Keith Richards is an unusual expatriate. As a Director or CEO of a number of Nigerian based local and multi-national companies he is long-standing member of the Nigerian corporate scene. However, he has developed a close bond with the wider Nigerian community apparently at odds with his purely commercial role. Having been travelling to or residing in Nigeria for over thirty-five years he has been CEO of Guinness Nigeria Plc. and CEO, then Chairman of Promasidor Nigeria Limited. He has also served as the Managing Director of International Equitable Association Limited, Aba and Divisional Chief Executive at John Holt Plc. Despite claiming to be retired he is still Chairman of L&Z Integrated Dairy Farms in Kano, as well as undertaking consultancy and advisory assignments.
Over the years Keith has also been an active supporter of various economic and business groups. At times he has been a Director at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (a leading private sector think tank established to promote Nigeria’s economic potential), a Member of the Advisory Board of BusinessDay newspapers, a Council Member and Sectorial Chair of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Vice President of The Alcohol, Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers of Nigeria and a Council Member of Nigeria Employers Consultative Association. His role in these organisations brought him into contact with senior politicians and historically important Nigerians including Presidents, Governors, Ambassadors and other prominent members of Nigeria’s hierarchy. In 2004 he was actually voted the Seventh Most Respected Nigerian CEO by a PWC poll of Nigerian businessmen.
However, in addition, Keith has developed a connection with Nigerian grass roots and cultural communities, which has been reflected in his passionate belief in the need for businesses, especially multi-nationals, to engage with the environment and societies in which they are based. He has been critical of expatriates who shut themselves off from the local community. As such he has worked closely with such indigenous organisations as the Orile Iganmu Progressive Youth Association (OIPA) an organisation developed by the inhabitants of a notorious Lagos ghetto to provide a voice for their disadvantaged population. He is a founding member of Green Cycle Nigeria (a Foundation established for the promotion of circular economy, recycling e-waste and other materials) and a Director at Environmental Resource Centre (ERC), an organisation founded with other like mind environmentalists (including Chief Newton Jibunoh and Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun).
In his role as the CEO of several multi-nationals he built bridges with the arts and cultural communities and encouraged a number of talented local artists and the entrepreneurs and mentors who are developing them. For example, his relationship with the musician and activist Seun Anikulapo Kuti is such that Seun’s daughter knows him as ‘grand-dad’. He is also a long-standing supporter of the arts including being a Director at the Lagos Jazz Series, an initiative that promotes Jazz music in Nigeria. He is also a keen collector of West Africa art.
In 2005 after leaving Guinness he was invited to write a weekly column for Nigeria’s leading financial newspaper, BusinessDay. The column attracted acclaim for its honesty and its directness; some would say courage, as Keith tackled political and social issues as well as providing an insight into Nigeria’s commercial environment. Bookcraft published a collection of his weekly columns in 2007. He has also written on Nigeria for the Financial Times and The Guardian. As an active member of Nigeria’s artistic community Keith has read his poems publically and even performed on stage in Lagos and Johannesburg, as Mr. Ramsbotham, in Kakadu the musical.
After retiring from full time work in 2015 he went back to writing his ‘Outsider Inside’ column until he stopped to focus on his memoirs. These are an account of his time in Nigeria but rather than simply being a litany of expatriate anecdotes he discusses the difficult and sensitive issues he has encountered comprising corruption, ethnicity, multi-nationals’ complacency and whether white men should wear traditional dress. It is part memoir, part management practice and part travelogue from the point of view of someone who describes himself as an: ‘outsider inside’.
In recognition of Keith’s cultural engagement and community activities he has been conferred with several traditional titles in Nigeria including: Ike Oha 1 of Okpu Omoubu Community, Abia State; Eze Di OroMa 1 of Enugu State, Aare Baaladun of Isolo Kingdom, Lagos and Ganuwan Daura, Katsina State. He is a Fellow of the Lagos State Polytechnic. HM Queen Elizabeth II conferred him with the OBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours list for Services to Nigerian-British commercial interests and charitable work.