Dr Ibilola Amao is a leading advocate of Local Content Laws and its outright implementation in the oil and gas sector. She was very involved in the various activities that greeted the actualization of the Nigerian oil and gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) guidelines before it was eventually passed into law on the 22nd of April, 2010. Via her STEM and local content activities, she creates value through community, local supplier and human capital development in resource-rich emerging economies. She sits on the Board of various reputable STEM focused firms. She holds a Ph.D. in Computer-Aided-Design and Draughting from Bradford University, UK; and she is recognized as a Forbes Africa Rising Star 2019.
Dr Amao is the Principal Consultant of Lonadek Inc., an engineering, technology and innovations solutions consulting company incorporated in 1991. As the Energy Woman of our February issue, here are highlights from her interview with JEROME ONOJA.
You have established a brand for yourself in STEM pursuits via several global collaborations. What are these collaborations and the goals before you as a social innovator/entrepreneur?
The reason I set up the Vision 2020 programme was because I realized there was a disconnect between the skills required in the high-technology oil and gas industry and what was being churned out from the underfunded educational system in Nigeria. This shocking experience happed in November 2005, when Lonadek was asked to source for personnel by a multinational company. A few staff at Lonadek and I decided to engage the next generation through career counselling, industry awareness and youth empowerment activities.
I realized there was a challenge in getting talents and knowledgeable Nigerian’s in STEM.
We need to have round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes, and organize career talks for young people because it is important to harness the young talents that we have in STEM, Nigeria. Through the initiative (a 15-year project that ends this year), we expose them to the industry and empower them so that they can combine their potential with their talents and passion then deliver on their mandate joyfully for 30/35 years. Since 2006,
we have collaborated with many organization and individuals to achieve the aim of educating and empowering Nigerians in STEM. The initiative involves collaboration with stakeholders in Government and the Private Sector to promote science and technology-biased professional and vocational development in youths who otherwise may, for lack of proper career guidance and counselling, resort to restive activity or delinquency. Our core focus is to impact and empower senior secondary school students, 1st and 2nd year undergraduates to become innovators and world leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
We have hosted 29 Career Workshops in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, 13 Summer Camps in Lagos, Shell Women’s Network Career Day in Lagos, World Skills & Science Day in Lagos, 2 Offshore West Africa Youth Empowerment Programmes in Lagos, Girls in STEM Programmes and 1 Jigsaw Puzzle Competition.
The goal is to empower 100,000 youths by the 31st of December, 2020.
since inception, we have empowered over 95,000 youths.
Kindly highlight on some of these efforts and the measured impact with the girl child.
In line with the Vision 2020 YERI focus; YERI is passionate about the education and empowerment of the girl-child particularly in STEM. The low participation of girls and women in STEM fields can be observed at all levels of education, with the likelihood for female participation to decrease as the level of education rises. This is mirrored in the labor market where there are few women in STEM related careers, and women are largely absent in higher level managerial and decision-making positions. This event is targeted at challenging, mentoring and empowering the girl-child to become global leaders in STEM.
The Girls in STEM Initiative is a social impact and sustainability initiative
with its full focus on creating an atmosphere where young women and young girls are brought together and exposed to hands-on learning, thereby helping them build skills in digital literacy, STEM, leadership and entrepreneurship as well as mentoring. This project, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Quality Education and Gender Equality, is committed to empowering secondary school girls (ages 13 – 17) to take up Science-based subjects and choose STEM fields like Mobile Application, Website Development, Coding, Renewable Energy, Data Analytics, Robotics, Gaming, and 3D Animation etc. and so on as a future career in manufacturing and other STEM related companies which are already male dominated. It will also increase the number of young girls and women who are actively involved in STEM by also coaching and mentoring of girls by women.
Ninety percent (90%) of girls who attended our Girls in STEM Programs reported an increased interest in the area of STEM.
Data from our follow-up activities state that a number of our female alumni are pursuing a degree in the area of STEM in the University.
Please, list some milestone achievements with those goals and the STEM vision. Put numbers to it.
In the last 14 years, Vision 2020: YERI has hosted 29 Career Workshops in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, 13 Summer Camps in Lagos, Shell Women’s Network Career Day in Lagos, World Skills & Science Day in Lagos, 2 Offshore West Africa Youth Empowerment Programmes in Lagos, Girls at the Cinema Show (Watching Hidden Figures, in collaboration with the US Consulate), Girls in STEM Programmes and 1 Jigsaw Puzzle Competition with
95,000 youths empowered through hands-on STEM programmes.
Quite a few of our success stories include testimonies of award winning and ground breaking achievements, international scholarships and leadership positions in STEM at a global level. We emphasize patriotism in the programmes so most of our success story alumni look forward to contributing to the development of Nigeria through sustainable and innovative solutions. We get surprise emails, text messages, LinkedIn connections, social media messages, phone calls and surprise visits from our thriving alumni.
How do you rate the integration of present innovative technologies into Nigeria’s tech world, the oil industry and other sectors at large? (Machine Learning, AI, 3D printing, Robotics).
The present innovation technologies have tremendously helped in the development of all sectors of the economy by increasing discovery and recovery, reducing costs, enhancing safety and protecting the environment. In the oil industry issues of oil bunkering, quantity of crude lifted have been resolved with the use of latest technology. Countries such as Saudi Arabia have been utilizing big data in its upstream business for years, and they have implemented several advanced analytic solutions including operational, predictive, analytics. The world is moving faster in to technologically advanced stages that we can only dream of in Africa at this point. The curriculums have changed from listen and learn to act, learn, build, and repeat. The curriculum, quality and style of teaching needs to change. The gap between industry and academia needs to be closed. We need to mechanize, industrialize, automate before we can digitalize. With operations and maintenance today being optimized through digital twins, I am worried about how we would optimize our natural and mineral resources when education-spend is nowhere near 26% of our budget.
We seem like jokers when we start talking about AI, 3D, robotics.
Without the required quantity of power and uninterrupted power, how can we leverage technology at an optimum scale?
I truly wonder. What we need to do is develop clusters and innovation hubs where some success can be achieved and demonstrated to spur others on.
What improvements would you want to see with technology in the energy space, and how can it be driven?
The development in integrated renewable energy planning and investment, and empowerment/education of the youth in STEM courses are areas of necessary improvement in the energy sector.
Energy use, particularly energy efficiency and renewable energy, needs to be a core part of the education system
as swiftly as possible, with a view to changing public behavior and expanding participation in a growing renewable-energy sector. Smart Grids tied to accurately monetized gas-to-power projects would go a long way to alleviating environmental problems while reviving the manufacturing and industrial base of Nigeria. I would like to overhaul the 400 and 500 level curriculum in higher learning institutions so that learning in teams, entrepreneurship and innovation forms 70% of their assessment in STEM. If we promote solutions alongside certificates and degrees, Nigeria would have more fresh graduates as employers rather than job hunters. I would like to see more scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians become the go to persons that solve Nigeria’s problems through innovation. If these ones and educators are appreciated and celebrated rather than crooks, we would move forward as a nation.
Via your Twitter account, we see an advocacy for a better Nigeria. From the various polls you’ve conducted, what’s the feedback on how best we can move the country forward?
FeedBackNigeria is the expression of a pained patriotic Nigerian who is unbelievably frustrated by irresponsible leadership and bad Governance that exists in Nigeria. It is my heart’s cry to the next generation who would be able to see the lone voice in the wilderness crying out to others to take action.
It is my humble contribution towards data gathering so that anyone has free access to the average Nigerian’s thoughts
about issues at hand. I run a poll on Saturdays to sensitize others about pressing issues with a call to action where there is need for one.
What are some of the Women Empowerment programmes you participate in? List them and their goals. Fruitages too.
I am a very grateful female entrepreneur in a male-dominated space. I cherish this privilege so, I work tirelessly to identify, develop and engage others when the opportunity arises. As a beneficiary of the Vital Voices (VV GROW, VV 100, VV GAP sponsored by Johnson & Johnson USA, Bank of America, Akin Grump), WeConnect WBE, International Women Entrepreneurship Challenge (IWEC) Awardee, WimBiz and WiE member, I do not take investment in women likely. I also set up a Facebook page for Women and Girl in STEM in Africa. I post grant, funding, competition, Award, fellowship and scholarship opportunities on this page so that others may benefit.
Considering local content, what’s your drive and where do you see Nigeria in the nearest future?
We must commend the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) that fought the wars of indigenous companies being awarded contracts
in spite of their lack of huge capital. The IOCs dominated the industry when it was argued that indigenous companies didn’t have the capacity, capability and competence. However, today, PETAN we were able to establish the importance of local participation. We recognize the efforts of international companies like Schlumberger and Halliburton that helped a lot of Nigerian companies to set up their own, and today, we have Nigerian companies providing services either independently or in partnership. The passage of the law in 2010 created opportunities for indigenous companies.
Nigeria has been blessed with a visionary Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) team that have done a great job with Execution of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act. I am impressed with the institution built by Engr. Ernest Nwapa and happy that Engr. Simbi Wabote who once questioned the speed at which local content was to be implemented is doing an excellent job at accelerating the progress of NCDMB. I need to add that Simbi’s goal to integrate women in to the Oil and Gas supply chain based on merit and performance needs to be commended. Today, my drive is to see more women-owned businesses achieve outstanding performance.
You are an academic doctor why do you prefer the industry to the classroom?
I am happiest training, teaching and disseminating knowledge. Unfortunately for me my stint at UniLag and
the beauracracy around education in Nigeria has not allowed me give of my best in education.
The work, projects and activities that give me immense joy are talent focused. I add value through Lonadek by putting an entrepreneurial spin on what I would have done as an individual.
Several funds exist to support the growth of women-owned businesses, why aren’t we seeing a huge spike in the participation here in Nigeria?
Women in Nigeria need to be better organized. Fund access is tied to strategic value creation through partnerships, alliances and collaborations. No donor agency of repute will take a risk on a one man business.
Apart from sustainability and SDG compliance, the donor wants to see collaboration in networks, groups, companies and institutions
that can form the right synergies to deliver value. I have been blessed through my role on the Governing Council of the Energy Institute UK (2nd Term – Year 2) and my role as a member of the panel of judges of the Royal Academy of Engineers Africa Prize to understand how small and narrow we think as African’s. It makes sense to see the big picture in all situations before considering how one gets in to create maximum value. As African’s we need to work very hard on the trust factor while we rid ourselves of greed and corruption.
What is that common denominators you see affect professional women in Sub Saharan Africa; and how can it be addresses?
Our common denominator is having a heart for our children and the next generation. We see things from a sustainability perspective more naturally than our male counterparts. We can multi-task and deliver on whatever we set our mind to do. If given a chance, we bring diversity and a wealth of gut knowledge with alternative perspectives to the table. I have enjoyed working with my male counterparts over the years because we see things differently and can create more value when we converge away from our original perspective. When we both win, a lot more people win.
What’s was your greatest obstacle to the position where you are right now?
None really. I have positivity in me and I see obstacles with a lens of opportunities. The greatest opportunity I have had is launching out from the peak of any achievement and finding the bottom of something else where I can start from the scratch. It stimulates learning. I have been blessed severally, when an obstacle, problem, limitation or hostility is thrown at me. When I quit, I am divinely redirected to something bigger and better. God has me in the palm of His hands.
How do you ensure work-life balance considering the fact that you have so much on your plate?
I delegate, I empower, I collaborate and I function better in teams. I have been blessed with awesome people who provide me with support of all kinds and manner. On the home front it was sisters, parents, a very understanding husband and nannies. At work it has been by exceptional talent and in society, exceptional friends. I pick my battles. I am passion driven. I do only those things that make my adrenalin pump. I am not driven by money or the desire to acquire wealth. I am legacy driven. I know my purpose and want to raise the next generation of leaders that would do greater works.