AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of the Springfield Group and your motivation for starting the enterprise.
Kevin Okyere: It all started around 2006 when I was working in the telecommunications industry while looking at the energy sector from the outside. Our interest led to us bidding for an oil bloc only to be denied because we were deemed as lacking in terms of sufficient funds, and technical capabilities.
After the setback, we proceeded to work on our technical and financial capabilities and it took us about a decade to get our first exploration and production opportunity. It wasn’t easy at all to get going being an indigenous person in this sector where you have to compete with established multinationals. The sector is also relatively new in Ghana and the early regulations did not offer provisions for local players. We had to grow organically by first trading hydrocarbons within Ghana, before branching into other countries in the sub-region and beyond.
We finally acquired our first asset which was the West Cape Three Points Bloc 2 Oil Bloc and we have been growing steadily ever since. Ours is a company that has and grows local talent while also incorporating international knowhow where we have challenges. Our ability to harness local talent as well as international knowhow has seen us gain from the best in both worlds. We are now proud to be the first home-grown African company in the space with a truly international focus. We also take pride in being the first company to have drilled and found hydrocarbons in deep water, which is quite remarkable.
AfricaLive: The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area will be going ahead in early 2021, hopefully acting as a catalyst for driving Intra-African trade. What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Kevin Okyere: The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement will add to our already warm relations with other countries in the region. We are going hard on gas production since our asset contains a lot of it. Gas is going to be a game-changer for Africa and Ghana in particular, in our quest to industrialise. We are working on making gas available for other countries that lack the natural resource so that they can use it in mining and other industrial uses.
Gas also helps solve the deforestation problem because it discourages the use of wood charcoal as cooking fuel. The government is rolling out a gas cylinder circulation project and we are contributing by providing affordable LPG cooking solutions. Our short term plan is to venture into other African countries and acquire more oil bloc assets, and then seek similar opportunities around the world in the long term.
AfricaLive: Within Ghana and West Africa, what do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Kevin Okyere: There are lots of opportunities in Africa that we will only benefit from if we break the psychological barrier of self-doubt. Once we get the self-doubt out of our system, we will realise that opportunities are all around us. We have arable land, gold, bauxite, cocoa, oil and a host of other resources. We appreciate that some political and security threats can come up like the recent developments in Mali. There are opportunities to correct those wrongs though. This company and many others are looking to help governments address social needs like education and unemployment. The challenges that come up in terms of skills are already being addressed by local organisations, so the threats are being mitigated.
AfricaLive: What are some of the threats in your industry and how are you implementing and embracing innovation in your operations?
Kevin Okyere: In terms of innovation, a lot has changed for the better. We shot a new 3D Broadband seismic a couple of years ago and because of the advancement of technology. It’s now so clear and much easier to identify hydrocarbons, compared to ten years ago. This has enabled us to drill in the right locations without wasting resources. Technology has enabled us to remain open during this pandemic as well because we can easily work remotely. We are now also working with modern advanced rakes that save time in terms of drilling, and that enables us to do jobs in two days that we used to do in twenty. Technology and innovation are, therefore, key to our success.
AfricaLive: There is a growing consciousness in Ghana on the need to build on the local content policy while at the same time keeping foreign investors interested. How can this delicate balance be created?
Kevin Okyere: The way forward is strong gainful partnerships with multinationals. As market leaders of indigenous origin, we understand that multinationals usually have more in terms of funding as well as experience. Despite the advantages they have in certain aspects, we are happy that the government sees the need to give local players a chance. Our partnerships with multinationals should not just be about building junior-level employees, but also C level indigenous members.
We also have to have skill and technology transfer. Local companies realise and acknowledge the challenges they have when it comes to technology and finances. This is why we are looking to align with credible international firms to help build capacity. Foreign firms need to realise that passing down skills to local firms will help them save time and make more money because they won’t have to do all the work themselves.
AfricaLive: Ghana is still a new player in this global industry, even when compared to neighbouring Nigeria. How can the country build credibility in this industry and what does the future look like?
Kevin Okyere: We are at an advantageous position being so close to Nigeria. Ghana can learn from the Nigerian experience and also gain from the experience with the Norwegian government. If we want to position ourselves as a serious player despite being so new in the industry, we will need to put in place a strong policy that supports indigenous oil and gas companies. The government must also provide some tax incentives that will pull in investors and build our profile.
Our growth as a company can serve as a blueprint for other local players, as well as a teachable moment for the government. Current and future administrations must always ensure that locals are involved in our natural resources. We intend to add value to the natural resource by eventually building a gas processing plant. Our natural gas will be processed and the by-products will be handed to LPG companies, fertiliser companies, and others. Processing will help us create new industries and improve our economic fortunes greatly.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together Ghana’s leaders from government, higher education, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ – what would be the main item on your agenda?
Kevin Okyere: I would urge the public sector representatives to do all they can to give indigenous companies a chance, while also urging local companies to take opportunities seriously. We must also put in place a development plan that we all agree on. A clear plan will guide our actions regardless of changes in government.
AfricaLive: What is your outlook for the company in the next decade and what message would you communicate about your country?
Kevin Okyere: In ten years we should be deep in production at newly acquired assets. More importantly, I would like people to look out for the impact we shall have made on the lives of people. We also want to be assessed by the number of people and businesses that we will have inspired to believe in themselves and work better. Our success will also inspire policy change within the next decade in my opinion. Barriers to entry for local firms will be lifted to a significant degree because we will have paved the way and inspired confidence.