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Legacy Beyond Life: Lessons for African Family Firms

In the wake of the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Herbert Wigwe, his wife, Chizoba Wigwe, and son, Chizi Wigwe, and Abimbola Ogunbanjo, the African business community is enveloped in mourning. This sorrowful event not only highlights the fragility of life but also casts a spotlight on the need for succession planning, legacy preservation, and the nurturing of the next generation within enterprising families. In this article we share reflections from this event and offer guidance to African family firms on how to safeguard the future and cultivate their legacies.

Succession Planning: A Necessity, Not an Option

The sudden departure of Herbert Wigwe and Abimbola Ogunbanjo— stalwarts in the African financial sector—serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of life. It underscores the urgency for family businesses to establish robust succession plans. Succession planning is not merely about choosing a successor; it's about ensuring the continuity of leadership and the preservation of the founder's vision. It involves identifying and nurturing potential leaders within the family or the organization who embody the values, skills, and passion necessary to propel the business forward. This process should be approached with deliberation and care, fostering an environment where future leaders are prepared to take the helm when the time comes.

Legacy Planning: Crafting a Lasting Impression

Legacy planning transcends financial inheritance, focusing on the imprint a leader leaves on the world through their values, contributions to society, and the culture they cultivate within their organization. For African family firms, where business and family values are deeply intertwined, legacy planning is paramount. It's about crafting a story that future generations will tell with pride, a narrative that encompasses philanthropy, ethical business practices, and a commitment to societal advancement. Herbert Wigwe's legacy, for instance, will be remembered for his significant contributions to the banking sector and his philanthropic efforts. Chizoba Wigwe will be remembered for her legacy of innovation, philanthropy and education. Abimbola Ogunbanjo will be remembered as a visionary in financial services. Enterprising families must reflect how they wish to be remembered and lay down the foundational principles that will guide their legacy.

NextGen Development: Securing the Future

The development of the next generation is crucial for the sustainability of family businesses. It involves equipping them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and values to lead in an ever-evolving business landscape. This goes beyond formal education to include hands-on experience within the business, mentorship programs, and exposure to different aspects of the organization. Encouraging the next generation to pursue their passions and innovate within the framework of the family business can lead to a dynamic and resilient enterprise.

This event is a poignant reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of preparing for the future. As we navigate through this period of grief, let us reflect on the wisdom of an African proverb: "A family is like a forest; when you are outside it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place." This serves as a reminder that each member of a family business plays a unique and vital role in its growth and legacy. Let us commit to thoughtful succession planning, legacy building, and the cultivation of future leaders, ensuring that the forest thrives for generations to come.

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