NJ Ayuk on How To Transform Africa
As one of the most prominent and most notable voices in the African energy and legal sectors, he has been central to brokering some of the most important deals on the continent.
The key to African redevelopment is to build better transregional partnerships that inspire the next generation, according to expert lawyer NJ Ayuk.
“You start diversifying from day one,” the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber said in an interview posted on his website. “We have to go back and look at what is the traditional African economy: It’s agriculture. If you can’t feed your people, you can’t have a sustainable economy.
“You can’t have a sustainable economy if you don’t build industries. The problem is we have to stop focusing so much on, ‘Let’s take this oil money and let’s use it to do all these things.’ Rather, we have to use the oil to transform the country and the economy.
As one of the most prominent and most notable voices in the African energy and legal sectors, NJ Ayuk has been central to brokering some of the most important deals on the continent. In addition to his role at the African Energy Chamber, he’s founder and CEO of the Pan-African firm Centurion Law Group and the author of Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals. Now in its second edition, Billions at Play is his thoughtful take on Africa’s energy future.
He said, “The best thing to reverse the resource curse is taking not just money from oil but ensuring that the whole supply chain and the value is used to develop other sectors.
“If, for example, the government of Nigeria or the government of Congo takes 1 billion dollars from its oil resources and puts it into agriculture, that’s not enough. Money is not the only thing. You have to create an enabling environment for the other sectors to happen. If you don’t make it easy to create a business and have low taxes — without corruption — and ensure governance, you will not be able to create an agricultural sector.”
Relying on foreign companies and investments can hold Africa back in important ways, denying jobs, profits, and the potential to spur new growth to people on the continent, he said.
Ayuk told Forbes, “There are movements toward regional economic integration that will enhance prosperity, but it is too little and the continuous protectionist drive is killing most economies. Why do we have local content? Why can’t we have Africa content to ensure more African investment and participation in the industry? We need to start thinking big.”
NJ Ayuk, who regularly advises African government entities on judicial modernization and rule of law issues, said the public sector must also work harder at training future generations for new jobs.
It’s a pressing issue. As a young continent, with nearly 40% of its population under the age of 15, Africa needs to add more jobs to accommodate an expanding workforce. As the population ages, it will require additional infrastructure and opportunities, he said. But Ayuk is optimistic about the future.
“With many more export terminals planned to come online over the next two years, this aspect of the natural gas business is poised for a boom around Africa. A lot of good policies are coming, and some heavy-handed regulations are being rolled back,” he said.
“If we have an environment of higher commodity prices, lower regulatory costs, rising demand, and expanding use for domestic gas and exports all combined, [it] creates a more profitable environment for Africa’s oil and gas industry.”
Because he works across the continent, NJ Ayuk has a viewpoint that encompasses Africa as a whole. He believes the government has a lot of work to do to advance his home continent.
“Governments have a responsibility to set up the fundamental frameworks like education. We cannot expect the [international service companies] to be the ones who are going to train, develop, and prepare our people to serve the industry. It is not their job; we have to set up our education and ensure schools are ready and competitive globally. Once you set up that base, every African child can compete. It is about rights and responsibilities.”