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Exploring Local Content Challenges and Opportunities for Africa’s Youth

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With the youth accounting for a majority share of Africa’s total population and as the continent seeks to maximize the exploitation of its oil and gas resources to secure energy supply, a discussion hosted during the 8th African Petroleum Congress and Exhibition (Cape V111), which was held from 16 – 19 May, 2022, in Luanda, explored challenges in local content development and opportunities for the youth and entrepreneurs within the continent’s hydrocarbons market.

Salisu Isihak, the Chairman of the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders Nigeria, who moderated the panel discussion, said that young people in Africa are key to addressing energy industry challenges –such as the issue of technology, market, expertise and investments –which the continent’s oil and gas sector is facing.

“The innovation among the youth will enable the development and implementation of solutions to industry challenges. They are key in safeguarding a just energy transition and will be drivers in ensuring the resources are beneficial to the continent,” he said.

Milestones in Local Content Development in Africa

Commenting on measures already implemented by African regimes to improve youth participation in the market and to address the lack of industry experience and skills, Kwaku Boateng, Director of Local Content at Petroleum Commission of Ghana, said “Ghana only started to develop its oil and gas in 2010 and the market is still young. Right now, we are trying to develop our local content. Because our technicians had no requisite experience, international firms were bringing their own experienced workers. We decided to develop a number of programs such as the Ghana Upstream Sector Internship program and Associated Oil and Gas Capacity Building program, in which we placed youths in technical institutions to train them. We also realized our technicians did not have accreditation to work for international firms, hence we developed a program to ensure our graduates are trained with the right certification to ensure they are recognised internationally.”

H.E Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea, who was among the delegates that attended the ‘Creating the next generation of Africa’s oil and gas professionals’ session, added that “International Oil Companies and National Oil Companies have done an amazing job in training the local people. During the COVID-19 lockdown, there was not even a shutdown within Africa’s oil and gas sector in Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea and that is proof that Africa’s human resources is well prepared.”

Gaps in local content development

Despite the progress made in enhancing Africa’s oil and gas workforce through improved participation of youths, some gaps were also revealed during the discussion. The minister admitted that Africa has been “focusing on the upstream sector forgetting that the downstream and middle stream segments are as important.”

“We want more women to work in the oil and gas industry. There needs to be conducted a study as to why women are not progressing to be employed by companies in the industry. Institutions should prepare special programs for women to allow them to interact and to encourage increased participation in the sector,” he said.

Caetano Capitão, Vice President of the Angolan Indigenous Oil and Gas Service Companies Association said “We need to look at the foundation which is the system of education. We have problems related to science and math and ICT across Africa, which youths need to be equipped with at very early stages of education. We also need to leave some room to bring expertise from overseas to ensure local content development meets international standards.”

Isihak added that collaboration among African governments and energy stakeholders through regional capacity building initiatives is key to address the continued lack of expertise. He said “Issues such as financing of internships and training programs need to be addressed through improved partnerships between governments and the private sector.”

“Nigeria has extensive oil and gas experience which can help Ghana and Senegal to enhance their local content. Free trade flow agreements among African firms can also be utilized to enhance cooperation on capacity building,” added Boateng.

Other proposals raised to help improve local content development within Africa’s oil and gas sector include improved sharing of information by African governments and energy stakeholders, the development of a continental education certification standard by the African Union, the creation of regional and continental database of engineers registered with regional or international boards and ensuring that workers across various segments of the oil and gas sectors are equipped with skills that would enable them to be recycled across the entire energy value chain.

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Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas is an energy sector journalist with a passion on how technology and diversification of the energy mix can be used to address energy sector challenges. Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication studies and has been covering energy-related topics including the Internet of Things, distributed energy and digitalisation since 2015.