History In The Making As African Energy Week 2021 in Cape Town Poised to be Transformative for the Continent’s Energy Sector
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Preparations have reached fever pitch for the maiden edition of the African Energy Week (AEW) billed for Cape Town, South Africa from 9-12 November 2021. The interactive and networking event is expected to unite African and Global energy stakeholders, drive industry growth, and promote Africa as the destination for Africa focused events.
Pan African Visions caught up with NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, who sheds light on the upcoming conference, providing insight into the value of the event, and what delegates can expect in Cape Town this November.
Can you provide a synopsis on how the African Energy Week (AEW) 2021 came about?
NJ Ayuk: AEW 2021 initially came about as a commitment to African energy and African people. When Africa Oil Week (AOW) made the decision to abandon the continent for international venues, using Africa’s incapability in dealing with the pandemic as an excuse, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) not only saw an opportunity to fill the gap in the market, but a need to provide the continent with a platform for engagement, discussions, and deal-making, all of which are critical, now more than ever, for advancing Africa’s energy and economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AEC is a strong advocate for the continent, and through AEW 2021, has emphasized Africa’s position in global energy dialogue, not only giving African stakeholders a voice but enabling them to drive the discussions that will impact Africa’s energy future. Cape Town has very affordable facilities but at the same time, they’re very high-tech facilities. We need to get Africans doing deals in Africa that will change our energy future.
Why was there so much outrage at the decision to relocate AOW from Cape Town to Dubai, and prior to that, had AEW 2021 mulled the prospect of organizing a forum of its own?
NJ Ayuk: They don’t understand oil and gas. They don’t understand Africa. In every era, we’re always in transition … Every generation of Africans have different people who do different things. you have a generation that loves its oil and gas industry and wants to see the policies that support it to be decided in Africa. Because you put a few Africans on stage in Dubai does not cut it. I think that the Africa Oil Week got confused about leading Africans with African leaders. Yeah, you have some director of a government going to Dubai for AOW and then shop at the mall, but I’ve never met anybody who’s a follower of that Director. And I think that’s a misnomer.
When AOW announced their decision to move to Dubai, they essentially took the discussion on Africa’s energy sector away from Africa. they did it with bad faith and it was not based on facts. They wanted to hurt ADIPEC which I think is a dangerous and risky move. I count UAE officials as my personal friends, and they have always been kind to me.
For so long the continent has been left out of the discussion, with policies, ideologies, and perceptions on African energy sector matters dominating global dialogue. We have made people who work in oil and gas ashamed of what they do. Not anymore. They are good people, and we need to fight back and bring some pride in working men than let a bunch of elites make decisions after drinking their latte.
By detaching itself from the continent, AOW has left Africa out of the discussion on Africa. They already did that when they took over from Duncan Clarke an African hero. Duncan understood oil and gas and loves Africa. He could feel the pulse of the continent.
When you move a large-scale event such as AOW to Dubai, the organizers are directly taking away employment and business opportunities from the local population. An event of this size creates thousands of jobs for the host community, enhancing business opportunities country wide, and even going as far as creating benefits for multiple other sectors, such as tourism. With South Africa still struggling to get back on track due to the socioeconomic impacts caused by the pandemic, there has never been a more critical time to prioritize job creation and economic recovery. By moving to Dubai, AOW has taken these opportunities away. We have created more opportunities. We have brought so much recycled dollars into the economy. Young people are getting jobs again and hope is in the air thanks to African Energy Week and that’s the way it needs to be.
You have crisscrossed the continent meeting with key stakeholders. What feedback have you received on the decision to launch AEW 2021?
NJ Ayuk: We have received overwhelming support for AEW 2021 from African Ministers, international and national oil companies, financiers, and the civic community. This feedback has not only come from in-person, high level meetings with key African stakeholders, but has been through responses to our online communications and engagement. We have received confirmations, endorsements and requests from African energy Ministers and top executives, all committed to coming to Cape Town in November, most of which have actually chosen not to go to AOW. The support and dedication by the African community for AEW 2021 is outstanding, and we are honored to be hosting the continent in Cape Town.
I have also received a lot of hate mail especially from the Africa Oil Week crowd. People like Tom Quinn of Hyve Group showed themselves for who they really are, but God bless him, people who choose to go down the low road have never been remembered good in history. I keep going with my faith in God and pray on his protection daily. I have been very disappointed the so-called liberals who come to Africa and say we love you but deep down they behave like something else, but we are winning. That’s all that matters, we are winning, and we will win because God is on our side.
Less than a month or so to go to the momentous event, what can participants expect?
NJ Ayuk: We are at the stage where we want to focus on the issues. We want to get energy poverty are the core of the agenda. We want to ensure there are opportunities in energy for the little guy and the big guy. We want to ensure that Africans are no longer left out. To hire a few privileges Africans in London is not enough and does not meet the hopes and aspirations of the masses in the continent that do not even have electricity. Diversity is no longer a catch phrase.
Preparations are well underway for Africa’s premier energy event. We have moved into the final month before the event and the team is more passionate, focused, and committed than ever. The benchmark has been set extremely high at AEW 2021, and participants can expect nothing but world-class standards. As the event draws nearer, the AEC urges participants to finalize travel plans, get to know the program, and prepare for an exceptional event.
Who are some of the high-profile corporate entities and individuals who have confirmed participation in Cape Town for the event?
NJ Ayuk: This is a trade secret. You will be shocked when you come to Cape Town. We are going to shock the world when they see the massive numbers in sponsorships and delegates. We took the book burn it and then rewrote our own script. If I tell you all our big dollar donors and big advisors, people like Amy Miller of energy council will go crazy or Tom Quinn of Hyve group might have a heart attack. I need to keep them happy and healthy because I love them, and I pray for them, so I am not going to tell you. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
What I am going to tell you though, all African petroleum producers and international Oil and Gas companies with African Independents will be in Cape Town. I have never seen this massive show of support and love from the industry. I believe it comes from a recognition of the work the AEC has done over the past years. People know when you are fake. After Covid, people don’t have time for BS. They know it and it was easy for us to beat the pretenders, they are not even contenders. We have an amazing team which is ready to fight like hell. When they hit us, we hit back, we reload at hit back again and never give in to intimidation. The only way to deal with bullies is to fight and when you have the industry behind you, even better. We have the industry and God on our side. We pray every day and God is not going to abandon us. We will not be like those Africans who sit back and complain. When they attack, we come back harder. There might be polarization. I actually don’t think it is a bad thing to polarize the place if that’s the only tool you have to defend yourself. What have we got to lose? It’s entertaining and people love us because we are exciting. Let’s face it who cares about fish and chips when you have some soul food in Africa that you can eat from an oil rig. You have a London agenda that ask African to abandon oil and gas. That’s crazy. Look at the gas crisis in Europe.
What special incentives or measures were put in place to attract more indigenous African presence and participation at AEW 2021?
NJ Ayuk: AEW 2021 is dedicated to African energy voices. The event believes that indigenous companies, in particular national oil companies (NOCs), African independents, service companies will be the driving force of Africa’s energy future. You will be surprised the support we have gotten from them. Our best gift was AOW attacking us and putting out hate mails. They industry just rallied around us, and the dollars poured it.
We want African companies to succeed. Like snoop says “It ain’t no fun, if the homies can’t have none” We need African companies to have fun growing in energy and defying the insurmountable odds and changing our continent.
By creating a platform for African energy companies to lead discussions, share ideas, and address challenges collaboratively, the event has ensured that indigenous companies not only participate but lead discussions. Consequently, we have seen significant support from indigenous companies, with delegations from Africa’s top NOCs coming to Cape Town in November.
What safety measures have been put in place to protect participants from the COVID-19 pandemic?
NJ Ayuk: AEW 2021 has placed delegate and staff safety as a top priority in Cape Town. One of the most innovative ways the event has ensured COVID-19 safety is through the event structure itself. By utilizing four different venues across the V&A Waterfront, both indoor and outdoor, as well as a hybrid format, AEW 2021 has created both a safe and productive event format. Additionally, safety protocols include online pre-registration, testing facilities, sanitization stations across all venues, mandatory mask wearing, and limited venue capacities. Having partnered with Health Passport Worldwide, the event has put in place numerous safety measures and complies with all government regulations.
Ahead of AEW 2021, the Chamber recently announced the launch of the Energy Pioneer Program. Could you shed some light on this?
NJ Ayuk: The AEC Energy Pioneers Program bridges the gap between academia and the workplace, while providing opportunities for Africans to gain practical skills. The internship program will facilitate the development of young energy leaders of today by sharing knowledge and skills that can build, grow and change the way we see energy in the 21st century.
The African Energy Chamber acts as the pilot, navigating and kickstarting the interns’ profession into broader, clearer and tested horizons. We want to further gender equality objectives by encouraging female participation in the Program.
What would your definition of a successful AEW 2021 event be, and what message do you have for corporations and stakeholders still contemplating whether or not to participate?
NJ Ayuk: We are already successful. They said we were illegal. They said we are going to fail. They said the conference will not happen. The UK even took out its red list. To be still standing after sustaining some of the vitriolic rhetoric and attacks from public listed organizations, it tells you we are winning. Our definition of a successful event is one in which all stakeholders have a chance to be part of the conversation and we have a meaningful conversation on how to protect our oil and gas sector, do deals and make energy poverty history.
Africa has, for so long, been left out of global dialogue and it is time that African voices take the spotlight. Our overall objective is to make energy poverty history by 2030, and although this cannot be achieved with one event, AEW 2021 marks the first step to making this a reality. A successful event would be one in which everyone benefits, whether it be from engagement, partnerships, deals, or even simply being a part of discussions. Our commitment has and will continue to be to Africa, and this event showcases that. Our message to stakeholders still contemplating coming to AEW 2021 is simply this, why would you want to be left out of the conversation? Come to Cape Town, meet with industry leaders, and top executives, and be part of Africa’s energy sector transformation.
For those who have not yet been to Cape Town, what is peculiar about the city? What is there to see or do besides business, and what should participants at AEW 2021 be on the lookout for?
NJ Ayuk: There is so much excitement in Cape Town about this event. DJs are getting their jobs back. Restaurants are opening again.
Cape Town is not only one of Africa’s top business hubs, but tourism destinations. The city has a lot to offer regarding tourism including adventure, wildlife, wellness, cultural, and environmental. Participants coming to AEW 2021 will not only be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the event, but explore one of the country’s most diverse cities.
Is the AEW 2021 planned to be a one-time event or are there plans in place to make it an annual event?
NJ Ayuk: AEW 2021 is committed to African people and African energy. We will not be going anywhere. The event will be back next year, and for many years to come.
AEW 2021, in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy DMRE, is the AEC’s annual conference, exhibition and networking event. AEW 2021 unites African energy stakeholders with investors and international partners to drive industry growth and development and promote Africa as the destination for energy investments.
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