Ramona Dzinkowski, journalist

Far from the tropical forest zone of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he grew up, Ayo Makanjuola FCCA, CFO at Millbrook First Nation, now makes his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. ‘I came to the east coast of Canada from Lagos in December 2015 and had never seen snow before. I didn’t even have an overcoat when getting off the plane,’ he says.

While Ayo may not have been prepared for the harsh Canadian winters, he was determined to build a new life away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos. With over 21 million people in the greater metropolitan area, Lagos is the largest city in Africa and one of fastest-growing cities in the world. It’s also ranked as the fourth least liveable city in the world, according to the Global Liveability Index 2023 released by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU). With its low standard of living and population explosion, ‘I wanted to move the family to a more stable and family friendly environment to raise our kids’, he says.

‘Not even Canadians who are used to the cold will venture that far north’

Ayo would soon put the professional accounting designations he earned in Nigeria to work in his new role as director of finance and corporate services for the Black Business Initiative Society (BBI), a not-for-profit organisation helping the Black business community in Nova Scotia. ‘I had a personal contact with a board member there who was very familiar with the ACCA designation,’ he says, ‘and having an ACCA diploma in IFRS helped me get my foot in the door’.

Millbrook First Nation

The Millbrook First Nation is a Mi’kmaq community located in Truro, Nova Scotia. Millbrook, which is a self-governing band operating like a corporation, has interests in gaming, fishery, tobacco, commercial, and residential real estate with annual revenue from all sources of CDN$63m in 2023.

Ayo would eventually take on the role of CFO at BBI, where he would revamp the finance function, reduce operating costs by 12%, and lead a national project  called the supporting Black Canadian Initiative (SBCCI) that distributed CDN$9m to more than 200 Black-led, not-for-profit organizations across Canada.

‘It went so well that after the first year, the government increased the funding by close to 100%,’ he says. ‘I am very privileged to have been involved in the project, as we were able to make a real difference within the Black communities across Canada.’

‘From November to February there’s no sun at all’

Top skills for working in diverse cultures

  • Listen to people – it’s one of the first icebreakers. A lot of good things happen when people find out that they can talk to you.
  • Try to understand the sensitivities around a community.
  • Know what value you’re bringing to the table and help others increase their capacity.

Although the job of finance director would be very familiar, the life of the Inuit was a cultural eye-opener. ‘Never in a million years could I have imagined having that experience. Not even Canadians who are used to the cold will venture that far north,’ he says. ‘I was very fortunate. That was my first stint working with the Inuit community. The life they lead was fascinating to me. I arrived in August when there was 22 to 23 hours of daylight, but from November to February there’s no sun at all. Some days were minus 65 degrees Celsius. The locals would take me bear hunting, ice fishing and snowmobiling on the Arctic tundra.’

Today, Ayo is back on more familiar ground in Halifax, but is still working for the Canadian indigenous community as CFO of Millbrook First Nations. In addition to managing the finances of the organisation, he oversees acquisitions and digital transformation, and provides strategic advice to the band council and its executive.

Win-win with ACCA

Ayo was able to obtain his CPA designation through the mutual recognition agreement between CPA Canada and ACCA in 2018. ‘In this way, going through the ACCA certification was a win-win for me,’ he says. Among other directorships, Ayo is currently vice chair and board member of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Nova Scotia and a member of the Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee of the Canadian Accounting Standards Board.


CFO, Millbrook First Nation, Canada

Vice chair and board member, Chartered Professional Accountants, Nova Scotia

Member, Canadian Accounting Standards Board (Not-for-profit Advisory Committee)

CFO, Black Business Initiative, Nova Scotia

Director of finance, The Hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Holman Island, Northwest Territories

Director of Corporate Services, Black Business Initiative

Finance manager, Ropeways Transport, Nigeria