Regional Course on Productivity Enhancement Opens in Banjul

Amie Sanneh

A regional course on productivity enhancement for Executive Assistants and Personal Secretaries of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) opened yesterday, 4 August, 2014 at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

The course which is organized by the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) brought together participants from WAIFEM member countries, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Delivering the keynote address on behalf of The Governor of the Central Bank of the Gambia, Madame Oumie Samba Savage, the 2nd Deputy Governor, described the executive assistants, secretaries and personal assistants as an essential part of the workforce in all organization’s providing critical support to executives. “In the past, the role of the secretary was limited to typing (using typewriter), answering telephone calls and taking notes. The secretary was seen as a person employed to take orders, write letters, carry out dispatches and keep records. The expectations were all about the clerical aspects of secretarial work and this was the job description that floated around up to the 1970,” he said.

According to the CBG Governor, the expectations of executive assistants have changed over time and their roles and responsibilities in organisations have also evolved. The Governor stated that much more is expected from them today as their routine secretarial duties are low in priority. Modern executive assistants are expected to have a good knowledge of the business describing it as essential, exceptional organizational skills, good interpersonal skills and decision making capabilities amongst others.

Governor Colley stated that greater professionalism has been introduced into the work of executive and personal assistants for they may set up and oversee administrative policies and procedures for officials, adding that an executive assistant is the face of the executive team as the first contact point for internal and external clients. “They may work with departmental and corporate officials, and liaise with other organisations and associations on behalf of the executive. Indeed, the personality and capability of an executive assistant can impact on how the senior executive is perceived by others, and how the organization is perceived by key stakeholders,” remarked the CBG Governor .

In his welcoming remarks, Professor Akpan H. Ekpo, the Director of WAIFEM, said the objective of the course is to provide executive assistants, personal secretaries and assistants to CEOs and other senior executives with the critical knowledge and skills necessary for effective and enhanced job performance. This course for secretaries and personal assistants, said the WAIFEM’s Director General, has become increasingly popular due to the urgent need to bring to the fore the support role of secretaries and personal assistants in institutions and governments given the highly demanding and busy schedules of Chief Executive Officers.

He gave a brief history of WAIFEM. He said the institution was established in July 1996 by the Central Banks of The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone to build sustainable capacity for macroeconomic, debt and financial sector management in the member countries.

Prof. Ekpo explained that the primary target of their training activities are the middle, senior and executive level officials of the central banks and the economic ministries and agencies of member countries charged with the responsibility of economic and financial policy formulation and implementation as well as officials from the private sector.

According to him, 13,800 officials from the central banks, ministries of finance and economic planning, debt management, statistics offices, national parliaments, mass media, other public and private sector agencies as well as civil society organisations have benefitted from the institute’s programmes since its inception. In pursuit of their mandate and to ensure high standards in their programmes, he said, they collaborate with relevant global, regional and national capacity building organisations with a view to promoting the adoption of contemporary best practices in the field of macroeconomic, debt and financial sector management.