Ms. Arvy K. Nahar is a Contracts Specialist in the Energy Sector Associate Editor, Oil and Gas Operations (African Leadership Group) Board Advisor-Energy Sector Liberian Chamber of Commerce.
Arvy is critically acclaimed and spends her time between London and West Africa. www.arvyknahar.com
1. Ms. Arvy K Nahar, at a relatively quiet young age in 2014, you managed, acquired, and owned an alluvial mining site in Ashanti, Ghana, what were the inspirations at that time?
Yes, that does seem like a very long time ago; age is nothing but a number. At the time I was working for an international oil company with commercial interests in the Jubilee Field-offshore, the operational and contracts team during the first phases was based in London and thereafter mobilized to Ghana, subsequently, I had decided to return to Ghana for a vacation.
What should have been a vacation led to an ‘Indiana Jones’ type of exploratory visit, and thereafter initiated a life-changing experience. The drive and ambitious force at the time were more than just an inspirational idea, we in the ‘first world’ rarely understand and appreciate the sources and elements that contribute to everyday life. I traveled to Ashanti and stumbled upon the most ‘magical’ finding, witnessing miners extracting gold from the ground, the only thing that kept playing in my mind was ‘how can I share these findings with folks back in London”, there must be a way to promote sustainable gold mining and endorse ethical business practices. The Ashanti region is located in the central middle ground of Ghana, the mining terrain is made up of marshland and rainforest. The historical context is also of great importance, Ghana is Africa’s largest gold producer and the Kumasi region is home to the Ashanti empire (royal family).
The scene of events that followed seem fairly straightforward now reminiscing, however, I remember folks questioning me about this business decision, querying the seriousness to move forward with such a volatile project, yes I kept in mind as a novice miner operating and playing amongst the ‘movers and shakers’ would definitely attract major challenges. This kind of venture is not short of criticism, and a flurry of naysayers in millennial terminology also known as a ‘hater’, some of the conservative types were not prepared and ready to see a young unmarried female, functioning and operating in a hardship environment. I mention the ‘unmarried’ term as this culturally is always an issue. Those that know me will understand, I always push boundaries. Imperturbable was definitely the word of the year.
The mining exploration experience exceeded all expectations and findings, most importantly I refer to the spirited learning and self-resilience and not so much commercial viability.
We come from a culture where gold, is more than just a jewelry statement, dowry, or a commodity to rely upon during hard times; therefore, applying the method of understanding and appreciating the supply chain cycle must be highlighted and promoted to the wider world. Alluvial mining is extremely volatile and the majority of operations are conducted in ‘hardship locations’, I’ve always been a believer that it’s a privilege to harness and cultivate all opportunities life brings your way. We call it Kismet is also known as destiny.
2. The world is grappling with low oil prices now, as a contracts specialist in the oil and gas industry, did you foresee the fall in prices across the energy sector during the last quarter of last year?
In December 2019 I attended the OPEC meeting in Vienna, it was a time where no industry was aware that such a pandemic was on its way. The Conference took note of oil market developments since it last met in Vienna on 1 July 2019 and reviewed the oil market outlook for 2020. The secretary including ministers expressed and highlighted a number of critical uncertainties that need to be monitored, including trade-related negotiations, macroeconomic developments, and other factors; The Corona Virus was not a topic for discussion. The volatility in the oil and gas sector over the past 5 years is not exclusive to political global uncertainty, as we have seen disruption concerning weather-related scenarios, such events result in the uncertainty of supply and demand, thereafter causing a ricochet effect on the short term oil price. The first hint of a roadblock for me personally was back in Q1 February, I was assigned to the ROVUMA LNG project-Mozambique, as the project was nearing completion of the FEED contracts, we learned many of the operators/contractors involved were unable to secure financing resulting in a delay of the much-anticipated sanctions for FID. To date, we celebrate positive news for the operating region of Rovuma as cooperation for business commencement has been given the green light. Operators partnered with global security professionals are set to develop and optimize jointly the region’s largest gas findings.
3. What do you believe are the most significant advances in technology in the energy sector in the past year and how could they affect businesses?
Technology and digital transformation revolutionized certain aspects of the energy sector; for example, the implementation of blockchain. I was fortunate enough to meet and discuss specifics of a logistics platform with John Monarch-CEO of Ship Chain, Ship Chain is a US-based company focused on providing unified solutions to the global supply chain, one of the global leaders in blockchain technology. Historically, the majority of the logistics and shipping industry is dependent upon paper clearance documentation, which results in administrative burdens especially when conducting business in various time zones. The Ship-Chain app promotes transparency as deliveries and all signed documentation is available in real-time electronically. The increased visibility of all transactions promotes efficiency and eliminates any corruption, this will ensure cost saving for any maritime company, including streamlining the business model.
To enhance business development in the region, we must consider the pivotal role of the African continent’s population which is tipped to double by the year 2050; there is an urgent need for governments and entrepreneurs to support and endorse job creation. The preparation for the fourth industrial revolution is well on its way, the advancement of e-commerce and ICT is fundamental to support the continent’s generational progression enabling the skills gap to shorten and support economic incentives. In February Q1 I visited Eswatini as part of a trade delegation, it was encouraging to see the spread of digital strategies is propelling the region’s actualization of this aspiration. Eswatini is set to host the regional headquarters of the E-trade group for Southern Africa, showcasing and developing large investment hubs for incubators and parks. Paired with infrastructure development the regional hub will definitely be the center for technological excellence.
4. What investments are most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow companies to thrive in the next few years?
The investments in education and infrastructure are key primary factors for consideration, especially to fulfill any strategic developments endorsed by the government. The African continent is home to some of the youngest populations in the world, a generation with access to smartphones and increasing usage of mobile phone functions, the emerging technology ecosystem supports the resources pool of job creation. The jobs of the future will evidently require a certain command of digital understanding. The rise and advancement of the digital space have also contributed to supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs regionally. The digital push in certain remote locations has certainly revolutionized trade, I have the first-hand experience whilst living in Ghana, I recall every Thursday morning a group of women would gather in the local marketplace preparing dried wares for selling, dried coffee beans, and cocoa, it was a real eye-opener to see the traders grappling for their mobile phones, comparing pricing based on an international market index.
The phone of choice at the time was Blackberry and Samsung, iPhones and smart technology were not so prevalent. The negotiation would start with a representative from a large conglomerate naming his price, which would then lead to an ongoing dispute regarding pricing and quantity, a trader’s paradise. If you can visualize the Wall Street trading floor at the start of the opening bell, a very similar scene just a slightly warmer climate.
I certainly learned a thing or two about business negotiations.
5. There is so much corruption and inefficiency in the most state-owned oil corporations in oil-producing nations in Africa, how do you think they can perform optimally?
Corruption and inefficiency are not exclusive to state-owned oil companies or the African continent. The extreme monetary value of the petroleum industry, paired with high levels of expenditure, has certainly encouraged its fair share of issues regarding policy enforcement and disruptive tendencies. The corporate governance of any oil company is incumbent upon its implementation of legislation and policy; therefore, transparency is detrimental to promoting efficiency. The importance of managing corruption determines the longevity and the accountability of any business model, the African continent in the last 10 years has extended its operational and functional accountability by ensuring anti-corruption legislation is implemented throughout the supply chain. The oil and gas industry internationally is identified and perceived as more likely to be associated with bribery and corruption, than any other sector. A very useful guide can be found online at Transparency International-The global coalition against corruption (BPI) Bribe Payers Index.
Regionally companies are endorsing and illustrating the push for greater transparency. Most recently, an example of excellent governance to promote accountability is NNPC’s decision to publish audited financial statements.
6. Finally and on a more relaxed note, your Cazal glasses are synonymous with you, do you wish to let us know if it’s your fashion statement or that of identity, or both?
So the saying goes ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of the life I grew up in a multicultural society whereby identity and style were all about individual ‘swagger’ this was definitely enhanced depending on your postcode areas of influence, for example, Portobello Road from a young age was always the place to check out the newest street styles, with many independent fashion designers showcasing items for sale. Style is also synonymous in the corporate world; I admire those who aren’t scared to stand out a little. One of the perks of working in the oil and gas industry is travel and exposure to different cultures, my time in the middle east drew me to appreciate oud and the elegant traditional abayas, wherever I go I tend to pick up pieces from the local marketplace. In Nigeria there’s a fantastic marketplace called Wuse in Abuja, equally for quality Ankara materials you can always pop down to Shepherds Bush market in West London, it’s called cultural appreciation.
My Cazal glasses identify with the era and movie scene from the ’80s, I’m an 80’s child (as stated above age is nothing but a number). You always remember those who stand out, ‘Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak’.