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Interview: African Energy Chamber Executive Chairman, NJ Ayuk on Transforming Africa’s Energy Sector

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A leading energy lawyer and a strong advocate for African entrepreneurs, NJ Ayuk is recognized as one of the foremost figures in African business today. Founder and CEO of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm and the current chairman of the African Energy Chamber, NJ strives through his work to ensure that business, and especially oil and gas, impacts African societies in a positive way and drives local content development. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola, NJ shed light on the continent’s biggest energy challenges, the impact of the African Energy Chamber(AEC) in the continent’s energy, oil and gas sector. And how is AEC is becoming the entry door to Africa’s oil & gas sector. Excerpt.

 

Tell us about the African Energy Chamber and the gap it’s filling.

The African Energy Chamber is based on a network of public and private executives that have been working towards the development of Africa’s oil and gas industry for several years now, mostly focusing on local content development. Seeing the need for Africa to have a stronger voice on the global energy scene and communicate better, we have opened up the organisation to all interested parties two years ago. Since then both the Chamber’s network and its activities have considerable grown. We have welcomed over a 100 new partners, both institutional and corporate from across Africa and have multiplied initiatives, especially when it comes to institutional capacity building, local content development and facilitating foreign investment and advisory.

 

How long as the chamber being in existence and how does  your organisation measure it’s impact?

We work for the interest of African companies and entrepreneurs. Seeing the number of them reaching out to us for support over the past year has been the strongest indicator of our impact and ability to both represent African interests and unite the right network of partners towards common goals. We have increasingly received requests to assist African SMEs and larger oil services companies to expand across sub-Saharan Africa. This is a very good sign for the future growth of the African content: our companies are hungry and want to expand. We are also bringing lots of support to governments and governmental institutions in capacity building, especially within rapidly growing markets like South Sudan.

 

How’s the chamber being perceived both internationally and within the continent?

Internationally, we are mostly perceived as a source of information and an access door to some of Africa’s fastest-growing or most complex markets. The need for on-the-ground information and data on Africa is growing very rapidly and foreign investors are looking for reliable local partners and information providers, especially when it comes to finding their ways around Africa’s many different jurisdictions and ways of doing business.

From within the continent, we are increasingly seen as being a voice and conscience for the sector. We advocate for the issues at heart for African companies, entrepreneurs and people. Our industry needs a strong voice pushing for local content development and domestic capacity building and we are proud to have positioned ourselves as a key advocate in this regard.

 

What in your view is the biggest energy challenge in Africa?

Africa is plagued by many energy challenges, which are all opportunities, from energy affordability to infrastructure and lack of financing. While we address all of those as an institution, we do insist on the challenge of monetising resources, especially gas ones. By flaring gas like we have for decades, we have concretely burned billions of dollars worth of resources that could power our entire continent, hundreds of factories and create millions of jobs. We believe gas is the future of Africa’s energy industry, and creating monetisation opportunities across the board, from petrochemicals to power, from cement to petrochemicals manufacturing units, should be a priority.

 

What is Africa doing right in terms of it’s energy sector?

African nations have taken positive steps in engaging each other and exploring common opportunities. This manifests itself first on the international stage. Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville joined OPEC in 2017 and 2018, strengthening the African voice within the industry’s most influential organisation. But many other African countries have also joined the Declaration of Cooperation and frequently attend OPEC meetings like South Sudan, Chad, Uganda etc. International engagement from Africa is something that was missing and has been corrected. As a result of that, African governments and companies have also been increasingly talking to each other. Major projects are moving ahead thanks to this dialogue, be it the Tortue field between Senegal and Mauritania, or the recent gas unitisation agreement between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.

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What surprises you about this sector and it’s future?

The unexploited potential is massive, and quite frankly overwhelming. In terms of oil & gas exploration, we believe that world-class global discoveries are to be made in the near future. The recent ones in Mozambique and Senegal are just the beginning. Beyond mere exploration, the potential for meeting the continent’s growing energy needs, addressing increasing energy consumption, and providing jobs to millions of young men and women is what will define the future of the sector. This represent billions of dollars at play, both for foreign investors willing to take risks and make lucrative deals, but especially for us Africans if we are able to seize the opportunities offered to us by our land.

 

Do you see the deepen of a private-public partnership drive growth in this sector?

We do not think there has been a serious deepening of private-public partnerships, which remain a major need for the sector. This would require a market-by-market analysis, as in some places the lack of PPPs is a regulatory one, while in others you actually do have successes but in other sectors such as infrastructure. Overall, the need for PPPs in the industry is there, and the power sector offers tremendous opportunities for such projects. However, many regulations need to be revised, public institutions need to adhere to stronger governance standards, and private investors must be made aware of the right opportunities and projects to get involved in.

 

What is your vision and goal for this chamber under your leadership?

The AEC is becoming the entry door to Africa’s oil & gas sector. We are already receiving lots of queries from new investors wishing to enter fast growth markets, and having local representatives on the ground is positioning us as a strong advisor and facilitator for foreign investors, while being able to properly communicate what is happening on the ground to the international energy community. On the second hand, we also want to be building domestic capacity, both by training and skilling Africans so they can take on additional responsibilities across the value chain, but also by bringing in more technology and best practices to our local companies so we contribute to boosting local content.

 

You own Centurion Law Group, tell us about this law firm and how are you managing these two big brands?

Centurion is a pan-African legal and advisory business specialised in oil & gas. We are leaders in frontier jurisdictions like Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan and do not shy away from working in what many wrongly perceive as challenging markets. More importantly, we are a firm who believes in African talent and have dedicated ourselves to train the next generation of African lawyers. It is very upsetting to see the amount of legal work on Africa that goes to London or New York when we have high-quality and highly-trained legal talent present on the continent. As such we are more than offering legal services; we are a law firm with a mission.

 

About NJ Ayuk:

A leading energy lawyer and a strong advocate for African entrepreneurs, NJ Ayuk is recognized as one of the foremost figures in African business today. A Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum, one of Forbes’ Top 10 Most Influential Men in Africa in 2015, and a well-known dealmaker in the petroleum and power sectors, NJ is dedicating his career to helping entrepreneurs find success and to building the careers of young African lawyers. As founder and CEO of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm, NJ strives through his work to ensure that business, and especially oil and gas, impacts African societies in a positive way and drives local content development. He is the current chairman of the African Energy Chamber and author of ‘Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity’. His second book, ‘Billions at Play: the Future of African energy’ is due for release at the end of the year.

 

A propos de NJ Ayuk:

NJ est un avocat de premier plan dans le domaine de l’énergie et un ardent défenseur des entrepreneurs africains, reconnu comme l’une des figures les plus en vue des entreprises africaines aujourd’hui. Il est un « Global Shaper » avec le Forum économique mondial, l’un des 10 hommes les plus influents de Forbes en Afrique en 2015, et un négociateur renommé dans les secteurs du pétrole et de l’énergie. Il est fondateur et PDG du Centurion Law Group et président actuel de la Chambre africaine de l’énergie et auteur du best-seller « Big Barrels : pétrole et gaz africains et la quête de la prospérité. » Son second ouvrage, « Des milliards en jeu : le future de l’énergie africaine » sera publie à la fin de l’année.

 

CEO Corner

African Bank Appoints Kennedy Bungane, CEO

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African Bank New CEO, Kennedy Bungane (Press Release & Image: African Bank)

African Bank (“Board”) announces the appointment of Mr. Kennedy Bungane as the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and as an executive director of the Bank and its holding company, African Bank Holdings Limited (“ABH”) effective 14 April 2021. The Bank confirms that the appointment of Kennedy was done in accordance with African Bank’s policy on the selection and nomination of executive directors, and in order to fill a vacancy as well as add to the skillset on the Board.

Kennedy brings over 20 years of banking experience with him, having started his career at Standard Bank in 1991, holding a number of senior positions, including Head of Global Markets Sales, Head of Institutional and Corporate Banking, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank South Africa, and a member of the Standard Bank Group Executive Committee. After joining Barclays Africa in 2012 as Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Limited and Head of Absa Group strategy, Kennedy led the sale of Barclays Africa Limited to the ABSA Group. More recently, Kennedy headed up the Phembani Group as its CEO. He also brings investment and strategic experience gained as the founder and chairman of Nokeng Telecoms and chairman of Idwala Capital.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Master of Business Administration, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School (USA).

Commenting on Kennedy’s appointment, the Chairman of the Board, Thabo Dloti, stated, “We welcome the appointment of Kennedy as the new permanent CEO. Kennedy has a keen sense for managing complex stakeholder issues. He has a proven track record in identifying and nurturing leadership, which promotes strong teams to deliver successful results. His passion for the role that banking can play in transforming society resonated strongly with the Board.

As an experienced banker, he also critically has a good grasp of the strategic challenges facing the Bank, within a muted South African economy and competitive landscape, as well as the required regulatory and governance framework.

 

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African Visionary Fund (AVFund) Appoints New co-CEO, Atti Worku

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African Visionary Fund (AVFund) New co-CEO, Atti Worku (Source: African Visionary Fund Website)

About a year ago, African Visionary Fund launched with a bold mission to tackle the inequities and power imbalances in global philanthropy by driving unrestricted resources to African visionaries. At the heart of all they do their values of equity and solidarity, which compel them to center African voices at every level of the organization. They are thrilled to announce the Fund’s new Africa-based co-CEO, Atti Worku!

Atti brings a wealth of experience in the nonprofit world, is a strong advocate for local founders, and is dedicated to righting the historic funding inequity that can hold them back. Prior to joining the Fund, Atti founded and led Seeds of Africa for over 10 years. Seeds is an Ethiopian grassroots organization dedicated to developing the educational foundation for the next generation of African leaders. Under her leadership, Seeds grew from an after-school program serving 15 kids to becoming a full-time multi-dimensional school educating 250 students from pre-K to middle school, and working with over 150 of their mothers providing small business entrepreneurship micro-loans and resources. In just over a decade Seeds has impacted the lives of over 2,000 people, transforming the trajectories of students, teachers, mothers, and their families and creating a future brimming with possibilities beyond a poverty trap.

“My mission is to advocate for African visionaries to be recognized by funders as experts, equal partners and critical drivers of systems change. I’m excited to learn from incredible African leaders with big dreams and even bigger global potential.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Why Co-leadership

The African Visionary Fund is built on the firm belief that proximity matters. Seeded by a group of foundations and philanthropists who wanted to not only take action on equity but also be intentional about shifting the power over resources to African visionaries, shared leadership has been part of the Fund’s DNA from the beginning.

“Co-leadership is mission critical. We cannot build new models for equity-centered philanthropy without living those values within our own institution.” -Katie Bunten-Wamaru, AVFund co-CEO

The AVFund’s organizational journey started with collective and shared leadership in mind as our Founding Working Group worked with our leadership to inform and design all aspects of our organization and funding model. This majority-African, majority-doer group considered a number of different leadership structures for the Fund but gravitated towards co-leadership because it prioritizes proximity and equity, centers the experience of African visionaries, and ultimately helps us shift power.

Our Founding Working Group proved that we can co-create new models of philanthropy centered on collective leadership that shift power and center equity – our co-leadership model is the natural, values-aligned extension of that founding idea.

The Fund

Atti’s lived experience as an African founder has given her firsthand experience of the realities and complexities that local innovators face, making her a great partner in executing the Fund’s mission.

“This role is very personal to me. I see myself in the ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs we engage with at the AVFund. I hope to learn from them, and partner with them to redesign funding systems that give African visionaries an equitable chance of success.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

The barriers for African visionaries have been well documented with data showing that less than 5.2% of US foundation giving specific to Africa goes to African-led organizations. And in Atti’s experience, sometimes philanthropy’s oversight of African founders translates into a heavy emotional toll, an internal struggle she also had to deal with in her experience fundraising for her organization. She is committed to helping other African visionaries by being “the voice that reassures and validates them in the face of injustices.”

“Raising philanthropic dollars can be a long trauma for African social entrepreneurs and other leaders of color. On one hand, you’re doing innovative, high-impact work, but on the other, you are constantly being asked to prove yourself on a level far beyond your peers, doing so, and somehow still falling short. Aggregate data on racial inequity in philanthropy already speaks volumes, but systemic injustice is deeply personal. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t the problem,” Atti shared.

On Co-leadership

At the core, the AVFund seeks to create a bridge between global philanthropy and innovative African social changemakers and to do that, it’s critical to have proximity to both our visionary partners and our funding partners. Shared leadership makes this possible.

“There is an inherent tension in the work of the AVFund – we call it the ‘play the game, change the game’ balance. We want to support African social changemakers to play the game to access more sustainable funding now, while also challenging the status quo in ways that build a more equitable philanthropic ecosystem in the long run,” Katie explained. “There will always be a need to balance this tension – having a co-leadership model helps us balance both sides of our work and not lose sight of either goal.”

Having been on both sides of the table, Atti believes a further added benefit of co-leadership lies in the fact that representation matters. “I have been a micro-funder through Seeds and have seen the value of someone like you believing in your vision and empowering it,” she shared.

“At AVFund, we celebrate and choose co-leadership because we recognize the importance of diversity for strong, grounded and authentic leadership.” -Melizsa Mugyenyi, Advisory Board Member.

The Future

Atti joins the Fund at a crucial season of our organizational journey as we look to deepen our impact across the continent – we are more than a third of the way towards reaching our goal to raise US$10 million which will enable us to provide 35 nonprofits across Africa with unrestricted, multiyear grants by 2023.

In the near-term, the Fund is also on track to commit atleast another $US1 million later this year and partner with more African social innovators. Atti is particularly excited to work with those at the forefront of leading-edge innovations whose potential for impact is inhibited by lack of resources and buy-in from funders.

“African visionaries aren’t often given the resources they need to validate the new concepts they have which really makes innovation very difficult. A lack of unrestricted funding for the disruptive ideas coming out of Africa limits potential and slows development. I’m ready to help change that in every way we can!” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Source AVFund

 

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Rolake Rosiji, ex-Country Manager M-KOPA Solar Appointed As The New CEO Of Jobberman Nigeria

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Rolake Rosiji, CEO at Jobberman (Source: ROAM)

Jobberman, the single largest job placement platform in sub-Saharan Africa, has announced the appointment of Rolake Rosiji as the new CEO. Rolake takes over from Hilda Kragha, now Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs, and will continue the work of establishing Jobberman as the primary platform for job searching, talent acquisition and transforming workplace productivity across Nigeria.

Jobberman’s technology-driven platform, which uses tools such as application tracking, data science for skills and personality assessment, connects over 1 million job seekers to employers. With over a decade of experience in the recruitment industry, the company has built a reputation of trust and strong partnerships with the country’s most coveted employers; matching talented candidates with jobs according to their skillset.

Rolake joins Jobberman with a decade of global experience in strategic leadership and operational excellence. Most recently, she led the technology and sales operations for credit financed smartphones and solar power sets as Country Manager of M-KOPA Nigeria; a connected asset financing company that makes financing for everyday essentials accessible to everyone. Prior to that, she was Head of Strategy & Business Development for Arla Foods Africa, where she developed distribution and joint venture partnerships across West Africa to rapidly scale up sales and worked in Corporate Strategy roles in Denmark and the USA. Her proven track record of business expansion projects, digital and technical transformation and executing strategic partnerships will be key to her implementation for growth and development of the brand.

Commenting on her new role as CEO, Rolake Rosiji said “This is a very exciting chapter in my career and I am delighted to be joining such a passionate and innovative team. Jobberman has built a brand of excellence by using technology to revolutionise the recruitment sector. I look forward to steering the company vision to build a market of greater technology adoption, democratic access and transparency that will tackle dominant challenges, notably youth unemployment and underemployment.  It is a privilege for me to be at the helm of this dynamic team as we set out to empower job seekers with key skills and improve workplace productivity for employers in Nigeria.”

Hilda Kragha, Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs added “I am delighted that Rolake has taken on this position. Rolake’s expertise, understanding of different markets and high performance is what makes her the perfect person to anchor the next phase for Jobberman. I look forward to working with her to take Jobberman to even greater heights.”

Rolake took on her role as CEO on February 1st 2021. Her focus will be to broaden the impact beyond the white-collar space and continue to work closely with Jobberman’s impact partners in tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria.

ROAM

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