By Ajong Mbapndah L
Initially scheduled for 1-5 November in Cape Town South Africa, there is growing furor across the continent following the relocation of the 2021 edition of the Africa Oil Week (AOW) to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates from 8-11 November 2021.
“Delivering the event to the high standard to which our audience is accustomed and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our attendees has always been our top priority. We believe that hosting the 2021 edition in Dubai will enable us to ensure that the event experience is both safe and premium for our customers,” the AOW said in a statement posted on their website recently.
Reactions did not take long to come with the African Energy Chamber led by NJ Ayuk leading the charge in calling for a stronger commitment to conferences of African nature being held on African terrain.
Mothballing a conference in South Africa, an African nation that has handled the Covid-19 pandemic remarkably well, is a clear sign of opportunism and detachment from the pledge to support African venues and our continent, the Chamber lashed out.
“While Dubai is a fabulous venue in its own right, we do believe that events of African nature should show strong commitment to African communities, cities and the local workforce. An event of the magnitude of Africa Oil Week is a big local employer. Reneging on its long-standing partner, the African people and the continent, is a truly unfortunate sign of disinterest in African values of trust, loyalty and companionship, and is in fact very unscrupulous in nature,” said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chair of the African Energy Chamber.
“Keeping to Covid-19 travel restrictions and how they have particularly placed a strenuous burden on the conferencing industry, there are smart ways to hold hybrid conferences of both online and offline nature. Further, vaccination rates are increasing rapidly across the Northern hemisphere, which would allow business travelers to visit South Africa in a safe manner by November,” Ayuk added.
The discontent from the African Energy Chamber on the AOW decision has resonated with many Africans who are using diverse platforms to call for the prioritization of African venues for African events.
The event’s move from Cape Town to Dubai was wrong, short-term in its thinking, and sends a negative message about Africa, says Florival Mucave, President of Mozambican Oil and Gas Chamber (CPGM).
“The move underestimates our preparedness to host events that define our future economic and energy sector success. Imagine the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament being hosted in Dubai because one company says Africa is not the right place anymore because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mucave said in condemnation of the relocation.
The excuses and final decision to move the event are both unacceptable and wrong, and sends a message that when things are hard because of COVID-19, Africa should be abandoned for other locations irrespective of the loyalty and the sponsorship Africa has shown for more than two decades, Mucave charged.
“As a former Patron of the African Institute of Petroleum, I concur that a move of AOW from an African location to any other continent is not just disrespectful to Africans whose resources are being talked about but considerably delusional,” says Robin Vela, Chairman, Lonsa Group Limited, Mauritius.
“I thought I was the only one who saw something very wrong with this decision. Africa as a continent is the least affected by COVID in the whole world, we have lesser death rates, came up with several initiatives and innovations to tackle the scourge. In my opinion, Africa handled the pandemic even better than the rest of the world, so why should the continent be counted out on grounds of the global pandemic,?” Margaret Nongo -Okojokwu , a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow and social entrepreneur from Nigeria questions.
To the CEO of Turaco Aviation Group Abdul Bigirumwami from Rwanda ,African events should stay in Africa, Rwanda has handled the COVID-19 pandemic well and can support such events.
For Senior Tax and Legal Counsel from Senegal Abdoulaye DIA, “we cannot make Africa without Africans and out of Africa.”
“This is so sad for our struggling South African Event/Expo Industry . It’s all about money and bugger everyone else. “Africa” Oil Week… Dubai has never been or will ever be in Africa. Change the name of the event,” Simon Aubrey Onsite, Project / Site Manager for Overlay of Exhibitions / Sport Events opines.
Given the relentless attack that the oil and gas industry is facing, there is no better time for the oil and gas industry to stand with Africa but now, says the African Energy Chamber as it pledges to continue pushing for discussions on energy transition, fiscal responsibility, free markets, upstream, midstream, downstream, renewables and petrochemicals in Africa.
Beyond the criticisms on moving the AOC to Dubai, the controversial decision has prompted the Africa Energy Chamber to start exploring other avenues on what it perceives as injustice.
“As a first step, the Chamber will encourage, advocate and provide support for an energy event in October or November this year with African ministries, entrepreneurs, NOC’s, IOC’s, Civil society and possibly four African heads of States. The Chamber will continue to be the voice of the sector and work towards building bridges that brings together governments and companies in the African energy industry to find a common ground.,” a recent statement read.