“Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals” is an epic book authored by Cameroonian-born NJ Ayuk, managing partner of Centurion Law Group – a pan-African corporate law conglomerate that specializes in energy, extractive industries and the financial sector.
In 292 pages classed under 19 compelling chapters, NJ Ayuk dissects the oil and gas industry and how it has fared in Africa.
Titled ‘Managing Oil and Gas Revenue”, chapter 16 of “Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals” takes a cursory look at Africa’s unending crisis and the role of oil.
Looking at the case of Nigeria’s Niger-Delta that has not known true peace for decades now with doubts over how the oil wells are improving the lot of the masses, NJ Ayuk posits that Cameroon, for example, also has had a case of disappearing” oil revenue.
Since oil was discovered in Cameroon in 1977, the Centurion Law Group’s Founder and CEO avers that approximately USD20 Billion has been paid in oil rents—but only 54 percent of the money appeared in the government budget.
In a thesis on how Cameroon’s resource wealth has played out for Cameroonians, Ayuk says there has been some good news on the economic front: During the last decade, the country’s gross domestic product per capita has grown by 4 percent annually, above the global average of 2.6 percent.
He regrets, however, that other figures show oil revenue failing to impact the lives of the people who need help most: 48 percent of the population continues to live below the poverty line. Healthcare is sparse, and Cameroon’s life expectancy only is 57 years for males and 59 years for females.
Some, he posits, might argue that local poverty and disenfranchisement, particularly in the South West Region of Cameroon, have contributed to the Anglophone crisis taking place. Since late 2017, it has resulted in violent clashes, the deaths of people and the displacement of thousands.
“The crisis has its roots in African Colonialism and the German colony of “Kamerun” being divided between France and England by the League of Nations following Germany’s defeat in World War I. In 1960, when Cameroon gained its independence, English-speaking residents were given the option of joining the French-speaking portion of Cameroon or becoming citizens of neighboring Nigeria. They voted to stay, but since that time, have described unfair treatment, with education, roads, and healthcare in their western region of the country being neglected—despite the production of tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day in the South West, an English-speaking region,” he says in Billions at Play.
“Some English-speakers want their grievances addressed, while others are calling for a more extreme solution: the creation of an independent state which they refer to as “Ambazonia.” English-speakers have complained about the unbalanced distribution of revenue from natural resources,” the legal luminary adds.
“Their concerns resonate strongly with me: I am from the Manyu division in the South West region. These grievances are valid. We aren’t producing jobs at the rate we should, and the private sector is suffering from high taxes, corruption, and red tape. Millions of young Cameroonians don’t have healthcare,” NJ Ayuk says.
“Children and teenagers are senselessly being killed. I believe the only way out is a conversation that includes all of the people involved, all of the stakeholders. All of the country’s residents should be treated with dignity, justice, and equity,” NJ Ayuk said.
Looking at the case in Libya, Ayuk writes that about a third of the population is living in poverty, without access to clean drinking water or sewage systems.
The situation with the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project that saw the light of day in 2003 to help transport Chad’s new found oil worries NJ Ayuk. Despite World Bank guarantees, political and local realities have since not allowed the project to yield expected results.
Ultimately, Ayuk writes, the World Bank’s idea of pulling oil revenues into a fund that would help Chad’s people was a sound one. Now, we just need to see African shareholders launch an initiative of their own.
The author agrees that these Africa examples are extremely troubling, but believes it is possible to learn from them and put an end to resource revenue mismanagement. And that process should begin with a serious examination at those who manage their revenue well, affirms one who has worked his way to become one of Africa’s most prolific energy deal makers at a relatively young age.
American Ingenuity and Africa Oil and Gas Potential
Chapter 17 focuses on American Ingenuity and Africa Oil and Gas Potential. Here, NJ Ayuk paints a kaleidoscopic picture of his relation with American investors. He presents a frank look at the risks American companies face, both in Africa and in the U.S. but says the prospects far outweigh the risks.
The author argues that Africa needs American oil and gas companies to continue operating in African communities and to continue hiring African people, purchasing from African suppliers, and partnering with African companies. And we need companies willing to share knowledge, technology, and best practices, businesses that are willing to be good players and form positive relationships in the areas where they work.
There’s no denying that operating in Africa represents a number of very real risks for American companies. We need to be aware of these risks so we’re better positioned to mitigate them (when possible) and better prepared to have honest conversations with American companies interested in operating here.
According to NJ Ayuk, Cameroon is an established, yet underexplored, oil province. The perception is that Cameroon has great potential for natural gas E&P, with more recent exploration for larger oil targets having failed. “There has been some offshore exploration over the last five years, but the results have been relatively disappointing and, where successful, generally encountered wet gas,” he says.
“Billions at Play” is now available on Amazon
Published by Mimi Mefo Info