By Ajong Mbapndah L
Now in its 15th year, the Sub-Saharan Africa Oil and Gas Conference will take place in Houston, Texas, USA from the 12th to the 13th of August 2021. Sunny Oputa , CEO/and Director of Energy and Corporate Africa says the event is a great opportunity to enhance the development of a gas economy to serve as a catalyst for development in Africa.
For the 2021 Conference, the theme is The future of upstream, advancing digitalization, and gas development options, can you shed some light on this?
Sunny Oputa: Recently, the global mantra and call is decarbonization and enhancing digitization and usage of clean energy. These are impacting the industry in Africa. Africa producing nations require fossil fuel space to catchup with western nations. The application of technology and digitization to optimize processes and reduce cost is very essential for proper growth in the sector. Also, Africa has abundant gas resources. The demand for natural gas, LNG and domestic utilization is increase. This is a great economic opportunity to enhance the development of gas economy to trigger economic buoyancy.
May we know some highlights of the 2021 summit and some of the high-profile participants that you will be expecting?
Sunny Oputa: There will be ministerial keynotes, industry keynotes, national exploration and production updates, panel sessions and networking receptions. Some of the high profile participants include but not limited to: His Excellency Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Nigeria, H.E. Hon. Fafa Sanyang, Minister of Petroleum & Energy, The Gambia, Mr. Clay Neff – President, Chevron, Middle East, Africa & South America, Mallam Mele Kyari – Group Managing Director, NNPC, Saifuah-Mai Gray – President , National Oil Company, Liberia, James Yamoah – Ag. CTO, GNPC, Ghana, NJ Ayuk – Chairman, African Energy Chamber, Foday Mansary – Director General, Directorate of Petroleum Resources, Sierra Leone, Famorou Kourouma – Managing Director, Societe Petrole, Guinea, Conakry, Yusuf Usman – COO (Gas & Power, NNPC, Cany Jobe – E & P Director, GNPC, Gambia and many other.
Considering it is an African themed event, may we know the kind of representation or participation you are expecting from the continent?
Sunny Oputa: Delegates are coming from various nations in the region. There are participants coming from USA, Europe and Asian countries. It’s going to be great!
The conference will be taking place in the context of COVID 19, what safety measures are been considered?
Sunny Oputa: Yes, the conference will be taking place within this critical time of global pandemic as the world is trying to rise up from the pangs of COVID-19 amid the few new surprises. We cannot shut down the global economy completely, and we have to create avenues beyond virtual interaction for the industry players to meet – share knowledge and network for business optimization and growth. Therefore, we are mindful of the situation and have set up pertinent safety protocols. Masks will be provided for attendees, we are using the hotel ball room which is spacious enough and airy, sitting arrangement will be the classroom format and it will be 2 people per desk in ensuring social distancing. The hotel has disinfectants in all strategic places. We will also give attendees hand sanitizers, temperatures of attendees will be checked at the registration desk before going inside, microphones will be wiped intermittently. We have it ready and I assure our attendees that their health, safety and security are of high priority.
What is your overall perception of the oil and gas sector in Africa today, how good or bad is it faring?
Sunny Oputa: Africa is a work in progress. The future of oil/gas industry in the region is great and promising. Africa is an investor’s haven and has great potentials. Despite the global call for decarbonization, Africa is strategically embracing it. Fossil fuel is still relevant to the global economy and will not fade off in the next 20 years.
How can the sector balance its activities with growing concerns from environmental activists?
Sunny Oputa: Geopolitics affecting the oil and gas industry is humongous. We all agree in climate change and the need to protect the environment. African countries are not big-time pollutants like most western nations. Environmental activists are doing good works. However, Africa is strategically balancing the economy of its nations and gradually embracing the global energy transition. I say it again, Africa will go along but it should be given the space to do it methodically in a way that it doesn’t distort most of its fragile economies.
You live in Texas, a State considered by many as the oil or energy capital of the USA, what are some of the lessons in the functioning of the oil and gas industry out there that Africa could learn from?
Sunny Oputa: Yes, Texas is an energy state and Houston is the energy capital of the world. The energy industry is very functional and progressive. Refineries alone in Houston out numbers the refineries in the entire Africa. The industry is proactive. We need to continue to enhance development of human capital and leadership. That’s the essence of conferences such as ours.
For those who interested in attending the conference after this interview, what do they need to do?
Sunny Oputa: For inquiries, they may reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.energycorporateafrica.com to seek for registration and participation. Thank you immensely for having me.