Wood Group has been operating in Africa for over a decade, playing a fundamental role in building and evolving the sector’s infrastructure, talent, training and safety standards. The recent award of a contract to deliver integrated engineering, construction, maintenance and industrial services to Shell’s onshore oil fields in Gabon, marks a deepening of the capabilities Wood Group is offering in the region.
James Crawford, Wood Group PSN’s managing director for UK and Africa, explains why the continent’s significant development opportunities make it a growth target that remains firmly in our sights.
What was Wood Group’s first entry point into Africa?
"We took our first steps into Africa back in 1996, undertaking projects in Algeria, Equatorial New Guinea, Cameroon and Chad. We had the vision to enter countries at a very early stage. We foresaw the potential opportunities and understood that we needed to be there at grass roots level, supporting the developing sector by nurturing the local talent to ensure its sustainable long-term future. Our vision has remained unchanged; in the past five years we have spent within the region of $85million on training, focused on capacity and capability building in Africa."
Why does Africa remain a key region for us?
"Africa represents a huge development opportunity. Most of the countries in the Africa are still undeveloped, but the new generation of seismic technology has unearthed the large volume of proven reserves, which lie within the region. We’re in a place where we can see the further advancements that can be made in more mature areas such as Angola and Nigeria, but also the potential, fairly rapid development, of places such as Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and Ghana.
"And we’re well equipped as a company to deliver the broad range of services required to support our clients throughout the life cycle of their assets – from early entry into a country to late-life asset management. Wood Group PSN has predominantly focused on supporting operators in the supply of operations and maintenance and construction services on their assets. But the recent award of the Shell Gabon contract represents a step-change in showcasing the capabilities we can offer in this region. We will deliver integrated engineering, construction, maintenance and industrial services across four onshore oil fields in a contract that represents our first major contract in Gabon and creates employment opportunities for around 200 Gabonese nationals.
"Our capabilities span the industry’s lifecycle. For example, at the very fundamental development stages, we’re seeing Wood Group company Sgurr Energy use their expertise in projects such as the design and implementation of a groundbreaking renewable energy scheme that has brought a reliable source of power to a Malawian community.”
How important is it for us to develop local talent in the African countries where we operate?
"It’s fundamental. We have shown our commitment by taking an early entry position in the countries where we are now operating. This allows us to assess the local supply chain, local capability in terms of employees, and collaborate with educational institutions to develop the training of people so the skills and capacity is there when the market is ready for it.
“We have a strong history of actively working with local technical colleges and universities to help them build their curriculum for the industry. Examples can be found in Uganda, where four years ago we took a leading position in helping two key universities shape and structure their academic programmes for the sector so that they were fit for purpose. In Equatorial New Guinea we run a training school, in collaboration with Hess and on behalf of the government, which provides a three year apprentice programme. And in Mozambique we’re currently looking at how we can get involved in some of the local training schools to ensure the industry is equipped with the skilled craftsmen and technicians who will support its progress.
"We can see the success of this approach and prioritisation of local content in our operations in Cameroon and Chad, where we are 100% and 90% nationalised respectively. Our focus is on giving opportunity where it perhaps wasn’t before, understanding the positive influence we can have on a local supply chain and community by supporting in the development of skills and capabilities that provide long-term sustainability."