By Ndubuisi Michael Obineme
Since its inception in 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (SAIPEC) has been a veritable platform in advancing regional integration in Sub-Saharan Africa’s oil and gas industry.
SAIPEC, which is hosted annually by the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), and organized by Global Event Partners (GEP), is the only oil and gas event that brings the entire Sub Saharan African petroleum industry together.
For instance, the 2020 edition of the conference, which was its 4th edition, was the most successful, with more than 60 per cent of the exhibition space re-booked onsite and a record-breaking 3,717 exhibition visitors, 714 delegates from 39 countries, 20 National Oil Companies (NOCs), 111 exhibitors and 72 speakers.
In his welcome address at the 4th edition of SAIPEC), held 25th – 27th February 2020 in Lagos, with the theme, “Oil and Gas as an Enabler for Economic Transformation in SubSaharan Africa” the former Chairman of PETAN, Mr Bank-Anthony Okoroafor, said that African resources have the potential to alleviate poverty on the continent.
According to him,”540 million people in resource-driven countries could be lifted out of poverty by effective development and use of reserves, more than what China did in the past 20 years.”
While calling on the governments of oil-producing countries on the continent to create an enabling environment to make the industry private sector driven, just like in Europe and America, which has led to the massive economic boost, Okoroafor informed that the foundation of the development of most developed countries in the Middle East, Europe and America, was laid with oil and gas, adding that if properly harnessed, the oil and gas industry is capable of transforming the economy of the whole of the African continent.
For Africa to move beyond exports and make the most of its hydrocarbon resources, Okoroafor suggested strategic investment in infrastructure – in areas such as refineries and petrochemicals. He advocated for strong regulation by governments on the continent to address issues surrounding regulatory and fiscal conditions. He also emphasized the need for regional integration to broaden the market and attract investments in the continent’s petroleum sector.
Also speaking at the conference, the Secretary-General of African Petroleum Producers Association (APPO), Dr Omar Farouk Ibrahim, regretted that member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had begun to initiate discriminatory policies towards hydrocarbons as primary energy sources and discourage research and investment in the sector – actions which would eventually make fossil fuels less accessible and more expensive and position other sources of energy as viable alternatives.
He noted that these developments were taking place at a time that Africa is making more finds in oil and gas, hence making it imperative for African nations to take their destinies into their own hands and pursue the development of local capacities to operate the oil industry successfully and use energy to fuel the national, sub-regional or continental economies.
For the continent to harness its huge hydrocarbon resources, Ibrahim stressed the “need to domesticate the oil and gas technology on our continent. No nation or continent will transfer technology to us. We should encourage local content development in the oil and gas industry on our continent.”
On regional integration, he said: “We also believe that partnership in the development of cross-border energy infrastructure in oil and gas pipelines, electricity, joint refineries, among others are key to the sustainable development of the energy industry in Africa. No one country can do it successfully in isolation.”
Some of the countries that participated in the 2020 edition of the conference, including Benin Republic, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda, did not hide their admiration for the successes the NCDMB has recorded in local content in Nigeria. And sought the Board’s expertise to help them develop theirs. This is how SAIPEC is leading the way in regional integration in the oil and gas industry.
The message of regional integration and collaboration resonated with participants at the 2020 edition, as most of the speakers hammered on the need for collaboration and regional framework. Speaking on the focus of the conference, General Manager, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr. Seyi Omotowa said, “The focus is important because it creates opportunities for interaction and collaboration amongst the NOC’s and major players in Sub Saharan Africa, it is a very good initiative”
For the Director-General, Petroleum Directorate – Sierra Leone, Mr Timothy Kabba,
“It opens our understanding to the many, many ways we can harness our energy potential, development for the betterment of the country.”
In the same vein, while appreciating the opportunities the conference creates for oil-producing countries in the region, Permanent Secretary, Gambia National Oil Company, Mr Lamin Camara said,
“As a prospecting country, SAIPEC has enabled us to share our experience, but more importantly, learn from established and mature markets such as Nigeria and Ghana, the event has provided us with a lot of collaboration opportunities and knowhow for the future.”
On his part, Chief Executive Officer, Société Nationale d’Opérations Pétrolières de la Côte d’Ivoire Petroci, Dr Ibrahim Diarby said, “There should be open investment opportunities across the African countries. Collaborative exchange of the huge resource base on experience and development are important to Africa’s oil and gas industry and the more we collaborate at meetings like SAIPEC, the greater value will be delivered to the people to ease business migration”
Emphasizing the need for local content collaboration, the Executive Secretary, NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Wabote said, “Local content collaboration is paramount, NCDMB is leading the way across Africa when it comes to local content. We need to ensure our targets are continually met and carry on demonstrating to Africa that the NCDMB is ensuring companies operate in Nigeria with local content at the forefront of their business, I look forward to showcasing further developments at next year’s event.”
In a continent facing massive infrastructure needs, African countries can thus miss out on opportunities to promote the shared use of infrastructure and to strengthen the linkages between hydrocarbon resources, especially gas, and the broader economy, if regional integration is not embraced.
Gas is the energy of the future. Sub-Saharan Africa and indeed the African continent, have huge gas reserves. Harnessing these huge reserves can help the region to a large extent, in addressing the issue around access to energy, poverty eradication, unemployment and building stronger economies.
Regional integration must be taken seriously by hydrocarbon-rich countries in the region. Regional integration in Sub-Saharan Africa can play a vital role in diversifying economies away from dependence on export to other regions of the world.
Also, regulatory uncertainty continues to be a major barrier to the development of the oil & gas industry in Africa. However, the adoption of AfCFTA by African leaders is positive developments that demonstrate that governments are reacting to the new realities.
The 5th edition of the Sub-Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (SAIPEC) will be held as a hybrid event on 19th – 21st May 2021, delivered by Energy Advance.
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