Sahara Energy Resources – A Global Nigerian Company

Sahara Energy Resources is an energy company that is reaching across the globe, but its identity and culture are steadfastly Nigerian.

The Sahara Group has its centre of gravity in Nigeria, but its presence extends through much of Africa and out into Europe, the Middle East and Asia. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the company, and that quarter-century has been a journey of discovery: building capability and expanding the company’s presence organically into new businesses, countries and continents.

“We have operations in 42 countries and are truly an integrated company with activities that extend along the power, oil and gas chain,” says Andrew Laven, COO of the Sahara Group. “Our upstream business is focused on opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. The midstream and trading business continues to expand its footprint in and outside of Africa, supported by investments such as downstream infrastructure and markets through Asharami Synergy and purpose-built LPG tankers.”

The Sahara Group company, Sahara Power, has a portfolio of power plants that includes the Egbin Power Plc, which is the largest thermal power plant in sub-Saharan Africa and Ikeja Electric supplies electricity to over a million households.

Meanwhile, the Sahara Foundation, Sahara’s corporate responsibility vehicle, has implemented several sustainable development projects with over two million beneficiaries across its locations.

“At the heart of Sahara’s business objectives, lies an unwavering commitment to promoting good corporate citizenship across the globe,” Laven tells us. “Over the years, Sahara Foundation has served as the vehicle through which all Corporate Sustainability and Community Development initiatives have been implemented in certain countries across Africa and the rest of the world.”

This has included funding and mentoring in the energy innovation sector through the Sahara Impact Fund, cancer awareness, screening and treatment programmes, eye care programmes and the provision of care for people living with HIV/AIDs. The Foundation has also provided mechanised water systems to rural communities and supported schools and education through a wide array of schemes and donations. But this is only a tiny fraction of what the Sahara Foundation achieves.

Clean and Affordable Energy

The Sahara Group itself also takes its responsibilities seriously, particularly in the field of clean energy. The Group supports the growing global demand for clean energy and the shift towards a lower carbon footprint. Riding on the success of previous partnerships, in 2019 Sahara and the UNDP entered into another partnership to promote access to clean and affordable energy in Africa for over 650 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Sahara is passionate about green energy and environmental conservation,” Laven says. “We have launched our Green Life Project, aimed at driving energy and ecological conservation initiatives across our business operations and partnerships. This has birthed initiatives like the electronic billing system (e-billing) by Ikeja Electric as the catalyst for a re-think of environmental conservation in the energy sector. We use electric buggies/scooters and bicycles and invest in an oxygen bottling facility on the plant to harness the oxygen generated as a by-product of the plant cooling mechanism.”

Through Egbin that oxygen, a key ingredient in the fight for life in the ICU, is donated freely to medical facilities.

“Our vision is clear – to be the provider of choice wherever energy is consumed!” Laven tells us.

A Unique Voice

Through all this, the Sahara Group is driven by its African identity.

“Our African roots and heritage give the Sahara Brand a unique voice in the global energy sector,” Laven says. “We are the nexus connecting Africa to the world through global energy solutions driven by a robust network of partners and stakeholders committed to bringing energy to life. Who would have thought the world would look to Africa for energy solutions?”

The Sahara Group is spearheading this narrative, leading other African businesses towards global competitiveness and innovation.

“We are passionately global in our business outlook, yet unwaveringly local in understanding the specificity of the needs of each location,” Laven explains. “Ultimately, we are disruptors of boundaries and innovators of tailored energy solutions that ensure no one is left behind when it comes to promoting access to energy and sustainable environments.”

While the Sahara Group is a global company, its African heritage informs everything it does.

“I think that from a personal perspective you always need to recognise what you’re good at and that comes from where you come from,” Laven points out. “When I look at what Sahara is and wants to do, we’re an African company with an enormous history in Africa and that is the foundation for our history and allows us to use it as a springboard into other locations. An African company doing business in Africa should inevitably have an advantage over any other company trying to do business, but it also gives you a different perspective on how business can be done elsewhere in the world.  The mix of cultures and the ability to bring those cultures to bear is fascinating.”

On top of its African heritage, the Sahara Group also has a strong culture of its own.

“The Sahara Group culture is unique, and it takes a unique, even unusual type of personality to excel in our environment,” Laven says. “Our aim when it comes to recruitment is to constantly look out for individuals who are imaginative, dynamic in their thought processes, teachable and who display a lot of grit. We also believe flexibility is of crucial importance as we live in a world where adaptability is required to reinforce our high-performance culture.”

The Sahara Group’s selection process seeks out individuals excited about making a difference both within and outside the business. Candidates undergo a selection process that reflects Sahara’s diversity as a company. Where an individual is not an experienced hire, Sahara looks out for “raw talent” which can be built upon.

“Once candidates emerge as Saharians- this is how we address our employees. They become immersed in our culture of continuous learning and development,” Laven says proudly. “At Sahara, ownership is crucial for us in line with our mantra, ‘Your job is not done until the job is done.’”

Laven believes the Sahara Group’s culture is the product of the Group’s directors, and their participation in the company.

“What that opens the door to is essentially a culture of getting things done,” he says.

While celebrating 25 years of that culture, Laven is also looking to the next 25 years.

“Innovation will most certainly define Sahara’s brand positioning as we pursue our agenda of transforming conventional business borders and barriers to opportunities for diversification,” Laven says. “We are already making good progress in this direction, aligning our human capital resources and processes to support agile, smart, and innovative solutions. Ultimately, creating a sustainable economic, social, and governance impact remains central to Sahara’s corporate strategy as we focus on growing our annual revenues in excess of $10 billion, driven by almost 5,000 uniquely gifted employees.”

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