NJ Ayuk is founder and CEO of Pan-African corporate law conglomerate, Centurion Law Group with Headquarters in South Africa and Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon and Mauritius; Founder and Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber; and author of Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals and co-author of Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity.
African economies are undergoing a transformative period. The energy sector, particularly, holds great potential to revitalise African economies and empower the growth and development.
ENERGY industry is “ the Economic Engine of the African Continent ”
Cameroonian-born NJ Ayuk is the managing partner of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African corporate law conglomerate that specializes in energy, extractive industries and the financial sector. Headquartered in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Centurion has offices in 5 countries across the continent.
Ayuk has been active in the structuring, negotiation and implementation of natural resource projects in sub-Saharan Africa, with extensive experience in advising both international and local companies and governments. He recently advised Oranto Petroleum, one of Africa’s largest oil exploration companies, in the landmark acquisition of four strategic oil blocks in Niger Republic.
Q Why renewable energy sources are the only hope towards a better future?
Up until now, everyone has heard about renewable energy and its positive impact on the environment. But, are you really aware of the impact these renewable energy sources can bring upon your monthly bills, home and this entire planet/Renewable energy is certainly been termed as the key to a sustainable future for mankind and experts around the world are pushing for it in the best manner possible.
NJ Ayuk, one of the most recognized energy experts from South Africa, also echoes the same notion.
As per NJ Ayuk guardian, the following facts can be seen as the major reason why we all must take these renewable energy sources seriously.
Better for the Ecosystem
Its a world known fact that fossil fuels like coal and petroleum are literally loading up our ecosystem with more and more greenhouse gases. Now, this is something that is leading to various catastrophic effects on this planet like rising in sea levels, soaring temperatures, and melting of the ice caps.
NJ Ayuk Centurial Law Group believes that this is the sole reason why opting for these renewable sources of energy is a better idea. Besides being cleaner, these sources provide us with sustainable energy sources for our future generations.
Best for Human Health
As per a recent report released by a famous UK journal, more than 40 thousand people succumb to death due to air pollution in the country. On the other side, it has also been reported than more than 250 hospitals are been located in areas where the pollution levels are way higher than what WHO has quoted as ‘dangerous’.
NJ Ayuk wife says that this is where governments and the authorities around must take this as an alarming situation for humanity and take concrete steps to stop any further damage.
The Abundance of Green Energy Sources
While fossil fuel sources like coal is been termed as finite, cleaner energy sources are available in abundance on this planet. Right like the name suggests, these renewable sources of energy can top up the tank of energy production till eternity.
NJ Ayuk further says that countries like Germany and Costa Rica have already taken big steps in the same context and if we talk about Germany itself, almost half of its energy production is based on renewable sources.
Costa Rica, on the other side, has recently gone on a ‘ 300 days on renewable energy supply’ spree with the entire country. Well, this certainly shows that there is some big hope we can live through in the coming years in regards to the utilisation of these renewable energy sources.
This could very well be the only way we can imagine a better future for our coming generation in a healthy and safe environment.
Q Tell us a bit about your early years, who were your greatest influences during your upbringing?
It’s been quite a journey; I can tell you that much! I was afforded the opportunity of becoming an entrepreneur very early in my life which was certainly a blessing in disguise. As a result, this lesson taught me to be a disciplined and independent individual.
I earned my first job at a hotel, housekeeping at 16 in Germany at the time. I can admittedly say nothing was handed to me or that it came into my position at my first attempt. Most of it felt like a series of firsts and trial and errors.
However even at a tender age, I was able to focus and align my priorities to what I really envisioned for myself. From there onwards, I chose to make a decision which didn’t consist of failing. I hate failure and cannot think of failing. I like to compete, I like to win, and I have an insatiable appetite to defy the odds which I’ve aimed to emulate throughout my journey as a lawyer, entrepreneur and an author.
With that said, some of my greatest influences as a young man was an African-American professor, the late Dr Ronald Walters. He worked with me as a mentor and taught me a lot about service, business and community. He also encouraged me to think about law. I actually went to law school thinking about being a civil rights lawyer, and today I’m a corporate lawyer in that same vein.Q What is Africa Energy Chamber, what is its role and why did you take up this challenge of leading it?
The African Energy Chamber is based on a network of public and private executives that have been working towards the development of Africa’s oil and gas industry for several years now, mostly focusing on local content development. Seeing the need for Africa to have a stronger voice on the global energy scene and communicate better has been one of my biggest objectives. We have opened up the Chamber to all interested parties through our membership offerings. We work with indigenous companies throughout the continent in optimizing their reach, networks, as well as facilitating relationships.
Our partnerships with international dignitaries, executives, and companies allow for relevant collaborations to other international entities looking to operate with the African continent. It is very upsetting to see the lack of representation of Africa by Africans. We have our own resources to foster change, its simply time to put ourselves first and take ourselves seriously to the rest of the world!
Q What are the key pillars of the vision of Africa Energy Chamber?
The goal has always been to become the voice of Africa’s energy sector. Seeing the growth of our partners, members and collaborations over the past few years has been a strong indicator of our impact and ability to become just that! We don’t have to look too far because believe it or not, we have what it takes to great as a continent.
Our pillars are also directed towards solving African problems with tailored African solutions by supporting government, national and private oil, gas and energy companies to raise capital and attract the right partners for their projects. As far as mandate is concerned, we just want to guide and see our members win in an environment we understand well and are passionate about.Q You’ve become one of Africa’s most prolific energy deal makers at a relatively young age. What ignited your interest in law in the first place and what drew you to a career in energy law?
I’ve always had a passion for law and wanting to solve problems. I’m one person that always sees a positive side to things so after my studies, I aimed to use the best of my legal education to make Africa work for me. It started back in home country, Cameroon when the structure and economy was in desperate need of services and opportunities in the energy market I decided to take a leap of faith and invest in an area I knew very little about at the time but worked hard to become a professional and excel in it.
I think one of the reasons why I have always thought I would succed is because of my strong sense of commitment and knowing that I have an obligation to continue doing what I do. For me it’s not just a job, it’s a cause. I always strive to be on top because it’s the bottom that’s crowded. I don’t want to be at the bottom.
Q What would you describe as your core values and how do they help you in leading large organizations?
I think one of the reasons why I have always thought we have been successful is because of our strong sense of commitment to our clients and knowing that we have an obligation to continue doing what we do. For us it’s not just a job, it’s a cause. I always strive to be on top because it’s the bottom that’s crowded.
I don’t want to be at the bottom. There is a strong [drive]to ensure that our societies and people get better, which keeps me up at night. But it’s also the reason why we can, and have been, successful a lot. I think that vision has kept me focused, and we’ve been able to transfer that to other lawyers within the firm.
Q It has been reported that the African Energy Chamber has provided financial and material support to the government of South Sudan to support its efforts to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic earlier this month.
Are you planning to continue with the support other communities should the pandemic persist?
I think one of the reasons why I have always thought we have been successful is because of our strong sense of commitment to our clients and knowing that we have an obligation to continue doing what we do.
For us it’s not just a job, it’s a cause. I always strive to be on top because it’s the bottom that’s crowded.
I don’t want to be at the bottom. There is a strong [drive]to ensure that our societies and people get better, which keeps me up at night. But it’s also the reason why we can, and have been, successful a lot.
I think that vision has kept me focused, and we’ve been able to transfer that to other lawyers within the firm.
It is our wish at the Chamber to make contributions where we can and support the laudable ongoing efforts of the government of South Sudan to respond to the pandemic. We have multiplied initiatives and efforts to bring relief and guidance to the industry. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve notably published a Common-sense Energy Agenda of top key policy measures to support the industry, and a set of Guidelines for the Movement and Safety of Oil Workers amidst sustained travel restrictions on our part and will continue to assistance where necessary.Q What are your thoughts on the current business landscape in Africa compare to other continents globally?
We can’t make meaningful, positive changes for everyday Africans until we start discussing a way forward. The more we advocate personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and an enabling environment for investment, Africa’s oil industry and African stand to benefit than relying on foreign aid and assistance.
Don’t get me wrong, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a strain on existing developments, but our concern today should be directed to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, businesses should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits our people and the planet.
Q In what way do you think the Coronavirus pandemic will accelerate society’s understanding of the 4IR and its potential to change our world?
The fourth industrial revolution has always played a vital role in our lives, more so now during this lockdown. Its highlighted a few important points in the way we conduct business, hold meetings and ultimately, how we interact with the world around us overall.
I’ve personally been engaging in Zoom meetings quite frequently and the Chamber has been driving dialogues through our webinars which are playing a significant role in collaborations and keeping some conversations afloat. I also think our current position will make a lot of industries re-consider their long-term plans and perhaps choose different areas of focus and/or projects to invest in next.Q Are there any books you read? If there is, which would you recommend that every entrepreneur should read?
Q How will you as a leader create a corporate culture and environment, advocating and encouraging dialogue amongst young leaders with the heightened awareness that in as much careers are important, young leaders starting off in the careers should integrate and balance work commitments, make time for themselves and their families.
If anyone hasn’t read my books, I’d recommend Billions At Play as a great place to start in understanding my thought process and perceptions on African and the world at large. I’m a big fan of Rise of the Cajun Mariners by Woody Falgoux. The book reminds me of the everyday beautiful people who make the oil industry work. Another great book is Condamnes A Reussir by Iselle Akwoue.
I have to start off by saying I truly believe in African talent and have dedicated myself, with the assistance of our amazing team of lawyers at Centurion Law at training the next generation of African lawyers. Secondly, I would say providing good service, getting good clients and ensuring we stay true to providing good quality work is a commendable structure we implement internally and externally as a fairly young and innovative team. I always say once you find your passion, everything you do stops feeling like work and more of an opportunity to build and be better.
Q If you were to advise all African Presidents, what would be the key priorities you would recommend for dealing with poverty, unemployment and under development in the continent?
In today’s world, we have everything at our disposal so we should take advantage of that.
We have a chance to do something bigger than our own personal interests. Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and all the great African leaders of the past, they liberated this continent by rallying people together and creating a movement to give us freedom. Now our generation has email, Twitter, Facebook – we are the most sophisticated in technology and have everything in our hands.
I would definitely suggest that African presidents invest in 4IR and find supporting ways to include women and the youth to their structures. Furthermore, African countries need to do better with youth empowerment. All they want is work experience, mentorships and internships.
Let’s invest in their future as that simultaneously means investing in Africa. I would also advise our presidents to be better leaders. Leadership is not just about having people on your team. Some of the best leaders have led operations, big operations, simply because they have been led and are ready to lead.Q What’s next for Centurion Law Group?
We have invested heavily in our Centurion PLUS business and thanks to the right partnerships from the oil sector, telecom, insurance, technology, mining and governments, we are bullish about 2020. We have invested in world class technology and we will be on track to earning more than anyone ever thought.
I have a voice in the industry and we are going to use this bully pulpit to create a level playing field for many Africans. This is needed now more than ever.
I always strive to be on top because it’s the bottom that’s crowded. I don’t want to be at the bottom.
– NJ Ayuk, CEO Centurion Law Group & Executive Chairman African Energy Chamber