Hers is a rich career that started with marketing for fast-moving consumer goods, veered briefly into broadcast media with a leading PayTV provider, and then into the banking sector.
Chioma Afe is a successful marketing communications professional with over two decades experience spanning FMCG, Consulting (Andersen), direct marketing, telecommunications, broadcast media/content marketing and financial services.
Family and growing up
Afe was born into a family of 5 children in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. “I was a bit of a tomboy growing up, short hair, no earrings and best friends with my brothers and their friends, “ she told Nairametrics in an interview.
Her father worked in Shell for several years (he was a Shell scholar in the 60s’) before starting his own business. Her mother combined being a housewife, raising five kids and running a petrol station dealership. Afe’s mom remains her role model for being a strong-willed, God-fearing woman who took charge of the home when her dad died in 1997.
In her 23-year old career, Afe has contributed to building leading Nigerian and African brands, as a marketing expert, taking products and brands, from conception to launch to market dominance. But it all started with an unfulfilled dream – a dream to study law.
Though she had applied to study Law, which was her mother’s dream profession for her, Chioma ended up studying English & Educational Management as a “fallback” course at the University of Port Harcourt. Expressing it in Nigerian slang, she said in an interview, “JAMB jammed me.”
Upon graduation in 1996, she served out the compulsory National Youth Service Corps at The Quadrant Company, where she first picked interest in marketing.
“I caught the ‘marketing bug’ in my youth service year spent at The Quadrant company PR; my interest was sparked to pursue communications & management of brands. I saw it as the perfect career for me to combine my communication skills with strategy, creativity, a passion for customers while learning to be more efficient and decisive in a very fast-paced industry. I am extremely passionate about what I do and the products or brands I service, and this has been my guiding principle and mantra, if you will, in every organisation I have worked in,” she said in an interview.
After the service year, Afe got employed at the Pioneer BTL agency – Tequila Nigeria, and while she was there, she got a diploma in Direct Marketing with a UK based Institute for Direct Marketing, between 1998 and 2000. She has also attended other leadership and management courses at Wharton University, Metropolitan Business school, Lagos Business School and is rounding off an MBA from the Imperial College Business School, London.
Career as a marketing professional
Her early career as a marketing professional went across various sectors—brands like British American Tobacco (BATN), and KPMG. Afe worked as Senior Brand Manager with Cocacola Nigeria Limited from 2006 to 2011, Senior Manager, Brand Assets and Activations with Airtel Nigeria from 2011 to 2012, and then as Marketing Manager, Cadbury Nigeria Plc from 2012 to 2013.
By 2013, Chioma decided it was time to switch sectors. She joined Multichoice as a marketing manager, and stayed till 2016 before making another switch, this time into the banking sector. All of the experience she had gathered from marketing FMCG and a broadcast media brand came in handy for her role as a key player in Nigeria’s banking sector.
She joined Diamond Bank Plc as Divisional Head of Corporate Communications in 2016, and was in this role till the 2019 merger, after which she became Group Head, Retail marketing & Analytics with Access Bank.
Her current role gives her ample room to bring her passion for brands, marketing communications, retail products marketing, digital and data-driven marketing, to bear. Afe oversees a team of varied creative talents including content managers, brand strategists, online PR & email marketers and data analysts in Nigeria and across 12 African countries. The job description is to utilise all of these to deliver on product awareness, customer acquisition, engagement and retention goals for Access Bank.