Jerry Ihejirika: Project Management in Africa [Interview]


One of the great things about blogging for so long is that I’ve met a whole host of interesting people. I only met Jerry Ihejirika recently, via the wonders of the internet. He’s passionate about improving the quality of project management education and practice in Africa. He’s the brains behind the Project Management for Africa Initiative and I wanted to find out more.

Jerry and I caught up for a chat. Here’s what happened.

Jerry, what has been your path through project management to date?

In 2008, I gained admission into the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) here in Nigeria to study Project Management Technology. I graduated in February 2014 and in November was posted to Ekiti State for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program. The NYSC is a one-year compulsory program for all Nigerian graduates and I completed mine in October 2015.

However, during my days in the university, in August 2013 to be precise, I started my blog. The aim was to help create more awareness on the value of project management, make relevant information about project management in Nigeria available on the blog, promote the project management profession in Nigeria and help the young and aspiring project managers define their career path.

Then in 2014, based on my observations and experience, I came up with the idea of creating a Project Management for Africa Initiative and I am still working on it.

Last year I started the ‘Donate a project management or leadership book to Africa’ campaign that was part of the initiative.

I’m not involved with any other company or organisation at the moment, so I’m currently focused on my blogging activities, the initiative I’m working on and the project management book I’m writing. However, I am very much open to new career opportunities in project management.

What’s so special about project management? Why did you chose it?

In 2007/08, when I was trying to gain admission into the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) to pursue my bachelors program, a very good friend of mine told me about the project management technology (PMT) course.

To get some ideas about the course, I had to meet with a project management student in FUTO. He gave me an overview of what the course was all about, and I liked what I heard but was not fully convinced at that moment. I had to do some further research on the internet.

I got to discover the meaning and value of project management, how it can be practised across all industries and how some project managers were expressing their passion for the profession online. I also got to discover that project management could help solve many problems we are currently facing in Nigeria and that it is a profession that would still be very much relevant in the future. Today, I am glad I made the decision to study project management.

Tell me more about the Project Management for Africa Initiative

The Project Management for Africa Initiative was born out of my observations, research and experience as a project management graduate and practitioner in Nigeria.

There is a low level of awareness of project management in Nigeria and Africa at large. Most of our project management students and graduates at the bachelors level in Africa got to study the course by “accident”.

What do you mean by that?

What do I mean? Due to the low level of awareness of the project management profession in Africa, many African kids are unaware of the profession so do not choose to study project management in our universities and colleges. They choose courses of professions that are common or popular.

Therefore, what the universities do is to divert or shift some people who could not gain admission into the popular departments to the less popular departments of which the project management department is one of.

At the end of the day, if these “accidental” project management students do not receive adequate learning or they graduate without the knowledge of how to start or pursue their project management careers, they tend to divert to other professions or practices that they are aware of.

Issues like these and others concerning the young and aspiring project managers in Africa are what the initiative is looking forward to tackling in Africa.

So what do you think is the biggest problem facing project managers in Nigeria at the moment?

There are various problems project managers face in the country but I think the biggest of them all is the Nigerian system.

The Nigerian system, most especially in the public sector, is yet to understand or accept the value of project management and is yet to believe in its local project management professionals. It is almost like there is no project management voice in the country.

However, some concerned project management practitioners and organisations that value project management are doing their best to help solve some of these challenges through various programs and initiatives.

Has blogging changed the way you think about project management?

If there is anything that has really influenced my career professionally since I graduated, it is blogging. As a project management blogger, it has changed my thinking about project management (I never heard about SCRUM or Agile before I started my blog!), it has helped me to connect and build relationships with so many young and professional project managers from around the world and it is opening up doors of career opportunities for me.

Blogging is not easy. It is a major commitment and an on-going project. Most bloggers do not know that they are practising some form of project management through blogging. You have to PLAN your niche, domain name, blogging platform, etc. You have to ORGANISE resources such as money that would be used for pay for your domain name registration and web hosting, get a laptop or smartphone, etc. You have to EXECUTE your plans, launch and customise your blog, install themes and plugins, write your first post and subsequent posts, etc. You have to continuously MONITOR and CONTROL the back-end and front-end activities on your blog, and so much more.

I’d never thought of it like that, but you’re totally right! You run a regular Nigerian Newspaper round up article. Have you noticed any themes in the projects that are being done?

I started the newspaper round up article only recently, so I have not really followed some of the projects long enough for that. It’s also my way of telling my blog readers, most especially those from Nigeria, what I think about some of the projects being initiated, planned or executed within the country.

The National Association of Project Management Professionals in Nigeria has been around for over a year now. How do you think it is making a difference?

The National Association of Project Management Professionals (NAPMP) has been officially registered and duly recognised by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but it has not been officially launched yet as the trustees are still working on the plan to unveil the association officially.

When launched, the association will aid in the promotion and establishment of project management as a profession and act as an umbrella body for practitioners in the country.

I’m sure you’ll take every opportunity to be an active part of that. What’s next in your career?

As I said earlier, I am not involved with any company or organisation now. Therefore, I will be looking forward to collaborating with or working for a company that values project management.

I am also be looking forward to advancing my professional career over the course of those five years by doing my master’s degree, acquiring some project management certifications and gaining some experience in the field of project management to become a greater asset to any organisation I eventually get involved with.

I will also still be blogging and doing some volunteering for the next five years, as it’s fun to me.

It’s been great chatting to you today. Any final thoughts?

Yes, I would like to thank you for supporting my “Donate a Project Management or Leadership Book to Africa” campaign. You were the first person to donate a project management book to the initiative. Your blog is also one of the best in the industry and I have learnt some project management ideas from it. Keep it up.

You’re welcome! Thanks, Jerry.

This interview first appeared in 2016.

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