How did you come to be in the oil and gas industry?
By accident (laughs). In my position as Permanent Secretary of Energy and Economic Affairs in early 2000, I was also the head of the Policy Analysis Unit, Department of Geology and Commission of Petroleum. They were all reporting to me. I am an economist by background and a firm believer of adapting to a fast changing environment. It occurred to me given the huge potential for oil and gas in West Africa and the MSGBC basin in particular that there was the need to create a National Petroleum Corporation as there was a capacity deficit which prompted me to convince the authorities to train petroleum engineers amongst others in order to develop capacity for the work ahead and that’s how the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation came into being in 2003.
I continued to be involved in the oil and gas industry of the Gambia in an oversight role in various ambassadorial and ministerial capacities and as Secretary General of the Civil Service and recently came in as Managing Director of the GNPC.
Aside from low commodity prices what do you believe is the greatest challenge to our industry’s future growth?
The greatest challenge will be adapting to change especially the lowered levels of exploration. For instance, while commendable; the emergence of alternative energy sources and an increased awareness and global concern for the carbon foot print of conventional means of extracting is refuting old assumptions of the everlasting profitability of oil and gas as a natural resource and as such the oil and gas industry must constantly re-invent and re-align itself to newer and more competitive ways of doing business.
It must somehow re-position itself to become a leader in unconventional resources and invest in the technology required to make deep water exploration and its extraction profitable.
If you could wave a magic wand over our industry, what would you change and why?
I would improve the safety standards of the industry to ensure that oil and gas companies meet the highest safety and environmental standards possible given that the environmental ramifications give the industry a bad name.
What are the strategic priorities for GNPC in the next 12 months?
We would love to attract investment that results in the fulfilment of work program obligations and most essentially the drilling of exploratory wells to confirm the promising prospects that have been previously mapped.
How do you see the Gambian oil and gas industry evolving over the next 5 years?
I believe by then we would have confirmed a working petroleum system and moved onto an appraisal drilling regime thus I see an industry that would have learnt from the errors and omissions of other countries. I anticipate an industry that would be equipped with progressive and inclusive policies that ensure transparency and fiscal discipline, local content maximization and spill over effects into other local industries.
What takeaways would you like attendees at the MSGBC Basin Summit & Exhibition to go home with regarding GNPC’s activities and future objectives?
Major takeaway would be that the Gambia is open for business and GNPC is ready to work hand in glove with serious operators ready to propel Gambia into the next stage of drilling successes.
What is your proudest work-related achievement to date?
A sentimental moment remains when I received a Brilliant Star Award from the then President of Taiwan (Chen Shui Bian). I was the youngest ambassador to Taiwan and it was quite moving to hear him tell me that I had made a mark that no one can erase.
What was the wisest advice you received from a mentor?
Never to take anything for granted and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Name one interesting fact about you that no one would suspect?
I am huge soccer addict.
How do you prefer to spend your spare time?
I love taking long walks on the beach, reading and watching movies.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Abu Dhabi, UAE
All-time favourite book?
Next American Frontier by Robert Reich a Former Labour Secretary for President Bill Clinton. It is a fascinating account of the dichotomy between society and the market.
All-time favourite film?
That’s a difficult one. I have too many to count but ‘The Dying of the Light’ comes to mind.
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