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OPEC Secretary General Headlines Council’s Africa Diplomat Orientation Program

OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo

This week, the Council partnered with the Africa-America Institute to host a virtual African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program. The two-day event featured appearances from leading energy industry figures, including Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, Secretary General of OPEC; Clay Neff, President, Chevron Middle East, Africa, South America Exploration Production Company; Amb. Mary Burce Warlick, Deputy Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), and Amb. Virginia Palmer, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, U.S. State Department.

The event is designed to bring together new and seasoned ambassadors around issues of mutual interest to support the success of their missions in Washington, DC. During the program, established in 2019 and endorsed by the African Diplomatic Corps, speakers and panelists shared insights on the future of energy, the energy value chain, technology and services, U.S. international engagement, and regional partnerships.

Clay Neff, President, Chevron Middle East, Africa, South America Exploration Production Company

During a fireside chat moderated by Amb. Carlos Pascual, IHS Markit, Sec. Gen. Barkindo and Neff discussed impacts of the pandemic and the cooperative international efforts to make the largest market and production adjustments in the history of the oil industry. Sec. Gen. Barkindo praised the efforts of OPEC members, as well as other major producers around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Norway and Colombia. Neff expressed optimism about 2021 and beyond because while the pandemic forced difficult decisions in 2020, the long-term outlook for energy is strong.

Sec. Gen. Barkindo said OPEC has been at the forefront of actions to combat climate change and emphasized that energy transition must be inclusive of the needs of the 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with no access to electricity, and the 900 million without access to clean cooking fuels.

During her remarks, Amb. Warlick detailed IEA’s efforts to open its doors to emerging economies, expand its global impact, and deepen cooperation in priority areas including energy security, data and statistics, energy policy analysis, energy efficiency, energy access and the growing use of clean energy technology.

Amb. Mary Burce Warlick, Deputy Executive Director, International Energy Agency

Amb. Warlick’s presentation described IEA’s support of Africa’s energy transitions, and the agency’s analysis of the pandemic’s impacts on the region’s energy sector. Amb. Warlick also discussed energy priorities essential to boosting a strong economic recovery, as well as accelerated energy transitions across the continent.

On the second day of the program, Amb. Palmer discussed U.S. energy policy and diplomacy under the Biden Administration. Her comments touched on America re-entering the Paris climate agreement and the need for cooperative international efforts on decarbonization, energy security and energy for development (which includes energy access and energy justice) to address the climate crisis.

She said the Biden Administration’s view is that many societal goals in developing nations — including improving education, addressing the need for healthcare, industrial development, commercial agriculture and more — are predicated on the need for access to energy.

Amb. Virginia Palmer, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, U.S. State Department

This week’s meeting was the second session of the orientation program. The first was held in 2019 and convened 25 African ambassadors and embassy representatives.

This year’s program included representatives from nearly 20 nations, including: Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Libya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Tunisia and South Africa.

The program also included:

  • A value chain panel with Chevron’s Hans Kuehner, General Manager, International Exploration; Gary Spengler, Vice President, Products, Supply & Trading; and Michael Rubio, General Manager, ESG and Sustainability, moderated by Frank Mount, General Manager, Mergers and Acquisitions.
  • Remarks from Mathilde Mukantabana, Rwanda Ambassador to the U.S. and Vice Dean, African Diplomatic Corps.
  • An energy technology and services panel with Feyi Okungbowa, Vice President OFE SSA, Baker Hughes; Wole Ogunsanya, CEO, GeoPlex; and Tayo Akinkunmi, Country Manager, Nigeria, TechnipFMC, moderated by Ado Oseragbaje, VP — Sub-Sahara Africa, Baker Hughes.
  • A live virtual tour of a drill site with Andres Aguel, Project Sales Manager, NOV.
  • Closing comments from Hilda Suka-Mafudze, African Union Permanent Representative to the U.S.

The event ended with business networking sessions where energy companies and ambassadors could talk one-on-one. The program was made possible by the generous sponsorships of Chevron, Norton Rose Fulbright, and Schlumberger.

For additional information or to participate in next year’s African Diplomatic Orientation & Engagement Program, contact Director Government Affairs Deidre Kohlrus.

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Kevin Broom, Director Communications and Research, writes about the Council’s sector-specific best practices and leadership. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights industry practices, workforce development, Council activities and more.
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