.There is a big benefit when a country skips the social upheaval and goes straight to pro-women policies. We in Africa must take an aggressive shortcut through history. We can learn from Rwanda.
I’m not saying life is perfect in any of these places, but they’ve moved in the right direction. Why can’t resource-rich African nations do the same?
Africa’s vast oil and gas resources are one of the things that make the continent unique. They are key to a better future. But what we need is for women to have greater control over them.
How do we make that happen? Let’s start with this: Government and business representatives in Africa need to negotiate better oil and gas production deals with international companies.
We need to create local content policies that improve job and business opportunities for Africans but are still fair to companies investing in the continent. We need to insist upon, and strategically develop, better oil money management policies.
We need to monetise our natural gas resources so we can build infrastructure and diversify African economies. And we need to create more opportunities for African women to build promising oil and gas careers at all levels, right up to the C-suite.
We need to stop flaring gas and, instead, more countries need to start using Africa’s abundant natural gas resources for power generation, so we can deliver widespread, reliable electricity to Africans. At the same time, we should be developing strategies for a transition to green energy sources, which can play a valuable supporting role in alleviating energy poverty.
Think about it, most men have tried to do the above; the truth is, [progress] has been slow or it has not worked. Change is needed. I don’t think women are the only solution, but women bring onboard different leadership qualities that can get us into the promised land.
Clearly, we need to fill in other pieces of the puzzle as well, including improvements to our educational system, and good governance that creates an enabling environment for widespread economic growth and improved infrastructure.
But, perhaps most of all, we need an unwavering determination to make Africa work for us, even when there are missteps and things go wrong.
That brings us back to American optimism. One shining example of that mindset is the U.S. shale industry. Think about it: Businesses took a chance on new technology.
They worked hard and, in the end, they boosted oil and gas production. America became the largest crude oil producer in the world. Those companies made something extraordinary happen, and so can African businesses and governments. We need to have mindset change and embrace new things and the idea of women leading us should not be seen as some Western idea.
Whether we’re talking about oil and gas, other economic sectors or government, we need people willing to seize opportunities, to take a chance on something new and, in some cases, make mistakes. In the process, we grow and learn, and we keep pressing forward.
My message to Africans and to the world is, Africa is more than capable of building a better future for ourselves, strengthening our economies and improving the lives of everyday Africans. Who is going to do it, if not us? And really, nobody besides us can truly make Africa the place we want it to be. Africa’s future is our responsibility. Can we let women lead it, especially with our natural resources? How can we make it happen? Even in difficult times, the American Dream is alive and well. The question is, can Africans aspire to the same things? Can there be an equally powerful African Dream?
I’m shocked when I’m questioned on my fervent support for women and energy. Even more, I’m sad that I often feel I have to defend my right to care about this issue because I’m a man.
While it has been difficult to find hard data on female participation in Africa’s oil and gas industry, anecdotal evidence shows that women are vastly underrepresented. I believe this is unacceptable, shortsighted and, frankly, a real stumbling block to African countries that want to realise the full socioeconomic benefits that a thriving oil and gas industry can provide.
If you truly want your nation to thrive, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to help half of your population participate in one of your most lucrative industries?
Companies, in particular, have a lot to gain by creating opportunities for women, including improved public perceptions, a stabilising role on the African communities where they work and live, and an expanded talent pool at a time when the oil and gas industry is grappling with serious skills shortages.
We need to empower more African women to benefit from the oil and gas industry, whether we’re talking about opportunities for boots on the ground jobs at drill sites, professional positions, leadership roles or business opportunities for women-owned enterprises.
As actress Emma Watson said during her  speech to the United Nations: “I’m inviting you to step forward to be seen, and to ask yourselves, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’”
- A Tell opinion/ NJ Ayuk, executive chairman, African Energy Chamber