Interview with Samuel Awuku, Director General, National Lottery Authority (NLA)


Top Guide: You just won the Best Public Sector CEO accolade at the 7th Ghana CEO Summit and Excellence Awards. What would you say are some of your achievements over the last year that led to the win?

Samuel Awuku: Well, I think basically it’s a shared award. The hallmark of good leadership is the ability to carry people along, and I have had the privilege of working with a dedicated team of management and staff. For me, the key and essential ingredient for getting me there was my ability to bring the right spirit and inspire the team. My management and staff are very dedicated to and focused on our core mandate at the National Lottery Authority (NLA), and on expanding the frontiers of what we do. I think the improvement and innovation that we have introduced into our business and also our ability to bring on board our stakeholders and collaborators has been very key in us being where we are today. So yes, I would say that it wasn’t an individual effort; it was championed by the leadership that I have been able to put in place. Our partners, including Top Reports, have provided us with other views that we sometimes don’t see and help us to get things right. I’m excited that the NLA was recognised, I’m excited that the NLA’s leader was recognised, and I believe that it wasn’t by sudden flight. We put in a lot of effort and that has brought us to where we are.

TG: In April, you announced new revenue generation measures. What went into that decision and what has been the effect of the implementation?

SA: Basically – I think on 3 April – we announced the revenue measures, including expanding what we do here and exporting our games to other countries like Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria. With the operations in Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, we are expected to raise an additional GH¢30m to augment what we do here. This is very critical, especially in the current global situation.

Again, we have been taking a very serious look at our operations. We are bringing in new lotto draw machines, which I am confident will be outdoored in July. We have started stakeholders’ engagement with our Lotto Marketing Companies (LMCs) and Private Lotto Operators (PLOs). Lottery is about confidence, so we need people to have the confidence that we are not going to interfere with the machines to their disadvantage, for example. These machines are certified by the World Lottery Association (WLA) and also by all international lottery bodies.

In that way, we are going to tackle the issue of revenue leakages. We are liaising with the state security apparatus and security agencies together with the judiciary to tackle the issue of illegal lottery operators. We want to make sure that the punishment is tough enough to serve as a deterrent. The current arrangement incentivises illegal operations in the industry, and we want to make sure that people know that they will face very severe punishments when they are found to be guilty of operating illegal lottery operations. These are some of the revenue measures that we have adopted.

TG: In the sixty years that it has been in operation, what would you rank as the most significant contributions that the NLA has made to Ghana and its development?

SA: Well, I think the NLA is supposed to generate revenue for national development. Basically, that’s our core mandate, and over the past 60 years, we have been able to generate this revenue for the state. What we are doing now, which is different, is that apart from contributing to the government’s Consolidated Fund and generating revenue for the state, we have added our Good Causes Foundation, which is funded from the profits we make from our collaborations with third-party organisations and partners on our platforms.

In the spirit of the National Lotto Act, 2006 (Act 722), we are enjoined to establish a special lotto with the aim of helping the poor, the destitute, the widows, the orphans, the physically and mentally challenged, all in the name of good causes, so that is one area we are supporting, as well as complementing the government’s efforts to reduce youth unemployment.

Last year, NLA made a contribution of over GH¢10 million to the government’s flagship youth YouStart programme and this year we are going to add an- other GH¢10 million. We already have GH¢3 million and we are going to pay GH¢1 million in the months of both June and July. By the end of the year, we would have paid an additional GH¢5 million. So yes, we have been contributing to national development in the last 60 years and what we have added in the last two years is Good Causes, and we are on course to reducing youth unemployment.

TG: What are the NLA’s key strategic objectives for the next five years and how can investors partner with the NLA to achieve them?

SA: To summarise our objectives over the next 5 years, we want the NLA to be the organisation of choice in the lottery industry and also to firmly establish ourselves as a very credible lottery authority looking out for partners across the world. Under the current framework of Act 722 and the GIPC Act, foreigners are not allowed to engage in the downstream or retail segments of the lottery industry. However, operators can have technical partners with a global outlook to support them. I know that many of our partners are taking advantage of that to bring in and leverage technology. I know that in the next few years, the NLA will become an icon on its own in the African region and a major player within the global lottery industry.

For the first time in our history, we have played host to some of the biggest names in the industry globally, including the president and secretary general of the World Lottery Association, Ms Rebecca Paul and Ms Lynne Roiter respectively, lottery leaders from Africa and Europe, as well as representatives from the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. We are therefore confident that the outlook is good, and we hope to improve our operations, generate more revenue in the next 5 years and move towards complete digitalisation. We also want to help demystify lottery. For us it’s a game of chance but there are some superstitious beliefs that persist about it and we believe that it is necessary to address those erroneous ideas.

TG: What are some of the benefits of the relaunched Caritas Lottery Platform and what has been the response from the organisations that it is targeted at?

SA: The Caritas Lottery Platform was launched in 2012 but was allowed to remain dormant between 2017 and the early part of 2021, so in October 2021, we had to relaunch it and I am proud to say that since its relaunch, we have generated over GHC 3 million. This year, the Caritas Lottery Platform is giving more to corporate Ghana. Apart from the use of the platform to promote their consumer promotions, we are able to give them important feedback from the market in terms of what people are thinking about them and their products. This means that we are growing with them and I think that is very significant. We are not just taking money from them to organise their promotions, we are able to advise them on future promotions based on the feedback we get, helping them to improve future promotions.

The brand integrity of the platform, in my view, has also been very important in attracting the big players from financial services, food and beverages and other sectors to it. It is still growing, and I am excited that we are signing on new partners daily, which also means that we get more resources to fund our good causes.

TG: Can you tell us some of the interventions that the Good Causes Foundation has made, and about expectations for its future?

SA: Well, I believe that the biggest contribution that the lottery has made is the Good Causes initiative, which enables us to extend a hand of goodwill and friendship to thousands of people. Not everyone gets to win when the numbers are drawn, but we all get to win from the investments in the causes that we support. Through the initiative, the NLA has touched over 240,000 lives in the last year alone. We are providing potable water, recreational centres, toilet facilities and other social amenities for communities across the country. We are also making interventions in the education, health, arts and culture and youth and sports development sectors, operated under the four pillars of the Foundation. I believe that we are gradually positioning ourselves as an institution that has not only made corporate social responsibility a priority but has internalised it as part of our corporate culture and image.

TG: Finally, as the best CEO in the public sector, what message would you have for the international investors considering Ghana?

SA: Currently, the NLA and Ghana are like beautiful young women ready to receive offers from wellmeaning partners. At 60 years old, we are reborn through the renewal of our ideas and vision. We grow stronger every day. For international investors, this is the best time to come to Ghana and the best opportunity to boost your returns.

We have received several offers from American lottery firms, some European lottery firms and some from the Caribbean, the Far East and from Africa as well. But we always want the best out of it for our people, while remaining compliant with the regulations that govern our activities. We want credible partners and so we are conducting the necessary due diligence with regards to the offers we have received. So yes, my advice to our partners and investors is that this is the best time to start conversations with this beautiful, 60-year-old lady called the NLA.

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