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Women in Africa’s energy sector need to be intentional about their growth – Lucciano-Gabriel

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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!

Mariah Lucciano-Gabriel, Head, Commercial & Business Development, Asharami Energy

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.

Also Read Interview With The Founder And Textile Designer At The Adirelounge, Cynthia Asije

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

Hospitality & Tourism

Radisson Individuals makes its African debut with hotel signing in Ghana, to open its doors in October 2021

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Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group

Radisson Hotel Group is proud to announce its first Radisson Individuals property in Africa, with the signing of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals, Accra, Ghana. Due to open by the end of 2021, this new addition places the Group firmly on track to achieving its objective of reaching 150 hotels in operation and under development by 2025.

Located in Dzorwulu, the property is currently undergoing a full renovation and is on schedule to open within this year. Just 5km from Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the main access point by air for domestic and international visitors, the serviced apartment property is conveniently located near shopping malls, restaurants, as well as the University of Ghana, situated north of the district. Also within reach, is the tranquil Legon Botanical Gardens, with its canopy walk, rope courses, canoeing and rich birdlife.

Due to its strategic geographical location, ease of access, and aviation facilities and connections, Accra has become a conference and aviation hub for West Africa. It is also dominated by local and international business activities, making the city one of the most attractive African cities to do business.

The 58-serviced apartments property will comprise of modern studios as well as spacious and elegant one- and two-bedroom suites. Creating a true destination for its guests, the property will offer culinary options in the restaurant, The Society, which will include outdoor seating as well as in the hotel bar. The property will also feature a spa, gym, pool, convenience store, and business centre, providing the perfect base for both business and leisure.

Radisson Individuals is a conversion brand that offers independent hotels and local, regional chains the opportunity to be part of the global Radisson Hotel Group platform, benefit from the Group’s international awareness and experience, with the freedom to maintain their own uniqueness and identity.  Radisson Hotel Group plans to more than double its serviced apartments portfolio within the next 5 years across EMEA. Today, serviced apartments represent around 10% of the Group’s EMEA portfolio with 45 properties and more than 5,400 units in operation and under development.

Erwan Garnier, Senior Director, Development, Africa, Radisson Hotel Group, said: “We have identified Ghana as a key focus country in our five-year development plan and, Accra as a focus and primary city. The signing of the property, which compliments the Radisson Hotel & Apartments Accra announced last year and scheduled to open in 2023, is also aligned with our current conversion-focused growth strategy, which will remain a priority, especially post-pandemic. We are therefore proud the Radisson Individuals African debut, will be on Ghanaian soil, carving the path for the new brand to continue its expansion across the continent. In proud partnership with Earlbeam Group of Companies, we are thrilled to be contributing to the country’s tourism industry, a key pillar of the national economy.”

Alfred Danso Darkwah, CEO of the hotel’s owning company, Earlbeam Group of Companies, said: “The Earl Heights Suites Hotel partnership is an exciting opportunity – it brings together the union of Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group Of Companies, two well-seasoned brands from the hospitality and real estate sector respectively. This will be the first branded apart hotel in Ghana, completely unique, providing each guest a boutique home-away-from home experience. In addition, it delivers partner confidence, guarantee of service standards, and assured safety and security, leaving a positive mark on Ghana’s hospitality sector. We believe this Radisson Individuals hotel will inject much-needed life within the local hospitality industry and pave the way for upcoming projects between Radisson Hotel Group and The Earlbeam Group of Companies.”

Image Source: Radisson Hotel Group

Herewith the link to the renders of the hotel, which is on track to open its doors in October this year Radisson Individuals

Radisson Hotel Group operates to high standards of performance and advocates socially and environmentally sustainable business practices. More than ever, Radisson Hotel Group’s highest priorities remain the health and safety of its guests and employees. The Group partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection and certification company, to implement the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, which ensures the highest hygiene standards and strengthens the Group’s existing rigorous sanitation guidelines. In the run-up to the opening of Earl Heights Suites Hotel, a member of Radisson Individuals the hotel will implement the Radisson Hotel Group brand standards including the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol related to safety and security.

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Entertainment

TuneCore Launches Operations in Africa, Appoints Two Female Regional Executives

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TuneCore Jade Leaf and Chioma Onuchukwu

TuneCore, the leading digital music distribution and publishing administration company for independent artists, has launched operations in Africa. Jade Leaf has been hired as Head of TuneCore for Southern Africa and will share responsibility for key countries in East Africa with Chioma Onuchukwu, who has been hired as Head of TuneCore for West Africa. Both Leaf and Onuchukwu will report to Faryal Khan-Thompson, Vice President, International, TuneCore.

Onuchukwu will be based in Nigeria and oversee countries in West Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. She will also look after Tanzania and Ethiopia in East Africa.  Leaf’s territory encompasses Southern Africa, including South Africa, where she will be based, as well as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Lesotho. Leaf will also manage TuneCore operations in East African countries Kenya and Uganda.

Said Onuchukwu, “I am elated to be joining a renowned, independent music distribution powerhouse, especially in an incredible era for music creators in Africa at a time when we are gaining global recognition and increasing momentum. I look forward to collaborating with and supporting local artists.”

Before joining TuneCore, Onuchukwu was Marketing Manager at uduX Music, a music streaming platform in Nigeria. There she worked directly with popular African artists such as Davido, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, Kizz Daniel and more.

Commented Leaf, “I am incredibly excited to join the team in a time where the global conversation is around independence and ownership. TuneCore opens up a world of potential for independent artists at every level of their careers. Africa is home to a diverse range of artists who are seeking a reliable distribution service who understands their local needs and can ultimately give them the opportunity to turn their art into commercial success.”

Previously, Leaf worked at Africa’s largest Pay TV operator, Multichoice as the Marketing Manager for Youth & Music Channels, where she led brand re-imaging and marketing efforts for Music TV giant Channel O. Before that, she worked at Sony Music Entertainment Africa, focusing on African artists and content, as well as numerous marketing campaigns & projects for local and international artists.

There has been a meteoric rise in the uptake of streaming services in Africa, the growth has been attributed to several factors such as an increase in internet penetration via smartphones, the entrance of international and local streaming platforms in key territories and its youth population – More than 60% of African’s are under the age of 25.

In 2020, TuneCore saw an increase in music releases globally, with many African artists opting to use the DIY Distributor – DJ Spinall and Small Doctor in Nigeria, Spoegwolf in South Africa, Mpho Sebina in Botswana and Fena Gitu in Kenya to name a few.

Stated Khan-Thompson, “Africa is an extremely exciting music market with a lot of potential for growth. By hiring Jade and Chioma to lead our efforts, TuneCore is well positioned to maximize opportunities for independent artists across the continent. Both Chioma and Jade bring a wealth of experience and genuine interest in helping artists make their dreams come true. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have two incredible women representing the TuneCore brand in the continent”

TuneCore

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IFC Invest in Liquid Telecom Bond to Support Broadband Connectivity in Africa

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IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, invested in Thursday’s bond issued by a subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd., which will allow the telecoms and technology solutions company to expand access to broadband Internet and digital and cloud services across Africa, further facilitating the growth of the continent’s digital economy.

Proceeds from the bond issued by Liquid Telecommunications Financing PLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquid Telecommunications Holdings Ltd, will enable the company to refinance existing debt and free up funds to expand its digital infrastructure network across Africa, including in markets with low broadband penetration.

By developing digital infrastructure, Liquid Telecommunications, Africa’s largest independent fiber, data center and cloud technology provider, aims to increase digital connectivity and inclusion in Africa and support the region’s growing digital ecosystem.

IFC played an anchor role and subscribed to 16 percent of the bond, equivalent to $100 million, which was listed on Euronext Dublin, Ireland’s main stock exchange, on February 25, 2021. The issuance raised $620 million.

Internet access in Africa relies largely on mobile networks, many of which are enabled by wholesale connectivity providers such as Liquid Telecommunications. Broadband penetration is low across the continent, with a mobile broadband penetration rate of 34 percent and fixed broadband penetration of less than five percent in most countries across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa.

“We are delighted that IFC has taken a significant anchor position in our new bond. In the countries in which we operate there are great opportunities to address under developed telecommunications and Internet access, as well as to accelerate the adoption of digital and Cloud-based services. Our refinance enables us to continue to invest in the African digital eco-system including driving penetration of digital and Cloud-based services to businesses who may not previously have had the resources to benefit from them, helping to bridge the connectivity divide, which is more crucial than ever in our current circumstances,” said Nic Rudnick, Liquid Telecom Group Chief Executive Officer.

“Our best chance at ensuring much-needed internet access for everyone in Africa, from large corporates and small businesses to individuals, is to invest in digital infrastructure. Our investment in the Liquid Telecom bond will help the company free up capital to further expand broadband access across Africa, laying a solid foundation for a faster, more resilient recovery,” said Stephanie von Friedeburg, Interim Managing Director and Executive Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer of IFC.

To support Africa’s digital economy, which could be worth $180 billion by 2025, IFC provides financing to mobile network operators, independent tower operators, data centers and broadband connectivity providers. IFC also provides capital to help entrepreneurs and innovative businesses grow and works with financial institutions and telecommunications companies to speed the adoption of digital payments and lending to expand financial inclusion.

Source IFC

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