The Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) conference in Johannesburg was so amazing that it is difficult to pick out any one particular session that tops the event. I was privileged to moderate the mobile money session. I also participated in the wise heads panel (pictured above). Yes, that’s right. My time on this planet has not allowed me to develop a white beard and leathery hands yet… but I was considered worthy of this panel. What an honour! The wisdom of our forefathers states that if a child washes his hands, he can eat with kings. Well, eat with kings I did! This is the spirit of RAG i.e. if you have something to share, show up and share it and prepare for debate with some of the best minds that this profession has to offer.
Speaking of great minds, Ken Dickenson also participated in the wise heads panel. Ken is an accomplished expert and I mean that in every way. Let’s just say a man who has spent a significant part of his 40-year career fighting fraudsters and retires without losing the fire in his belly is to be respected. That is not the only thing I respect about Ken. Ken has an amazing passion for the type of work that we do and you get to feel that passion when you speak to him or even watch him talk about it. He has attempted, in the past, to bring assurance professionals in African telcos together so that they can speak to each other.
The panel moderator, Eric Priezkalns, sent a challenge our way. Get more African assurance professionals to talk to each other, to collaborate, to win together. I will be lending my time to this cause because it is something that I feel we need to do, if for no other reason because it is the right thing to do. I have subsequently spoken to Ken and as I expected, it is something he supports and he has great ideas on how to go about it.
If you think about it, the challenges that confront us are enormous. It is in this regard that another accomplished panelist, Ambrose Nwadike, pointed out that there is a culture of impunity that we are all collectively fighting against. There is the threat from external and internal frauds, there are the usual process and system gaps that result in leakages and misery for customers, not to mention bad press. If I could just add to that: the sooner we realise that we are fighting the same fight and we are all on the same side, the better for us.
In the keynote address, Tony Sani, Group Head of RAFM at MTN, rightly observed that assurance work is not really about gaining competitive advantage. As an assurance professional, you lose nothing by helping out a fellow professional in a competing company tackle the same threats that you face. I think he is right. If you fight fraudsters on your network to the point that they migrate to the competitor network and wreak havoc there, it is an empty victory. The fraudsters will be back, bigger and bolder. Your victory is only complete when you make sure that not only are you safe, but your neighbour is also safe.
RAG coming to Africa has provided us with some much needed lessons and I think we must borrow the practices of RAG with pride. We do not have to do anything new. The approach that RAG has followed seems to work. RAG, as we were informed by the chairman, Rob Chapman, started from very humble beginnings as an informal meeting hosted by Cartesian and where attendance was, and still is, free. The experts from the telcos only had to show up, share knowledge with their compatriots and learn from each other.
Are you a professional working in assurance in Africa? This is a challenge for you and I think you are up to it. Call up a few people who work in assurance teams for the telcos operating in your country. Ask them if they know about RAG. Feel free to refer them to this article or to the RAG website and the Commsrisk website. Ask them if they would be willing to meet with you to discuss the challenges that you all face.
Just make sure the coffee is ready when they show up. Take it from there.