By Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli
The Board, staff and beneficiaries of LEAP Africa mourn the sudden death of our distinguished and devoted Board member – Mr Seyi Bickersteth, who passed away on March 3rd 2021.
A legend in the African finance, accounting, tax, governance and compliance landscape, LEAP Africa was honoured to welcome Mr Bickersteth to our Board of Directors in 2017, soon after his retirement as the Chairman of KPMG West Africa.
Over the past three years, Mr Seyi Bickersteth served as a committed and devoted Board member. He was extremely passionate about mentoring young Nigerians and fully embraced LEAP’s commitment to raising the next generation of dynamic, innovative and principled young leaders who will transform Africa.
Early in his tenure, the entire LEAP family was struck by his humility, kind and gentle demeanour, which endeared him to the organisation as a whole, especially the young team in our finance and accounts department. Mr Bickersteth applied his brilliance and wealth of experiences in guiding the Board and staff of the organisation.
A few months into his tenure on the Board, Mr Bickersteth was appointed to serve as the chairman of our Finance Committee. He applied his razor-sharp lens to guide the organisation through its budgeting and auditing process. He coached the team on the appropriate systems and controls for ensuring compliance, transparency and accountability.
He infused world-class standards of financial excellence as the organisation effectively deployed funds from international partners such as the Mastercard Foundation and the Ford Foundation and expanded its work to six African countries.
Also read: SERAP to Buhari: Drop plan to borrow N895bn unclaimed dividends, dormant account balances
On March 2nd 2021, he chaired yet another Finance Committee Meeting, reviewing the organisation’s financials, giving feedback and coaching the team. He patiently guided the team, providing thoughtful corrections on the appropriate assumptions for rates of inflation and exchange rates as they finalized their budgets. Who could have imagined that this would be the last interaction?
According to LEAP Africa’s chairman – Mr Udeme Ufot – “Seyi Bickersteth was an accomplished professional whose unassuming personality was in great contrast to the heights he had attained in his professional calling. Very professional, calm and objective in his approach to all issues. A very committed LEAP board member. He was the first on Tuesday afternoon to confirm attendance at Thursday’s board meeting. On Wednesday morning, he was dead. May God Almighty grant him eternal rest.”
LEAP Africa has lost a great gem! Nigeria has lost a brilliant man who loved this country deeply and gave his time, talents and treasure to nurturing the next generation of Nigerian leaders. LEAP Africa’s Board is committed to sustaining Mr Bickersteth’s legacy through our work across Africa and a special award in his honour – The Seyi Bickersteth Prize for Financial Excellence, Compliance and Governance. This award will be presented annually to an outstanding young social entrepreneur who embodies Mr Bickersteth’s values of excellence, transparency and accountability during the LEAP Africa’s Social Innovators Awards.
On a more personal note, we extend our prayers to Mrs Catherine Bickersteth and the entire family. Over the years, we have observed the epic love story of Mr Seyi and Mrs Catherine Bickersteth! Their deep love for each other was legendary. They supported and celebrated their individual and collective impact and successes and raised two exceptional daughters. They embraced a healthy lifestyle, travelled the world together and served as a great source of inspiration for so many younger couples who benefitted from the radiance of their love.
We are comforted by the fact that Mr Bickersteth lived a very purposeful life and is at rest! His legacy lives on in his children, the generations of financial professionals that he groomed, the lives he touched, the youth he inspired and the organisations in which he served! May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!
• Nwuneli is Founder, LEAP Africa