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Inspired Women of Worth Calls for Increased Representation of Women in the Public Sector

Over 50 carefully curated network of high achieving female professionals and entrepreneurs gathered from the public sector, and business for the Abuja Leadership Series themed: “Leading in the Public Sector: Understanding and Unlocking the Opportunities in the Public Sector for Women’’ which held at Harrow Park Golf Club, Abuja from 9am-2pm. The event was hosted by the Inspired Women of Worth, an organisation which was launched in October 2010, in Johannesburg with its core mission to inspire and equip women for leadership in all aspects of life and in the community.

The objectives of the Abuja Leadership Series, was to educate and equip professional women currently serving in or interested in serving in the public sector, politics  or government in any capacity and to create a platform to give them access to a network of like-minded leaders for knowledge sharing and to leverage leadership and business opportunities.

In a welcome speech titled: The Leadership Journey, Mrs. Udo Okonjo, CEO of Fine and Country, and also Founder, IWOW network noted that “A lot of interest debate has been generated on greater diversity, and the question of gender inclusiveness both globally and locally. As a result, there’s been a measured rise of highly skilled female professionals and managers into management and leadership positions in the private sector. However, in the Nigerian Federal Civil Service which is the largest employer of Labour in Nigeria, 76% of civil servants are men, and 24% are women, while women hold only approximately 14% of the total management level positions in the Nigerian public sector.

Clearly, most senior leadership positions have been and remain the prerogative of men even in a population to where women make up approximately 49% of the population. The current administration under President Buhari, unfortunately has not brought any positive changes yet in increasing the involvement of more women at visible leadership positions with female ministers only representing 16% of his cabinet. She noted further that, Kenya and South Africa have government mandates for women’s representation on the boards of state-owned companies, while the private sector in Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa has integrated gender diversity into principles of good corporate governance. According to Udo Okonjo, equality for women is usually progress especially for the most vulnerable members of society.

We need to think differently and invest in women leadership as the way to change Africa’s political and economic landscape. Certainly with the population of women in Nigeria, there’s no reason why we can’t have a bold vision to close the gap between men and women in leadership roles starting with the public sector where Government has a 100% stake and say.

“The leadership journey starts with bold vision, and is usually triggered by exposure to great female mentors who have led and are leading the way and leaving doors open for other competent women to come through.”  Women who aren’t afraid to ask, demand and do what it takes to be found at the table with other competent men.  Udo Okonjo, who passionately believes that women are a treasure trove of possibilities, further encouraged the women present to begin to view the Leadership Series as a historic call to women everywhere to identify and take up leading roles in the public sector and other sectors of the economy.

Dr. Kema Chikwe

The very engaging keynote address was so passionately and articulately delivered by Former Ambassador, Dr. Kema Chikwe, who shared her journey and imminent rise in the public sector from her role as a diplomat, politician, teacher,   author,   publisher, wife, mother  and grandmother, representing a diverse group of women in an emerging Nigerian society.

She remarked that ‘’although certain cultural barriers has affected the role of women, it hasn’t however affected their ability to be intelligent, excellent, committed, hardworking, passionate and politically inclined to make a difference’. According to her, while society has defined roles for genders, the qualities which lead to success have not been defined or restricted to any gender.

She reiterated the need for women to be resilient in their pursuit for a place in the public sector, sharing her inspiring story. Dr. Mrs. Chikwe further stated that ‘’if you have an ambition to get elected or get appointed, you must learn to participate in party activities and you have to design an approach that makes you unique in the competitive arena of politics’’.

She advised ‘’that a successful career woman must be multi-talented, considerate and allocate time appropriately to the needs of the family. I believe a well-structured home is auto-piloted for success’’, while ending her session with the uplifting words on the power of resilience from the poem Christopher Columbus ‘’sail on, sail on and on and on’’.

Also speaking at the series was Dr. Jumoke Oduwole, SSA to the President on Industry, Trade & Investment in the office of the Vice- President, who shared on the role of excellence, humility, diligence and consistency in transitioning from the private sector to the public sector. She shared the importance of seizing the moment, networking with other like-minded professionals along with the principles of preparing diligently until opportunity meets preparation to unlock purpose. She also remarked that confidence is a critical bedrock to success.

Sophia Mbakwe, General Manager, Supply Chain Management, NNPC, shared her journey from her role in the private sector to now actively working with the government. She discussed the unending benefits and business opportunities available to women who desire or intend to do business with the government, emphasizing the need to have proper documentation and structure to be better positioned to access these opportunities.

The meeting ended with a walk on water pledge, where women affirmed to believe in themselves and be the best version of themselves even as they attained excellence in their individual lives and earn a place in the public sector, thereby inspiring the people they aspire to lead.

IWOW hosts various meetings giving professional and entrepreneurial women an opportunity to become leaders doing a world of good. The  chairperson of the Abuja Leadership organising committee was Mrs. Binta Max Gbinije, MD, Stanbic Trustees. The event was proudly sponsored by Fine and Country International W.A, Giant Beverages Limited, ZARON, Guardian Woman, Xclamations, SAS Textiles, Tes Amour, Kene Rapu.

Positive Projections for the Oil and Gas Industry.

An eventful year-2016 is just completed and the New Year 2017 is expected to deliver results for all; a Good Luck wish is much desired for the oil & gas sector. It seems in 2017, oil price dynamics will continue to remain uncertain and volatile. The bright spot is that most of the projections, including from the World Bank, indicate that oil price is on recovery path but it is far away from the sweet spot. EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices to average $52 per barrel in 2017 compared to $43 per barrel in 2016, close to 21% upward correction. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are projected to average about $51 per barrel in 2017.

The World Bank prediction is giving a more optimistic oil price value of $55 per barrel. Whereas BofA Merrill Lynch predictions are highly optimistic with WTI Crude priced at $59 per barrel and Brent – at $61 per barrel in 2017. Investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts average WTI price to be $55.6 and Brent to be $57.4 in 2017. Such optimistic predictions would make the upstream investors quite hopeful if not very comfortable. History suggests that oil price predictions have been tricky, therefore on many occasions’ forecasts have been missed by miles. Generally, predictors either over estimate or underestimate oil prices. Now most analysts are inclined towards a bullish oil market. On the contrary Standard Chartered Bank predicted oil prices falling to as low as $10 per barrel in 2016 — such a slump was last seen during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. Arguably, the prediction completely went wrong. Rather oil prices have shown good recovery towards the end of 2016. The upward oil price corrections are likely to continue in the first half of 2017 and the second half may deliver even better performance.

Factors affecting price
Major factors which influenced price of crude in 2016 include oversupply, strengthening of US dollar, increase in US crude stock, and delayed production decision of the OPEC. Fall in crude prices resulted in lower revenue realization for oil exporting countries. As a result most of the OPEC countries suffered severe financial loss. To keep their economic activities going OPEC countries were forced to maintain the production level beyond expectation.

Hope for growth
Despite slight sluggish projected growth in China and India , higher global economic growth of 3.1 percent is projected in 2017 compared to 2.9 percent in 2016. Loss of economic growth in China and India is expected to be compensated by the revival in Euro-zone, Japan, Brazil, and the USA. As a result, in 2017, world oil demand is projected to grow by 1.15 million barrel per day to average 95.56 million barrel per day. Despite marginally lower projected growth, oil demand in
India is projected to increase from 4.33 mb/pd in 2016 to 4.49 mb/pd in 2017.

As per OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report of December 2016, in 2017, demand for OPEC crude is expected to be at 32.6 mb/pd and Non-OPEC supply is expected to average 56.50 mb/pd. At the 171st Ministerial Conference, OPEC decided to implement a new OPEC-14 production target of 32.5 mb/pd, effective from 1 January 2017. The production rationalization decision of OPEC is intended to address the oversupply and alter prevailing global crude oil prices. However, the real impact on crude prices may be minimal as prices of global crude are dependent on many other factors. Tsvetana Paraskova raises plenty of questions over implementation and sustenance of OPEC production cut. Bloomberg reports that OPEC dynamics are principal driver of global crude fundamentals , therefore close monitoring of administrative and operative decisions of OPEC is critical to understand pricing dynamics.

Exploration & Production Outlook
Due to oil price slump in exploration & production (E&P) activities total rig counts in the USA has fallen from 737 in the year 2015 to 597 in 2016, 19 percent year-on-year drop. However, on the backdrop of projected oil price, the US oil and gas companies are expected to speed up E&P activities in 2017. Similarly, oil & gas companies in OPEC countries, Europe, and other oil & gas producing countries are expected to step up E&P activities in 2017. Almost $50 billion of U.S. upstream merger & acquisition deals were announced in 2016, higher than the $30.7 billion for 2015. This is a clear indication that an anticipated price recovery excites the investors. Further, better pricing may act as a catalyst for revival of unconventional oil and shale gas activities in the US 2017.

Ongoing Challenges
The OPEC Bulletin (Oct. 2016) highlights that the oil & gas industry, especially the upstream faces multiple challenges such as: the uncertain prospects for the global economy; managing excessive speculation; geopolitical dynamics; attracting investment, managing advances in technology for efficient exploration and production; and environmental and sustainable development. Further, during the downturns bringing together all the stakeholders to develop comprehensive approaches to address complex issues remains as challenging as before. These challenges will continue to remain in 2017 and beyond.

Conclusion
Global oil & gas industry is on the recovery path which is going to strengthen in 2017. Oil price is predicted to be in the reasonable zone of $55-60 per barrel, which would reduce stress on E&P sector. Slump in oil price proved beneficial for Indian economy and downstream companies strengthening their financial position. The government’s strategic decisions and policy reforms in the petroleum sector are poised to bring positive results starting 2017. All segments of petroleum sector namely: upstream, mid-stream and downstream are expected to attract higher investments. Improvements in the areas of oil & gas production, LNG infrastructure, pipeline network, and CGD network would be seen in 2017. Mr. Modi’s drive for cashless society would have bigger impact on petroleum sector. The petroleum retail outlets are going to play a critical role to make cashless society a reality.