The Ghana chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors, CBOD, has become a major contributor to the growth of the country’s oil and gas industry. The agency which serves as the advocacy, lobby and representative body of the industry is no doubt set to promote the interest of the industry in Ghana. In this exclusive Interview with Africa Energy & Infrastructure magazine, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Senyo Hosi, talks about the organization’s strides and the efforts towards balancing the aspiration of policy makers with the interest of business persons in the industry. Excerpt:
In few sentences, please describe the person of MR. SENYO HOSI.
I am a man of very humble beginnings. I am one of eight kids brought up by Christian parents in Accra. Mum and dad created a very welcoming household into which extended family members, foster children and other kids in the community came together to work, play and pray. In such a big household one learns to be a people-person as well as a motivated gogetter. These humble beginnings made me a value-driven person who cares a great deal about how much value I’m adding to the space around me.
I am passionate about public policy, citizen engagement and responsibility and the economic development of Africa. Having travelled around the continent and partly brought up in Nigeria, I consider myself a proud son of the continent who believes that through hard-work and well-thought out public policies the continent can move from third-world to first-world status in little to no time. I belong to the school of thought that believes that public policy ought to be driven more by the citizenry and the business world who have more at stake in each economy than just politicians.
Reports have it that you were instrumental to the development of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors into a major representative, advocacy, lobby and industry strategy and policy organization in the Ghanaian and West African downstream petroleum industry. How were you able to achieve this feat?
From about 2010 I was a director of a bulk oil distribution company. In this role, I was able to build quite a network within the industry. Between 2012 and 2013 the industry was hit by a crisis that threatened the viability of most companies in the oil sector if not the entire sector itself.
Growing debts from unpaid government subsidies, policy inconsistencies and foreign exchange complications drove the commercial viability of the 3.5-billiondollar industry to the brink. Players within the industry realized at this point that they could not deal with the crisis individually and the best thing to do was to band together and engage with policy makers to tackle the crisis. My people skills came in handy at this point and that was what led to the setting up of the Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors in Ghana with me at the helm. The aim was to bring solutions to the table and deliver value both to the government and the business people in the industry.
I’d say that the secret to our success so far is hinged on the realization that we needed to find an optimal balance between the aspirations of policy makers and the interest of business persons in a way that inures to the national interest. This requires an effective understanding of the policy makers and offering sustainable solutions backed with competent policy analyses. It made me earn the confidence and cooperation of policy makers and stakeholders through whom I have had the opportunity to play a role beyond the Ghanaian borders.
Some years back the world recorded a crash in oil prices which affected economic growth, and recession in some cases. Ghana’s oil and gas sector seems to have stayed afloat despite the terrible times. What were some of the measures put in place to ensure relative stability amidst the crisis?
This is largely a question for the upstream sector. But for us in the downstream sector, the crash was relatively beneficial because the trade capital requirements significantly dropped. On the upstream side it had negative implications for government revenue. To deal with it, government introduced taxes on the downstream sector and particularly the pump prices to claw back consumer surpluses which were rather retained by transporters and other bulk consumers, whose savings from the fall in prices did not translate into reduced prices of their services and products. From a public policy perspective, I supported the introduction of the special petroleum tax and subsequently the passage of the energy sector levies Act, of which I was one of the key architects. The Act provided an income stream to fund government’s payment of energy sector debts amounting to about $2.5 billion which threatened the entire financial sector. From a broad economic perspective, we translated the crash in oil prices into an opportunity to resuscitate the financial sector and the heavily-indebted energy sector.
Coming from a largely financial academic background, will you say your expertise in economic and financial matters accounts for your managerial successes as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors?
It’s been relevant in my ability to develop solutions to the challenges that have bedeviled the sector, many of which have been financial in nature. My economic policy background equipped me with the technical skills for policy analyses and to better contextualize problems and effectively advocate solutions. My role has been to lead but the success has been delivered by the team of committed, hardworking and competent staff backed with the confidence reposed in us by our board and the co-operation of government and industry stakeholders.
What are some of the new strategies the chamber would like to implement towards growth and development in the year 2018?
We have spent the last four years trying to resuscitate the industry by correcting the debt issues. We’ve worked with government to restructure key operating policies like the licensing regime and regulatory framework for petroleum services providers among others.
2018 would be focused on setting the industry on the path of commercial sustainability and preparing existing players for relevance in government’s vision to turn Ghana into a downstream hub. The downstream hub vision of the Government will be the focus of our deliberations at the Ghana international Petroleum Conference to be held in Accra from the 7th to the 9th of March 2018.
We will be investing in developing Ghana’s foreign exchange derivative market to help mitigate the forex risk faced by the industry. We will be investing in trade credit management systems and policies that will rate trade credit and curb the wanton abuse of trade credit from the customers of bulk distribution companies and other bulk consumers. Addressing these two issues helps to de-risk the sector and promote funding confidence in the sector. In pursuit of the vision to turn Ghana into a downstream hub we will facilitate industry collaboration in investment in common infrastructure like the single point mooring facilities, pipelines etc. to minimize the country’s supply risks. We will continue to invest in policy analysis and table solutions to shape government’s role in the sector in ways that promote market activity and minimize government risk and promote regulatory productivity.
How do you balance your career and family life? What are some of the things you do during your leisure time?
I recognize that my family is my primary responsibility and not my Job. I have been blessed with a lovely wife and two children who will surely love to spend more time with me. But they are also gracious enough to appreciate the demands of the work I do, and they have been very supportive. I have consciously structured my schedule to enable me spend time with the family. Both my kids enjoy playing video games, chatting or just going for walks. As for my wife, she loves to chat.
Mentorship has been identified as one of the surest ways to get responsible and knowledgeable youths who can give back to the society in the future. Do you share this school of thought? If yes, how can Africans fully utilize the benefits of mentorship towards a greater future?
I think every successful Business or corporate African who fails to be responsible for driving the success of a minimum 10 other non-family Africans has failed the continent. The transformation of Africa can only truly come from its own people. The more competent our social and technical skills, the more impactful we can be in this world. Technical skills may fairly be acquired in schools, through education but the social skills required to thrive will be dependent on the mentoring support we give the growing youth of Africa.
As the continent with one of the most youthful populations on the planet it is the responsibility of existing business leaders to impact the youth in an intense manner and quickly equip them with the skills to make Africa the next economic frontier for the African. For their part, the youth must seek to learn and invest in their own technical and social competencies with the recognition that they do not compete with the mediocrity observed in Africa but with the excellence of the advanced world.