Lagos, Nigeria: July 01, 2019 – Self-driven and passionate about women and youth empowerment, Mariah Lucciano-Gabriel, Head, Commercial & Business Development, Asharami Energy (A Sahara Group Upstream Company) represents the growing wave of vibrant African professionals committed to transforming the continent. Mariah joined the prestigious Graduate Management Training Programme of the leading energy conglomerate, Sahara Group in June 2008 after which she was assigned to Asharami Energy, the Upstream division of Sahara.
The programme has produced several leading young energy sector professionals across Sahara’s locations in in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Mariah coordinates negotiations for the company’s Asset Acquisitions, Crude Handling Agreements, Sales Purchase Agreements, Unitization discussions, and Production Entitlement Reconciliations. She has an M.Sc in Energy Studies with specialization in Energy Economics from Dundee University, and a BSc in Economics, Finance & Management from Queen Mary, University of London.
Mariah was one of the panelists who addressed the theme: “Encouraging STEM Subjects to Balancing the Boardroom: Gender Diversity & Equality in the African Energy Industry” at the recently concluded Oil and Gas Council’s Africa Assembly in Paris.
In this interview, she shares details of her growth in the industry, her passion for mentoring younger women and highlights the need for gender parity at all levels in the energy sector.
What has your experience been as a senior manager at Sahara Group’s Upstream division?
I joined Sahara’s training program at the age of 22 with no prior knowledge or desire to work in the energy industry nor a STEM degree (my first degree was in Economics, Finance and Management) and after six months of hands on training within all the Sahara companies which cuts across downstream, midstream, upstream and operations, I was deployed to the upstream arm and asked to coordinate the next internship program simultaneously. These are the sort of opportunities and challenges you face working in a fast paced innovative company like Sahara.
After a year of juggling both roles, I focused solely on the Upstream covering Government & Partner Relations, Business Development and Commercial Operations and 10 years down the line I now head the Commercial & Business Development Unit of the Upstream arm.
The upstream sector of the Nigerian energy industry is a highly regulated and competitive one being that it accounts for over 90% of Nigeria’s GDP and as such this brings its own set of challenges to my role. However, I am able to work through problems and achieve solutions because the work environment at Sahara fosters innovation and employees are made to own the vision and given the freedom to be creative around solving problems.
I have been able thrive in the company because your contributions and successes are valued, recognized and rewarded regardless of gender, age or position.As I say to my colleagues; I don’t work like a man or a woman, I work like someone who needs to get the job done and that is all Sahara sees and that is what is rewarded.
In Sahara, you do not get passed up on a promotion simply because you are female and they fear your family obligations as a woman may conflict with your work obligations. In stark contrast, the company supports you in achieving those obligations so that you are able to better perform at your job and that performance never goes without reward!
What do we need to do in Africa to encourage the emergence of more women in the sector?
On a foundational level, the government and private sector need to encourage young girls to pursue Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) degrees through workshops and organized school programs. To start with, many girls don’t even know the career options available to them in Energy industry, it is important to start at the school level to promote the various career paths available both through STEM and Non-STEM pathways because the Energy industry is bigger than just engineering.
Furthermore, younger girls need to see more female role models at the top so they know what can be achieved and be inspired to do more. It is hard to want what you cannot visualize so leading women have a duty to promote themselves more and share their stories with other women.
More critical than just getting women in through the door is retaining and promoting them, a study showed that at entry level there was 35% women participation in the industry but as it got to executive level the percentage dropped to 8%! So women are coming in but the companies are not retaining or promoting them into leading roles. As women, we need to know that there would be sacrifices to be made and the road to the top may not be easy when combined with our roles as nature’s chosen primary caregiver but it is not impossible, we need to use all the support we can get from family and friends and we should be willing to be flexible and think creatively around juggling our roles.If companies are really serious about getting more women in leading positions then they must adopt female friendly work policies such as nursing rooms, allowance for childcare, flexi work practices etc to support women and help them achieve their career goals without jeopardizing personal goals.
What would be your greatest achievement in the sector?
The interesting thing about being an intrapreneur in a company like Sahara is that the company’s successes are my successes and vice versa. Sahara was one of the first indigenous E&P companies to enter into the Nigerian upstream sector as far back as 2004 as an Operator (not just an ‘asset broker’ peddling off assets to IOCs with the technical and financial capabilities) and has grown its assets organically form exploration thorough appraisal, development and production.
I am proud to have been an integral part of its success today by way of Bid participation, government stakeholder engagements and commercial negotiations. I look forward to playing my role in making the company the pre-eminent indigenous producer in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025 with production in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil production per day.
Having made my mark professionally in the sector, it would be my greatest achievement to reach young girls through sharing my experience and to drive the movement for gender parity at boardroom level in energy industry on a national level.
How do you intend to help younger women find their feet in the industry?
I started making a conscious effort to offer advice to younger girls within my immediate sphere of influence who want to pursue a career in the energy industry.I mentor some younger ladies in the sector. I will continue to strive for excellence in my career and share my stories, challenges and successes on a wide platform so that younger girls can have not just a role model to emulate in the energy sector but also a blueprint and relatable pathway to help them navigate their careers. It is important for women to know that it can be done despite gender specific challenges.
Where do you get the inspiration to keep up with the rigors of work in your sector?
The rewards and recognition for my contributions to company’s success certainly makes the countless late nights, early mornings and constant flying worth it but more than anything; I like to WIN! And winning does not come without sacrifice so that keeps me moving.
Why do think achieving Balance in the Boardroom is so important?
It is important not just because we should all have the same rights and opportunities regardless of gender. But also because a boardroom of 10 men of a similar age and similar background are likely to think in the same way and have the same ideas whereas a diverse group of gender, ages and backgrounds would produce innovative ideas that change the status quo and achieve the unthinkable. Furthermore, energy use is not gender neutral, women are more greatly affected by energy availability and policies than men yet you have 89% of men at helm of decision making in energy.
The struggle for gender parity cannot truly be achieved without a balanced boardroom because in some cases, even though the men have the intention of achieving a more gender balanced workforce, they would not know those policies that would help women. I recently spoke around some of these issues on a panel and gave an example of the introduction of a nursing room in Sahara, afterwards the CEO of a Nigerian Oil servicing company came up to me and said he was going introduce the same in his company because he didn’t realise something so small could have a great impact for women. It wasn’t because he was unwilling to support his female staff, he just didn’t know how he could because there was no female perspective at the decision making level.
What are some of the perceptions or biases in the Africa Energy Industry that hinder women’s entrance and/or growth and how do we overcome them?
There’s a dominating perception that the energy industry is for engineers and thus for men mostly, we need to also promote the non-technical but equally important career paths in the energy industry such as Legal, Commercial, Government Relations, Supply Chain, Business Development etc. Furthermore, many companies have a biased pay structure that favour the men and penalise the women for taking time off for personal/family issues and as such many women exit the industry mid-career because they feel undervalued.
The perception that the energy industry is reserved for men can be pulled down further if successful industry women put themselves out there a bit more so that younger girls have more role models.
We also need to realise that when we as women get to the top we don’t need to strip away our femininity or bury those female specific hurdles we had to jump and blend in with the men by replicating the habits of our successful male executives, the world needs our fresh feminine perceptive. We can’t keep sending the message that ‘we need to be men to succeed in this industry’ it discourages younger girls from pursuing this career line.
The perception that to be a successful woman in a male dominated field you must be unmarried or be a bad mother kills many women’s ambition and this perception could not be farther from the truth! According to William Domhoff; author of Women, African American Leaders of Fortune 500 companies, of the 28 women who have served as CEOs of fortune 500 companies, 26 of them were married for over 10 years minimum.
Mentorship and sponsorship in the workplace are important in reaching the top of one’s career however women are disadvantaged because unconsciously, people are drawn to mentor those that remind them of their younger selves so unconsciously men are drawn to mentor/sponsor younger men and the boardroom in the first place is full of men so no one looking out for the women. Men need intentionally overcome this unconscious bias and take up sponsorship roles for younger promising female talent in the industry and not just provide them guidance but also recommend them for opportunities when possible.
What is your advice to women in more junior positions?
Be intentional about your growth, be visible in the workplace, seek assignments and seize opportunities, join and be active in networks. The road to the top will not be easy or straightforward, stay determined, be flexible and creative in achieving balance between the home and workplace. It is not enough to be good at your job and sit quietly in the corner waiting to be noticed and whisked to the C-Suite, you need to break walls, smash windows and take a seat at the table because you deserve to be there, you are doing the world a huge favour by being there and remember that you really can have it all but just not at the same time so know when to pursue what.
Credit: Sahara Group/Adekunle Aliyu, Vanguard
Industry event co-location to boost science-based industry development
Three industry trade shows across interconnected value chains for food, drink, water, waste and analytics
The future of South Africa’s key industry sectors – including food & drink, water, sewage and waste treatment – rest heavily on science, and never more so than now, as the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of testing and analytics in assuring a compliant work environment and safe products.
Messe Muenchen South Africa, organisers of several of Africa’s major industry trade shows, have co-located food & drink technology (fdt) Africa, IFAT Africa and analytica Lab Africa to bring science and innovation closer to food & drink, water, sewage and waste treatment, for one-stop access to the interconnected value chains in these sectors.
analytica Lab Africa, food & drink technology (fdt) Africa and IFAT Africa bring to Africa the full spectrum of the science and technology laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology and diagnostics behind consumer products and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage production, and water, sewage, refuse and recycling, water and waste management as environmental concerns and food security become a top priority around the world.
The format of the trade shows and their peripheral events are designed to spark knowledge transfer, showcase global trends and solutions to Africa’s challenges, catalyse business and facilitate introductions that support collaboration and economic growth.
The industry response to co-locating analytica Lab Africa with fdt Africa and IFAT Africa has been resoundingly positive, with up to 10,000 visitors and nearly 400 exhibitors from across Africa and around the world converging at the events to network, share knowledge and explore multi-sectoral business opportunities. Suzette Scheepers, Chief Executive Officer of Messe Muenchen in South Africa, said the synergies between the three sectors were immediately apparent, and gave visitors an opportunity to learn about trends, innovations and opportunities across sectors. Together, the events occupied 17,000 square meters in four halls of the Gallagher Convention Centre.
In 2021, IFAT Africa, food & drink technology (fdt) Africa and analytica Lab Africa will be staged at the Gallagher Convention Centre from July 13 – 15.
analytica Lab Africa is the only trade fair for laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology and diagnostics in South Africa. The show features both local and international market leaders, addressing visitors in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. The first analytica Lab Africa, in 2019, featured solutions by 148 exhibitors from 15 countries, as well as a strong supporting programme including a forum and demo area with practical presentations on food safety, laboratory applications and topics such as laboratory safety.
food & drink technology (fdt) Africa is a biennial trade fair held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The trade fair and its accompanying programme (including a high-quality exhibitor forum) is the third successful offset of Messe München’s drinktec, the world’s leading trade fair in the beverage and liquid food industry. In 2019, approximately 65 exhibitors from 13 countries presented custom solutions for the African market: from innovative developments for resource conservation to raw materials, through to processing, filling and packaging machines.
IFAT Africa is the leading trade fair for water, sewage, refuse and recycling in Southern Africa.
In 2019, the show welcomed 172 exhibitors and recorded an 83 percent increase in visitor numbers from 2017, with 3,302 visitors from across South African, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2021, the show will again feature a high-calibre forum programme addressing various trends, challenges and solutions from the water, sewage, refuse and recycling sectors, bringing together public and private sector, solution providers, academics, practitioners and decision-makers for three days of valuable knowledge sharing. Highlights of the event also include focused masterclasses hosted by the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) and Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) the 3rd edition of the University Challenge, product demonstrations and interactive corner.
Issued by ITP Communication
Black Mamba- Changing the world one chilli at a time
Black Mamba, the HOTTEST African brand is on a mission to bring sustainable, freshly made products to the world, that taste good, look good and do good. In this exclusive chat with Claudia Castellanos who is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at Black Mamba, Claudia shares her African story with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online. Excerpts.
Black Mamba is a fair trade producer of gourmet chilli products, based in the African Kingdom of Eswatini. Founded in 2010, and manufactures a range of chilli sauces, pestos, pickles, chutneys and jams, all made with natural, fresh ingredients, and no artificial flavours or preservatives.
Currently Black Mamba exports its products to South Africa, the U.K., Germany, Norway and the US, amongst other markets. And their premises posses a FSSC22000 food safety certification, one of the strictest in the world.
This business was started by Claudia Castellanos and her husband Joe Roques who both share their love for chillies with the passion for development of communities and sustainable farming. From the beginning, while stirring a pot of chilli sauce from the back their house, they believed that it was possible to make a high quality, distinctively delicious product with a 100% sustainable value chain that would benefit those involved and the environment.
Black Mamba works in partnership with a local NGO called Guba, whose mission is to improve the livelihood of communities in Eswatini through the use of permaculture practices. Black Mamba and Guba have a symbiotic relationship where Guba develops the farmers and their farming skills, and Black Mamba provides the marketplace for the Guba-trained farmers to sell their organically grown products.
To date, Black Mamba provides a sustainable income to 60 farmers, mostly women, that are part of this initiative. Over 1000 individuals are directly impacted as each farmer has in average 6 dependents and shares their knowledge with 11 members of their community.
Claudia said; “We have established ourselves as a cult brand locally, and envision growing this worldwide, connecting chilli heads and ethical foodies across the world to generation of growers, providing proof that planet and people matter.”
- 14 full-time employees, 12 of which are women and the main breadwinners of their households in average 5 dependents.
- 60 farmers, of which 50 are women- in average 6 dependents and sharing knowledge with 11 members of their communities.
- Current impact over 1000 individuals Possibility to engage up to 180 farmers with a potential impact on 5000 individuals.
- Access to work and sustainable income.
- Welfare programmess: Peer education on health and gender topics, mobile clinics (general checkups, breast and cervix cancer, HIV) and savings programmes for employees
- The farmers have also learnt how to grow herbs for medicinal use, other crops to sell to their communities, healthier food and firewood.
- Improved soil structure.
- Diversity of ground cover crops.
- Reduced erosion.
- Improved use of water resources.
- Improved biodiversity at homestead level.
- Packaging material: glass and cardboard.
- 90% of our waste gets recycled or composted.
Visit Black Mamba Foods
Biography: Remi Duyile- RemiSpeaks, Career and Impact
Remi Duyile: Author | International Speaker | Empowerment Coach | Strategic Consultant
About Remi Duyile
Dr. Remi Duyile is a Nigerian-born and accomplished author, founder of Legacy premier foundation, a business leader with expertise and extensive experience in the financial sector, government and corporate strategy and communication , an eloquent International Keynote speaker who is intentionally in the Diaspora and abroad impacting the next generation and being a business bridge to Global Investors. She is an insightful legislative advocate and trusted community leader. Remi Duyile wears many hats, the one that she wears very proudly is being a devoted wife, and mother to three awesome children.
Dr. Duyile is an example of how faith, hard work and diligence can lead to numerous exposure and growth, she is passionate about seeing others succeed, it’s no doubt she was honored by the Governor of Maryland in the United States of America for her matchless efforts to better humanity. She has made it her life’s purpose to empower others to recognize their own strength, skills and abilities.
Early Life and Education
Dr. Remi Duyile was born and raised in Ondo City and Lagos State, Nigeria. where she learned the thesis of discipline, hard work, commitment and staying true to oneself. With this strong foundation, she relocated from Nigeria to the United States over 30 years ago with just one purpose: to shatter the glass ceilings which she fulfilled, is still fulfilling and will continue to fulfill.
As a fervid believer in the power of education as the key to unlocking opportunities, Dr. Duyile enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia between 1982 and 1987 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Masters’ of Business Administration in Finance and Business Economy.
Dr. Duyile started her corporate career at one of the nation’s most revered banking institutions, Bank of America(one of the largest financial institutions in the United States). It was here that she shattered glass ceilings when she was promoted to Vice President of Retail, Premier, and Mortgage Banking. Dr. Duyile served in these roles managing over 600 financial portfolios of high net-worth clients for several years, until she decided that it was time to step into her true calling as a serial entrepreneur and empowering others in her community.
Impact and Philanthropy
Dr. Duyile founded Premier Mortgage Solutions (a mortgage solutions business), Image Consulting Group (an international consulting firm), and Legacy Premier Foundation (a non-profit providing mentorship and financial literacy for women and girls. She’s also the founder of RemiSpeaks. RemiSpeaks is a Coaching, Speaking and Training Platform for Management, Emerging Leaders and Entrepreneurs in quest of sustainable growth with Global Relevance. Under the umbrella of her companies, she has become an empowerment mentor, community mobilizer, certified trainer, as well as an international key note speaker.
She has spoken throughout Africa, Europe, and extensively within North America (Canada and the US) teaching financial literacy, offering entrepreneurial development, and encouraging emerging leaders to engage in the Diaspora and beyond.
Professional Memberships, Affiliations and Boards
- Member Continental Who’s Who
- Member, World Trade Center Institute
- Member, National Black MBA
- Advisory Council Member, Leadership Initiatives
- Member, Wambia Capital
- Advisory Board Member, Mentoring International
- Member, National Speakers Association-DC
- Member, Les Brown Platinum Speaker Network
- Member : NCBW 100 of Prince George’s
- Member: LPGA Golf Female Executive Member
- Board Chair: Pan African Diaspora Women Association
- Board Member, Sisters 4 Sisters Network, Inc.
- Member, Jesus House, DC
- Chair, Census 2010 Complete Count Committee. 2009 – 2010
- Member, Maryland Democratic Party, Continental African Leadership Council
- Member of the National Coalition of 100 Black women
Nomination and Recognition
- Top 100 MBE award winner 2009
- 2010 Smart CEO Award
- Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, 2013