Functioning across Africa, Temitope Iluyemi exudes competence

Temitope Iluyemi is the Senior Director, Global Government Relations for Africa region at P&G. She is a qualified pharmacist and joined P&G Nigeria in 1998.

In her over 22years career with P&G, she has distinguished herself with a breadth of roles spanning across commercial and corporate functions (Sales, market strategy and planning, supply network operations, external relations and government relations).

In this timeframe, Iluyemi has lived and worked from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Togo and the United States of America delivering significant value to her company across various business disciplines.

Following her assignment in Washington D.C in 2017, she relocated back to Nigeria and her government relations role was expanded and spans across the 53countries in Africa.

Temitope is a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, she sits on several boards and advisory boards including P&G Nigeria, Montserrado B.V, Corporate Council on Africa, Taskforce Chairman on Trade facilitation, US Chamber of commerce and involved in various local community projects. She is a keen advocate of African regional integration and has contributed to several global platforms for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

Iluyemi was recognised among the Top 50 Leading ladies in Corporate Nigeria 2019, Top50 Leading African Corporate Women in 2021, Women who made an impact in 2019 by the Guardian publication and recognised with an Honoris causa doctorate in 2019 and selected in the Top 10 Strategic African women in leadership – SAWIL in 2021.

She spends her spare time mentoring young professional women and is involved in various local community projects. She currently lives in Johannesburg with her family.

How was your formative years and how has it propelled you to where you are today?

Every experience from my background has contributed to my life’s journey and prepared me up till this moment. I had a lot of fun growing up with parents who were fully involved and present with good old fashioned Christian values. Growing up was fun with my siblings and there was never a dull moment. I also had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my late grandmother- an enterprising Ijebu Princess, who always encouraged me to lead, take charge and to believe in myself. She told me many stories from her background with many lessons that are still relevant today. Indeed, life is a revolving cycle- the rules of success are the same, its application is what you adapt to current needs. My Dad, an accountant rose to become the first indigenous Managing Director of a multinational- Van Leer Nig Plc and my mum, an education veteran of over 50years worked in the civil service for many years and later started Komfota Schools and Colleges in Lagos which she has run for over 2decades. I also had one of the best seasons of my life living with my cousins when my parents were away on ex-pat assignment and that again helped to broaden my view of life and strengthened my character. I learnt from several people and I learned several life skills that have helped me build the life that I live today. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Did you always want to be a Pharmacist?

One of my role models growing up was my Aunt- a Director and Pharmacist in PZ Cuzzons in the 80s. I admired her a lot and choosing Pharmacy was easy. In the study of Pharmacy, I found it to be quite a versatile profession where I could utilise several skills either as a core scientist or in business. I worked across hospital and retail pharmacies before I joined P&G. After joining P&G, at specific seasons, I have utilised my Pharmacy knowledge and skills to serve as superintendent pharmacist for our Vicks® Plant in Ibadan. In my current role, being a Pharmacist enables me to support the team on regulatory affairs. I have always enjoyed this versatility and am always grateful for this background.

Why P&G? What makes P&G tick?

P&G is a purpose driven and value-led company. This is what has sustained the company for almost two centuries- they are the foundation of P&G’s culture. It inspires P&G people to make a positive contribution every day. Our values reflect the behaviours that shape the tone of how we work with each other and with our partners.

P&G strives to be a force for good and a force for growth. We have challenged convention, led innovation, and helped shape culture. We provided branded goods and services that make the lives of our consumers a little bit better, every day- This is what makes P&G truly stand out. At P&G, we truly care about people, not just our consumers but our employees, associates and the communities in which we live and work.

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When did you join P&G and how has your experience been to date?

Looking back at my career journey, I must say I feel truly blessed for where I am and where I am still going. I have had the privilege of exposure to invaluable development opportunities and experiences. I have always been enterprising, and I worked as a pharmacist a couple of years before joining P&G. Like most young graduates, my dream was to work in a multinational company and then move on. 23years later and with a broad set of skills, I can say that accepting that offer letter from P&G is one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I joined as a sales executive and within a year, quickly rose to my first international assignment in West Africa located in Togo and later Ghana, where I had the mandate to expand P&G’s distributor operations into West Africa. I opened distributor branches, building distributor capability, and expanded P&G operations in West Africa’s 2nd largest market. Following this, I was transferred to our South Africa operations which was tough for a young black female at the time, and where there were very few women. (To note, I was the first female Sales Manager employed in P&G Nigeria). In my first assignment in South Africa, I led market strategy and planning, and later became a senior manager in charge of the biggest national account in South Africa – having worked across several channels and pioneering new sectors like department stores. To date, I still consider this period my time of greatest learning, personal development and growth of my career.

After this very interesting period, the company asked me to lead a different organisation, and I was appointed as the Supply Chain Group Manager for West Africa, with all our bold ambition of expansion into West Africa. This was another very stretching assignment with a sharp learning curve as it was a different skill to what I had used in the last seven years of my career – albeit a very rewarding experience as it made me a more rounded business leader.

Following my experience in supply chain operations, the business had another need, and a new assignment was proposed to me in External Relations. Never one to turn down a new experience, I embraced it with the same gusto I put into everything my hand finds to do, combining the 3H- Head, Heart, and Hands in everything. As External Relations Group Manager, I went from managing West Africa to becoming Senior Director, Global Government Relations for Africa.

What are your roles as Senior Director, Global Government Relations for Africa region at P&G?

As Senior Director Global Government Relations, I am responsible for improving P&G’s investment viability across the region, advocating for policy reforms that enable P&G’s business operations including deepening Africa’s integration as well as building P&G’s reputation across our Sub Sahara African countries. As a force for good company, I am also responsible for building company reputation across the public sectors, several stakeholders and leading sustainability interventions in the countries we operate in.

Working in a bluechip multinational, what have you learnt so far?

For me, learning is a continuous journey. In over 2 decades of working in a blue-chip multinational, I have learnt several things on people, career management, culture, skills; I will highlight few of the most important ones. First, the old saying that whatever your hands find to do, do it exceptionally well ring true even today. There is no substitute for excellence. It is a trait I learnt growing up from my parents both of whom I am still lucky to have today. Be your authentic self, it will become your currency. Being your authentic self does not mean being inflexible. You need to be adaptable to change (otherwise you cannot grow) but your core values remain the same. Be genuine and treat others as you would like to be treated, a trait I learnt from my Dad who embodies humility despite his achievements. Chart your own unique path. Carve out your destiny, don’t be a by-stander on issues that affect you. Build and manage your closest relationships. You are a sum of the different parts of the people you let into your life. Lastly, you must develop the inner strength to keep going, one of my strengths is the ability to stay the course to win. Broadly in life, it is proven that passion with grit will win over strategy any day.

You have worked in different countries, which is dear to your heart and why?

This is not a simple question. I have lived in different places at different life and career stages. These impact how I experience each location. My First assignment in Togo & Ghana was very exciting. I was selected, despite more senior people to lead this expansion operation in West Africa. I did not have children at the time and was free to move mountains, and I did. Then I moved to South Africa and started building a family with my career. That was more challenging as I didn’t have a lot of support network. However, despite the personal challenges (which would have been the same in any new country with a career and young children), it was also the most rewarding period of career growth and cultural development. I have also lived in the US in a corporate role and built world-class experiences and networks which I still utilise today, and I am called into different committees or boards for input up till today. These are invaluable experiences and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I am again in South Africa in a completely different role from my early life there, and I am enjoying every minute with my now teenage children.

I have different reasons for enjoying these countries as each has positively influenced me. However, “home is where the heart is”. I have a vision and passion for a more united Africa.

How are you able to manage so many countries in Africa?

This is based on the power of people, our networks, and the skill to navigate through to the right solutions. I have my core team who manage key countries, but we can’t be everywhere. I am supported in this regard also by the breadth of roles and exposure P&G created for me enriching my ability to navigate this management process. I believe and apply the six degrees of separation theory in all the countries we operate. (that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries). This is a required skill in Government Relations and public policy, and I usually don’t need all 5links as I’ve learnt to master this.

In what ways are you an advocate for the implementation of the AfCFTA

The AfCFTA is the world’s largest free trade area by number of countries, connecting almost 1.3Billion people across 54 African countries with a combined GDP of $3.4Trillion. The agreement will deepen economic integration across Africa through the creation of a single market for goods and services.

The AfCFTA will eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers among members and covers policy areas such as trade facilitation and services, as well as regulatory measures where SMEs stand to benefit if exploited. There is a huge potential for businesses to optimise the benefits of scale and reap the benefits of expansion, export diversification and attract significant FDI into the continent.

The world Bank report of 2020 shares additional potential benefits of the AfCFTA to boost growth and Africa’s income by $450Million by 2035, reduce poverty by lifting 30million African out of extreme poverty and broaden economic inclusion by spurring larger wage gains for women, skilled and unskilled workers.

While the process implementation has been hampered by covid, we encourage the African Governments to fast track this agenda to ensure we can access the benefits as a region sooner.

What are the challenges of the Pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria and how can it be resolved?

Securing the Pharmaceutical industry is akin to national security in my opinion. It is a very sensitive one and needs to be protected. There are several issues faced by the industry in Nigeria. These include limited human and material resources to serve the community professionally, and monitor the issues and illicit practices that impact the pharmaceutical industry.

Favourable industry policies as well as the development of local industry capacity are some of the ways the challenges facing the industry can be solved. We need to equip and ensure schools of pharmacy are standardised across yielding the quality professionals we need in the country who understand and protect the profession.

I’m quite proud of the institution of NAFDAC and what they have been able to achieve in minimising counterfeits and look-alikes over the last 2 decades. The current DG has also moved to digitise processes- especially the registration process. While there are challenges and a lot still needs to be done, it is a step in the right direction.

There is also the need to enable government policies to support these efforts in reducing counterfeits, support the promotion of a drug-free culture in our youths by raising the barrier to access to restricted drug classifications, a closer monitoring of the pharmacy registers and increasing the level of education and awareness on the dangers of illicit drug use.

What role does mentorship play in the life of any leader?

In my experience, mentorship is a personal and career tool that people do not leverage enough. The right mentoring relationship can be the backbone of a successful career. As you grow in your career, you must also seek sponsorship. I have had mentors who not only showed me the ropes but gave me deeper insights of what was going on in higher offices. I have also had sponsors who advocated for me in spaces I wasn’t present and put my name forward. I have different types of mentors- some are younger than me depending on the need or their strength e.g., social media and several who are older and more experienced than me who form my core of mentors. I also have a circle of trusted friends and advisers. During the eased lockdowns in 2020, I attended the Ibukun Awosika 360executive class and our group of 10 executive women have become an invaluable support group where you can bounce of literally any topic, issue or need and you’re bound to find an expert in the room and a ready strategy paper. In less than two years of coming together, we operate like a well-oiled machine, support each other, get and give excellent coaching, and advise. My tribe of women are real problem solvers who are also passionate about life, so we also have a lot of fun. That is the power of mentorships. It encourages you to break stereotypes. It provides access to someone who has walked the path you now embark on. Someone who can show you the ropes to success, or in the case of my tribe, a trusted group of people who can help you think through solutions.

This is something I am very passionate about. I also dedicate time to mentor other women through WMBIZ and other organisations helping them build successful life and careers. As we rise, we lift others up ensuring there will consistently be a seat at the table for the next deserving woman. As a pioneering woman in several roles, I was helped by men and women mentors who paved the way for my success, and it is only right that I do the same for the generation after me.

You just celebrated your golden jubilee, share with us how you marked it

I celebrated it with my loved ones, family and friends. Themed: Graceful-Grateful-Golden, I started off my new year with a thanksgiving service and my excellent, efficient and thoughtful tribe of women put together from the Ibukun Awosika’ s 360 Executive woman series surprised me with a duo of saxophonist and pianist to celebrate and pray with me on the morning of my birthday. Later in the day, we had dinner with a few close friends. As a fun side event, my super support system and tribe of 360women and other close friends showcased various Nigerian designers they came in on the runway. This simple fun element introduced by my teenage daughter became the highlight of my day. (a fun and socially distanced activity she said) For my guests present, it was all experiential and I was surrounded by people I truly care about which added grace to my day. Indeed I feel truly blessed.

What does turning 50 mean to you?

I embrace my new season and all its benefits, now I get to say it as it is. It’s a time of deep gratitude for how God has ordered my steps up till this moment and appreciation for where next He’s taking me.

Since the covid pandemic, my level of gratitude has multiplied, especially for my amazing family. I am grateful to have a loving family my husband Kunle my rock and our beautiful children, surrounded by our 4 octogenarian parents, and the best siblings on both sides is truly a blessing.

I’m grateful for how far I have come and the privileges I’ve had, I do not take it for granted. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to influence and support those coming behind and being intentional to ensure the next woman has a seat at the table. It’s also a time to reflect, sharpen or adapt my “why” and I am more intentional in setting new goals. I feel truly privileged to be taking another leap in life and looking forward to fully exploiting my new goals.

What role does family play in your professional life?

My priorities are clear for me, and that is my family- they remain long after the work is gone. In my company, the interest of the individual and that of the company are inseparable. A well-balanced and secure individual will always deliver their best. Hence, the support of my family is important to deliver at work and vice-versa.

These days when I am working, I focus on work and when I am playing, I play just as hard. That is balance for me – The ability and opportunity to do what matters most at any point in time. Life is a sum of the choices we make and I am full of optimism.

For those with young families, the more challenging career phase for women, the important thing is that you must be very clear on what type of support you need at every life stage and communicate it, and being flexible and adaptable to options will help you and your company find the right balance between work and personal life. There are no absolutes so long as ethics are not compromised, and I look for the opportunities in every situation.

Going forward, What are your expectations?

I am still on my journey of daily growth in different facets and stages. I look forward to leaving a legacy behind, one that people are proud to be associated with for generations to come.

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