Monday, February 24, 2020


Mr. Emmanuel Emielu

Co-founder and Co-convener of Africa Oil & Gas Talent Summit which commenced in 2015, Emmanuel Emielu, was of the view that Nigeria is very low in terms of human capital development hence the country is not competitive with regards to talent competitiveness.

He decried the fact that previous successive governments in the country gave wrong priorities in policies. Nigeria has huge population that cannot equate human capital with skills, knowledge and competencies.

Emielu made it known that Africa with almost one billion population cannot compare itself to China in terms of human capital index. Graduates are trained to do menial jobs which results to underdevelopment especially in Nigeria.

The oil & gas industry in Africa as a bloc does not own technology or financial might but owns the people which is where it has competitive advantage. He said non passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), is making Nigeria to be unattractive to business hence investors have resorted to other countries in Africa that cannot march the country in terms of oil exploration and production. He enjoined the government to pass the bill so as to attract investment.

Emielu spoke with Olufemi Omotayo, Associate Editor, Energy Focus Report.


Please introduce yourself

My name is Emmanuel Emielu; I am a cofounder and co-convener of the Africa Oil & Gas Talent Summit which started in 2015. We are in the fourth year in the series of this program. We are focused on the issues of human capacity development in the oil industry in the African continent.

How do you see the future of the African oil and gas industry with respect to human resources?

That is a great question and I’d like to put it in a broader socio-economic context. The human capital development index – both from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum – show that Nigeria is very low in most of the indices. This means that, globally, we are not competitive in terms of talent competitiveness. In a time where global economy is changing and technology is disrupting, for companies and countries to stay competitive, they will need innovative talent. Nigeria is low on many of the indices as a result of many years of wrong priority in policies by different past governments. Even up till now, our educational budget as a percentage of the GDP is very low – far lower than World Bank’s minimum recommendation. Right now, our economy is doing more of debt servicing, which reduces what we can spend on real developmental activities.

Also, the general notion for many years is that Nigeria is blessed with abundant human capital. However, if you check the reports by the World Bank and WEF– as well as literature on the subject, you will find that the number of people in a country does not equate to human capital. Human capital is a function of the skill, knowledge and competencies present in a place. It is true that there are a lot of people in Nigeria, but how many of them can be classified as being human capital? Africa’s population is almost one billion people now, yet one cannot compare to China in terms of human capital index of both regions. That is why for this year our theme is: turning people into human capital. This has to start with leadership, which is our focus. We want to examine the leadership imperatives, the policies, governments, and human capital. We want to change the illusion that people are the same as human capital. There needs to be specific concrete interventions that will turn this abundance of people into abundance of human capital. The future is going to be shaped by the competition in human capital, which is now obvious. The advanced countries of the world are currently competing on talents of the future.

Do we have the people for that future?

This is a bit of a tough question because; yes we have the people (most of them very talented) but channeling them into productive and innovative endeavors is what matters. Entrepreneurship has become a buzz word in Nigeria today, but to what end is it? Many graduates are now being trained to make beads and other menial tasks. This means that we are training them into underdevelopment. It has also become something of an escape route for government to avoid its responsibilities of generating gainful and productive employment. The answer is not that kind of entrepreneurship. Secondly, there has been a lot of emphasis on coding in recent years, with different programs initiated. But I see this kind of coding like the subsistence farming we did many years ago. It won’t take us anywhere. We take raw materials from other advanced countries and convert into high-value finished products. There are many talented software developers in Nigeria who don’t know why they are coding in the first place. There is no end. They are those who know how but work for those who know why. Those who know why will employ those who know how. The innovation does not happen at the point of coding. This is not how we will turn our people into human capital; we need to go much beyond that.

Let’s know more about the summit

In the first year we were called the West Africa Oil & Gas Talent Summit. But, following the success of the first edition, we decided it should not be restricted to West Africa but continent-wide. Oil is a global industry; talent movement is global; movement of finance is global, investment is global, technology is global. When we looked at Africa, we are taking one chunk of the estate called the global oil industry.

For us, considering the Africa socio-economic context, we find that the type of conferences in the industry focus on technology solutions, government policies and regulations, as well as conferences on finance. We realized that there were no specific conferences for the people that put these things (technology and finance) to work in the industry. Not only that, the oil and gas industry in Africa as a bloc does not own the technology or the finance. It owns the people. Since 2013/2014, we have been asking for special attention to be paid to the people, which is where we have the competitive advantage. People are the third leg of the tripod – the others being technology and finance. Policy can be operative in any of them. We want to bring the people discuss into the front burner, like technology and finance.

Looking back, we realized that it was a great and bold decision we took then. We see what has happened since 2015/2016 that neither technology nor finance is saving the industry, but the people and their innovation, resilience, strategy, change leadership and change readiness. More and more, we see that people are the pivot in getting the industry out of the present challenges that we face. For Africa, that should be an area of attention giving the type of people we have. This summit is about promoting issues around people, performance, and leadership that can take the African oil industry through the challenges and disruptions that we are beginning to see in the industry globally.

How has the journey been since it began?

It has been very encouraging. When we started in 2015, we didn’t know anybody. Because we wanted the summit to be pan-African, we started outside Nigeria and have done two out of the three editions outside Nigeria. We intend to have the 5th edition outside Nigeria as well. In 2016, we held the summit in Ghana and received tremendous support from the country’s secretary of petroleum and the national petroleum commission (equivalent of Nigeria’s NCDMB). When we had the event again in Ghana in 2017, President Akufo Addo invited us to the Castle and he was conferred with the title of a Life Patron of the AOGTS. We are in the process of holding another meeting with him to update him. In 2018, Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo sent a representative, while the executives of the IOCs in the country, the government regulators, for example, the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB) have been very supportive of our efforts. When you look at the attendance and the caliber of people behind us, this is fantastic. It shows that the Africa Oil & Gas Talent Summit has come to stay and can only grow bigger.

This year’s summit focuses on leadership, can you elaborate on those that will be in attendance?

We are talking about leadership in the industry. As a business, the industry needs to cope and overcome challenges in the system. We need to survive, prosper and thrive. We will depend on quality human capital. The hydrocarbon sector is going through challenges right now by competing substitute products, policies, and environment (climate change). Will all the oil companies shut down because Europe is increasingly adopting electric cars? Answers to questions like this will come from innovative human capital that creates the technology adoption. We are making efforts to reach out to the political stakeholders (government) in the federal, state and national assembly levels. We are also reaching out to those in the human capital development segment of this country to bring everybody to the table. The third aspect of this equation would be the individuals themselves; people understanding the possibilities and potentials ahead of them. We want to catalyze them to open their minds and reach out for bigger, higher visions than just becoming subsistence entrepreneurs for example. One of the sessions we are going to have is called the millennial voice, which is a forum to hear everyone share views. In the process, we might be able to reengineer some of their minds to think bigger and better. So, we shall have government, industry practitioners, the academia and talents together on the same table to extrapolate the policies that have worked or not in order to properly gauge how to improve on the human capital of the African continent.

In terms of diversity of the audience, who should be expected?

We want the business leaders, CEOs and directors in the oil industry. We want the policy makers in the political class – ministers, government agencies, regulators like NCDMB, PTDF (Petroleum Training and Development Fund), ITF (Industrial Training Fund), and other stakeholders at the summit. We also expect the functional leaders, i.e. HR which is the mill where people are transformed into human capital. Those in this category include HR managers and directors, training and development leaders, curriculum developers, consultants in the recruitment service, digital service providers that aid human capital development etc.

This event is coming up on October 23 and 24 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Oniru, Victoria Island, Lagos. There is an award session that will cap it all up. A number of persons have been identified for special recognition. We are expecting between 200 and 300 participants, including senior level students who will come for the panel session.

If you have an opportunity to influence policies in the oil and gas sector, what would you change in the next six months?

The biggest and saddest issue in the industry at the moment is the policy on the fiscal system (otherwise known as PIB). The bill that the 8th Assembly worked on is on the president’s table. This has killed the industry several times over since it was muted. Oil is a global industry; the oil and gas investment is a global fund and investments seek the place of highest returns. Nigeria continues to look unattractive by reason not passing the PIB, other government policies, and insecurity that has become a monster. These make investments in the Nigerian oil and gas less competitive. There is no reason in an ideal time when ExxonMobil will pass the Nigerian market to a country like Angola – or Ghana whose total reserves are not up to one of our independents here.

In the last decade, these satellite countries have been chipping away at Nigeria’s revenue potentials. So, if I have the opportunity, I’d make sure that we do all we can – including political negotiations – with a bill that finally settles this discussion about what we need to do in the industry. In the recent years, the oil companies are only investing in production of what they have explored in the past rather than in new explorations. However, it is only through discoveries of recent times that made us to know about Egina, Agbami, Bonga. This means our pipelines have dried up. We spent the last 4 or 5 year on Egina. For a country like Nigeria with 40 billion barrels of crude among other statistics, you expect that as Egina is finishing, other ones will start. We need to attract investment into the system with PIB. Then, a multi-government intervention, better security and curb community restiveness.

Energy Focus
Editor at Energy Focus Report.

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