shares and generally the lead who worked with a team on most media and marketing activities for the Group.

    I joined the Jospong Group of Companies in June 2016 as the Group Head, Communications, for the Group which boast of over 45 companies operating in 14 sectors of the economy. In November 2019, I was appointed the Acting Chief Communications Officer for the Group.

     I trained as a Journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Ghana. I also hold an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria, UK, and an MA in Development Communication and Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK.

    I am the recipient of Ghana’s Most Promising Public Relations Professional (2012), Public Relations Personality (2019) and one of West Africa’s top 20 Marketing and Communication Professionals (2019) awards.

    I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana, (a former Member of Council), an Accredited Member of the Institute of Public Relations Ghana and a member of the African Public Relations Association.

    PBCM:

    Can you tell us a bit about your family?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH :

    I am the fourth of my mother’s six children (the third girl), and 7th of my father’s nine children. Both parents were in the Police Service so had to travel a bit around Ghana for my primary and secondary school education but finally landed at Mawuli Secondary School for my O’level and Okuapemman Secondary School for my A’level certificates respectively. My maiden name is Sophia Kudjordji.

     PBCM:

    Please tell us about the Jospong Group of Companies and their areas of operation?

    MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    JOSPONG GROUP OF COMPANIES is a wholly Ghanaian holding company with interest in over 40 different subsidiaries.  Established in 1995 with a core business of printing and publishing, the company has in the last two decades grown into a conglomerate with operations in 14 sectors of the economy. Since then, the company has made significant breakthroughs over the past two decades, growing into a world-class business conglomerate with over 50 subsidiaries and affiliates in Ghana and other parts of Africa. Its operations have been divided into five, namely Environment and Sanitation – this forms over 60 percent of our operations, where we boast of being the leading Waste Management Company in Ghana, Zoomlion, a household brand, and an environment, sanitation and the circular economy-liquid waste treatment, recycling organic waste to compost, dredging of water ways, medical waste treatment facility etc. Jospong also has operations in ICT, Financial Services-two insurance companies, Pension’s trust, a venture capital company and shares in a Bank. It has Technical and Logistics space which boasts of Ports and Terminal Services, manufacturing, automobile, plants and equipment, Agriculture and Agro businesses and finally a Commercial and Allied Services under which we have a Printing Press, a Multimedia company, and a Hotel among others.

    Jospongs mission is to “improve the lives of people” with a vision of “becoming the most successful African Holding company leading in every sector of our operations

    PBCM:

    How is the Jospong Group of Companies navigating this crucial Covid 19 period?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    The Jospong Group of Companies is founded by a very forward looking and intelligent visionary, Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, whose business acumen is second to none and penchant for identifying new opportunities in challenging times is just legendary. With the advent of the COVID 19, he quickly reinvented the companies and its operations to deliver present and relevant solutions taking advantage of our expertise in providing waste management in all districts in the country and operating in some of the remotest areas in Ghana. He immediately resourced the company to provide a service that the whole world has accepted as one of the ways of curbing the spread of the infection, which is disinfection of surfaces using the World Health Organisation’s recommended chemicals. This project has seen our companies, Zoomlion Ghana Limited and Vectorpes Companies with technical advice from Noguchi Medical Centre, undertaking Nationwide Disinfection of National Assets. So far, the exercise has been undertaken in Markets, all educational facilities for Basic to tertiary level, Parliament House, military and police installations as well as some corporate, government institutions and private homes. Our medical treatment facility is also working around the clock to ensure that COVID 19 waste is treated with utmost efficiency and professionalism. New companies have also been born as a result of the pandemic. Operations of some of the companies have also slowed due to the pandemic.

    PBCM:

    As Public Relations Practitioner, a Marketer and a Communication Professional, what are your views on how Africa is managing the Covid 19 crisis?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    I must say that Africa has done quite well in dealing with this pandemic despite earlier pronouncements that Africa was going to be hard hit by it. I must commend our leaders and particularly frontline workers for the immense sacrifices they have made in containing the situation so far.

    Right from the Centre for Disease Control of Africa Union to individual national heads, there has been a lot of information flow to constantly and consistently update the citizenry on the spread of the infection and calls for observing the protocols to curb the spread. So even though health facilities are inadequate, leadership in African countries use Information, Communication and Education to fight the pandemic. I believe that with the continuous flow of information, the provision of the necessary resources and observance of the precautionary measures I believe Africa will continue to deal with the situation. Don’t forget that Africa per our earlier experiences with Ebola, Dengue, Malaria, Cholera and other such outbreaks have built experiences somehow, so despite the overwhelming nature of this pandemic, a lot of the experiences of the past has been brought bare on the current situation which is really helping. With more resources in terms of well-resourced and world class laboratories in the similitude Noguchi Medical Research Centre in Ghana, and with great scientist on the continent, Africa has the potential of discovering solutions for the whole world.

    PBCM:

     How far has the sanitation situation in Ghana affected its accolade as the Gateway to Africa?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    Ghana is very much aware of the crucial role it plays in holding the key to open up Africa to the world and is doing everything possible to maintain that enviable position. In the area of Sanitation, I have always commended the present government under the leadership of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for setting up a whole Ministry for Sanitation to give the challenge focus and the necessary resources to spearhead the drive to make Ghana Clean. The Ministry in collaboration with other ministries and Municipal, Metropolitan and District assemblies have even intensified efforts to deal with the sanitation situation in Ghana. There are a couple of projects currently ongoing including the provision of toilets for individual homes and communities to curb open defecation; Clean Accra and other cities campaigns to sustain the cleanliness of our communities as well as the decommissioning of some major landfill sites, are clear indication of the multi-pronged approach being adopted by government and its partners to tackle the situation. What is needed now is sustained education and enforcement to consolidate the gains of these exercises.

    PBCM:

    With your experience of working with the British High Commission, what do you make of Africa’s approach towards communication as an image-enhancing exercise?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    I am of the firm belief that Africa has to be deliberate and intentional about enhancing its image to the world. You know, there is so much news out there but it is not everything you put in the public domain. This is one experience that I think Africa has to deliberately work on. As a people we are too quick to “wash our dirty linens in public”, in the name of freedom of speech, free flow of information and the like.

    I believe that, the African narrative must change and it will take communicators on the continent like the media, public relations professionals, marketers and the like, both in government and in private institutions to do this. Africa abounds with very great stories of achievements, innovations, bravery and of course beauty, but we take these positives for granted and are quick to put out negative stories. In this day and age of digitalization and social media, where information travels with the speed of light, communicators of Africa’s story much pause and ask themselves a few question before they press the send button because once the story leaves, no amount of retraction can repair the damage it might cause. We should always remind ourselves with the following questions;

    3. What do I want to achieve with this story?

    1. What picture will it paint of me and my people?
    2. Will I be proud of this story 5-10 years from now?

    I am not saying people should be stifled to do only goodie goodie stories but we can report the same story without murdering our image. -it all boils down to the language and pictures that goes with it.

    PBCM:

    The media in Africa is perceived as having fallen short of projecting the potentials and the international image of the continent, in view of the negative stories told by the Western media about Africa. What recommendations would you make to change this trend?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

     As indicated in my earlier submission, there has to be a deliberate strategy to change the African narrative. Media personnel must be trained to see the crucial role they have to play in changing this narrative. For now, it’s all about getting scoops and being the first to break the news no matter the consequences. I love the pace being set by Rwanda to the world, showcasing their nation as great and the destination to be in Africa. This did not happen by chance. When you go to Rwanda, even the taxi driver who drives you around is clear in his mind what the nation is about. The driver will not cheat you; he knows what the nation’s tax is being used for and is happy to show you the best tourist places and eatery to take you without taking advantage of you! It is such a beautiful story. I am not sure this was by chance! Definitely, a deliberate, calculated systematic strategy and plan was put in place…everyone is clear what their roles are and are delivering on that plan. Can we learn from the Rwandan story starting with the media?

    Can we call for convergence of our people taking advantage of the current digital boom to exchange notes on best practices and share our experiences as African’s and as rightly put by the Ghanaian President, find African solutions for African problems?

    The narrative for the African continent can change. Let us be deliberate about it. Let us come out with implementable strategies that is not so much about money but little steps that involves the entire Citizenry and before long we will get there. As the saying goes “Rome was not built in a day but started with one brick at a time” and the French will say “petit a petit, l’Oiseau fait son nid” meaning little by little the bird makes its nest. One step at a time, but we have to start taking the steps by having a destination in mind. We must know what we want to be known for.

    PBCM:

    Today, the focus of the world is on Covid 19. Africa is considered one of the least affected continents so far. How can the continent capitalize on this consideration to rebuild a new image?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    This offers a great opportunity for Africa to leverage on to build its image as a continent that has what it takes to manage its affairs. We are not an island but we are big enough to look within to get potentials to build our continent.

    What did we do right? What are the lessons that we can quickly document and share out there? Who are the brains behind these success stories? Let us hail them, let us celebrate them and let the world know that the African has the capacity in terms of human resources to redeem itself. We should bombard the world with our success stories from across the continent. Who are the heroes and heroines in the communities? These are the stories we should focus on. We should take the focus off our dark skin to our bright brains and earn the respect that we deserve.

    PBCM:

    What are your views on Companies in Ghana giving back to society through Corporate Social Responsibilities? Have they lived up to expectations?

      MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

    A lot of Companies are doing well by giving back to society through their Corporate Social Responsibility activities. For instance, diligently paying taxes and other statutory obligations is a great give back to society. However, Corporate Social Responsibility should be looked at from the three pronged approach of People, Profit and Planet. How do our operations impact on these three core areas of not just making profits but how we give back to society including the wellbeing of our employees and their families as well as protecting and conserving the environment for posterity?

    Most organisations are engaged in lot of philanthropic giving. That is great, but undertaking cause related initiatives will be more impactful and sustainable.

    PBCM:

    What are some of your greatest achievements in life?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

     Hmmm…have I achieved anything at all?

    Casting my mind back, in addition to the various awards which for me kind of validates my performance and contribution, it is the joy of seeing my work impacting my organisation and society that I find fulfilling. So helping to steadily change my organisation’s narrative is one that I am quite humbled about.  Leading the UT Brand identity change and sustaining that brand to win some prestigious awards as a company and for the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Prince Kofi Amoabeng felt good.

     

    At the British High Commission, one of my sweetest achievements was being able to set up its first website and managed it for about four years, coupled with rekindling a very production relationship between the High Commission and the Police, for which I received a commendation letter from the 10 Downing Street.

    I am also quite intrigued about the achievements of some sharp and intelligent young men and women who I have been privileged to work with who are now occupying responsible positions and making positive impacts. All these, plus the years of working as a journalist and producing some great developmental reports brings smiles to my face.

     

    I have always believed within me that ‘not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God’…2 Corinthians 3:5!

    PBCM:

    What is your philosophy in life?

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

     I have a couple of philosophies in life

    1. Everything that has a beginning has an end – the joy, the pain, the celebrations, the sorrows etc, but it must end in praise!
    2. It is a fact that no one is indispensable but I can make myself irreplaceable.
    3. People matter!
    4. I am nothing without God.

    PBCM:

    Your advice to PR and Communication Practitioners on the continent.

     MADAM SOPHIA KUDJORDJI LISSAH:

     We hold the key to changing the African narrative by our story telling skills. We are the custodians of our brands and reputation which eventually rubs on our countries. We should therefore be on top of our games-recognised and appreciated by the company or not!

    Public Relations and Communication is both an art and a science. Now a lot of organisations are looking for data driven information and solutions. But no matter how scientific the world becomes, relationships still matter. It is therefore, important as practitioners to take advantage of the current digitization of the world and train ourselves in that space to remain relevant and continuously engage with our stakeholders to build brands equity. In spite of the numerous challenges and inadequate resources let us exert ourselves to become and stay relevant, irreplaceable by our organisations.

    In conclusion, Public Relations and Communication should be a way of life, but the onus lies on professionals to make that life meaningful and alive! Our companies, shareholders, stakeholders and the public are looking up to us, whether they show it or not, it is the reality!