Data can become Nigeria's new "black gold"

Labi Ogunbiyi

In the early 2000s I decided to leave my job heading the African project finance team in a global law firm to become an investor. My experience of managing big telecoms, infrastructure and energy transactions — and, regrettably, often disputes — involving governments, project sponsors, investors, big contractors, multilateral and development agencies had left me dissatisfied. Much of the ownership of the assets being fought over remained in the hands of international conglomerates. Africa’s lack of capacity to raise the capital to own them directly — and to develop the technical skills necessary for growth — was a clear weakness.

I knew that if we could bring in the ability to do both those things, we could stimulate interest in building a domestic oil and gas industry in Nigeria. Over the next decade many domestic companies were established. These gained access to the international capital markets, helping them raise finance to buy and develop assets. In total, according to the Department of Petroleum Resources, the domestic industry now controls up to half of Nigeria’s reserves, though about only 10 per cent of production. But without much-needed investment these reserves will be written down.

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