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‘There’s so much going on in the world, but I’m confident that this will pass’

By Anita Kouassigan
27 March 2020   |   4:19 am
I feel great. There is so much going on in the world, but I am confident that this will pass. I’m taking all the necessary precautions prescribed by healthcare organisations, and ensuring my family, friends and team are taking this pandemic seriously.


Osayi Alile, a Sustainability Expert and Speaker, is ACT Foundation’s CEO, Consultant for Access Bank Plc on its CSR projects, and a facilitator/management trainer and consultant on non-profit management and strategy. She was also the Executive Director of FATE Foundation for 8 years and is the Founding Curator, Global Shapers Forum Nigeria. Ms Alile holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Lagos and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA Pi Alpha Alpha. She was named a 2007 “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, is a Fellow of the African Leadership Network and is an alumna of the Harvard Business School, IMD and Yale Executive Education Programs. Owing to her experiences, Osayi sits on the board of several organisations that include immediate past Chairperson Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), House of Tara, Chairperson, Zapphire Events, Culinary Academy and Global Dignity, an affiliation of the World Economic Forum in Norway.

In this interview with Anita Kouassigan, she lends her motivational voice to the raging COVID-19 global pandemic that has set everybody in panic mode, with the assurance that this time will surely pass.

Thank you so much for agreeing to lend your voice to this platform at this very crucial point in time. First of all, how are you feeling right now? 
I feel great. There is so much going on in the world, but I am confident that this will pass. I’m taking all the necessary precautions prescribed by healthcare organisations, and ensuring my family, friends and team are taking this pandemic seriously. We are also consistently praying for Nigeria, all our healthcare professionals and our government.

How have you celebrated Women’s Month this year?
This month I was opportune to attend several events in honour of International Women’s Day, to speak to women and encourage them. Women’s month this year has been all about advocating for equality at all levels and celebrating the achievement of women. It’s about highlighting how far we have come, and how much work remains to be done and I’m glad I get to be part of it.

What is one thing you want women to know?
I want women to know that anything is possible. Our gender, age and social class does not matter, all that matters is your work ethic and your dedication. You are important and you have something unique to offer this world. I also want women to learn to prioritise themselves. So often we are showing up for everyone else at the expense of ourselves, but we must realise that you cannot pour from an empty cup.

A lot of people are panicking right now, worried about the health and safety of their loved ones. What do you have to say to people who are overwhelmed, or worried about vulnerable family and friends?
The first thing I have to say to people is “just breathe.” I can understand their anxiety, but getting stressed is not helpful and in fact, it can make things worse for you by lowering your immunity. Just take it one day at a time. If you are working from home, take this time to relax, finish up household chores, spend time with your family, and learn something new. Create a schedule so that you can have less anxiety and have activities planned to do to relive boredom. Eat food that will keep your immunity high and make sure everyone has enough water. Above all, practice faith and hope over fear. Use this as a teaching moment on dealing with life’s trails.

The disease seems to be showing us the defects in our social and healthcare systems. What do you think we – individuals, private, public and social sector organisations can do better once this is over?
We need to invest in our healthcare and social welfare systems. For a long time, experts and data have warned us that inequality and poor infrastructure is detrimental to everyone in the long term, and we can see now how this is playing out around the world. We need to ensure that the vulnerable in our communities are protected at every level. We must invest in healthcare infrastructure and programs, and we must strengthen our emergency and medical response systems in Africa. Building a robust public health system should be at the forefront of everyone’s agenda because only a healthy population can flourish.

So many businesses are being affected by the realities of this situation. What advice to do you have for entrepreneurs and organisations for dealing with this crisis?
I empathise with all business owners and organisations who are going through a hard time. Please know that the health and safety of you, your team, clients or customers and your community is paramount, so we should all strive to adhere to health and safety prescriptions. This downtime could offer you the opportunity to strategise for the future. It is also important that we recognise that now, more than ever, the future of work is changing, so we must continue to create innovative solutions and build sustainable businesses that will be able to weather storms. We must find ways to utilise technology for our businesses, both to grow and to sustain them.

(From left to right) Mr Victor Etuokwu, Ms Osayi Alile, Mr Tunde Folawiyo, Dr Herbert Wigwe, Dr Omobola Johnson & Mrs Clare Omatseye

Around the world companies are doing so much to be flexible for customers currently. What do you think the role of CSR is, when dealing with public crises like this?
At times like this, businesses have an opportunity to show how much they care. Going that extra mile to adjust to customer needs in sensitive times will go a long way to create mutual respect and loyalty between organisations and their customers. Now is the time to show people that you truly care about your communities. Everyone should be thinking about where they can provide support.

Mental health is incredibly important, especially during this period where we are constantly being bombarded with news and the realities of dealing with a global pandemic. What are some of your suggestions for how people can take care of their mental health in times like this?
As much as we need to stay informed, it is important to know when you need to step away. Learn to filter the news and limit your exposure to negativity. We can take breaks from social media or watching the news when we need to and focus on something positive instead. Get some fresh air, call family and friends, and just relax. Also, remember “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” -Dalai Lama.

What are you most looking forward to once all of this is over?
This is a busy year for us at ACT Foundation, so I look forward to all we have planned and to doing more work with our partners. I look forward to us learning from this experience and committing to building up our healthcare systems and infrastructure.

Osayi’s Top 10 Motivational Statements For During Times of Crisis
­• “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
•“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1

•“When you can’t control what is happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what is happening. That’s where the power is.” – Author Unknown

•“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey
•“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe
•“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

•“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
•“What’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn? That since day one, she already had everything she needs within herself. It is the world that convinced her she did not.”- Rupi Kaur.
•“It’s always too early to quit.”- Norman Vincent Peale
•­“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” – Luke 12: 25-26