Dr Gabriel Onagoruwa – Chair, Finance and Project Development at Olaniwun Ajayi (UK) LLP
Published 31st August 2022
by Dr Gabriel Onagoruwa, Olaniwun Ajayi (UK) LLP, and Jack Ingram, Energy Council
Gabriel, tell the Energy Council network about Olaniwun Ajayi and how you’re working across the energy industry?
Olaniwun Ajayi is a premier go-to African international law firm, with offices in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. Established more than 60 years ago, the firm has grown across different industries & sectors, covering 12 diverse practice areas, with an established reputation as a market-leading oil & gas and energy law firm.
We are delighted to have outperformed our peers on the global stage, having led on several world-class deals across Africa’s active energy industry. At Olaniwun Ajayi, we imagine a global energy value chain in which Africa’s contribution is efficiently and sustainably utilized for global dealmakers and domestic stakeholders, and we are proud of the role we continue to play in achieving this vision of growth and development.
We are honoured to be leading front and centre on some of the market-making transactions in the EMEA region, based on our vision of a sustainable use of Africa’s energy resources to the benefit of domestic markets and international investors. Indeed, we are proud that one of our most recent deals – the transitioning of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Africa’s largest national oil company, into a limited-by-shares, profit-oriented energy company – is poised to break new frontiers in Nigeria’s energy market. We are hopeful this move signals a direction towards more market-friendly and liberal reforms, taking shape across the EMEA energy market.
We continue to provide quality legal and market advisory services to numerous stakeholders in the energy sector, ranging from operators to regulators and policymakers. We believe strongly in Africa’s emerging role on the global energy landscape, and we are focused on this strategy in providing best-in-class legal advice and commercial guidance to international investors, as well as connecting different stakeholders in order to maximize the yet-untapped potentials within the EMEA energy market.
How does Olaniwun Ajayi stand out in terms of its offerings to energy clients?
Our core role as a leading pan African law firm, is to give excellent and commercial legal and business solutions to global energy clients looking to invest in the EMEA market. With four offices distributed over 2 continents and being the first African-born law firm to establish offices in London, Olaniwun Ajayi is uniquely placed to stand out as a leader in the legal market.
London is Olaniwun Ajayi’s first international presence outside Nigeria and we have plans to extend our office network throughout Africa. Our strategy is to build on the firm’s market leading reputation for high-end legal services, across key industrial and commercial sectors in Africa, including power & renewable energy, infrastructure & utilities, oil & gas, mining & metals, manufacturing, healthcare, agribusiness and fintech. Our thinking behind this strategy is to be able to provide an integrated legal service platform for global clients who require end-to-end global-to-local-context guidance on transactions in and related to Africa.
There have been significant changes in the requirements of international and domestic investors in and out of Africa due to the multi-jurisdictional nature of transactions which are typically governed by a mix of English law and the law of the location of the transaction. In the past, these investors and financial institutions have looked to international law firms based in London or Paris, which have then turned to local law firms to provide relevant domestic legal advice. This model may not fully take account of the regulatory and cultural sensitivities that an Africa-centric approach provides.
Olaniwun Ajayi is now able to fill this gap and provide clients with a significant and credible integrated alternative option in financing, investment and corporate transactions. Our unique problem-solving approach involves straddling a global network of connections, made up of solution providers and stakeholders, while providing the necessary local-context expertise for global energy clients. We are confident that the inclusion of a global-facing boutique London office reassures our international clients, of our commitment as a global partner in managing the completion and closing of international energy deals.
While there are lingering worries on the uncertainty of some regulatory policies in emerging markets, we are optimistic about the general direction in which Africa’s energy industry is heading.
You’ll be steering and moderating the ‘Global Energy Transition Perspectives: Taking off the Blinkers – How Can A Global Value Chain Approach The Energy Transition In A Pragmatic Way To Achieve Success?’ session at our flagship show, WECA – the energy transition is clearly something that will accelerate at different rates across the world. How do we ensure that this is recognised and that we pull together in this area??
From a domestic context, the energy transition debate has been a really interesting one to follow. While global investment trends suggest a leaning towards the adoption of green energy solutions, certain stakeholders in the Africa energy market have urged caution concerning the Africa region not being left behind, amidst the global drive towards the adoption of sustainable energy solutions at the expense of maximum energy utilization.
In fact, the Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo in a recent Economist feature, voiced concerns at the imbalanced global approach being taken towards climate goals to the possible detriment of developing markets. This largely demonstrates the direction in which most emerging markets’ policymakers in Africa are thinking, on the energy transition debate.
To add a broader context to the energy transition debate from the perspective of developed markets, new dynamics such as the geopolitical risks of the Russia-Ukraine war, and lingering Covid-19 pandemic worries in China, upending the global energy industry, are factors which may introduce a varied position on the global transition strategies of investors, operators, and policymakers in developed and emerging energy markets.
Ultimately, platforms like WECA allow for an open, honest, and integrated debate with a view to providing industry stakeholders with a clearer vision of how to plan their commercial strategy, bearing in mind, the nuanced factors brought to bear across different markets.
What excites you and the firm about the future of our industry and how is Olaniwun Ajayi positioned to support the sector?
We are very excited about potential reforms being seen across Africa’s energy industry. Notably, Nigeria’s efforts at reforming its oil and gas sector with the passing and gradual implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act, is one of the recent silver linings which demonstrate a possible readiness of Africa for global investors. While there are lingering worries on the uncertainty of some regulatory policies in emerging markets, we are optimistic about the general direction in which Africa’s energy industry is heading.
We are also particularly interested in renewable energy solutions being developed across the EMEA market. Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa are some of Africa’s leading energy investment destinations in this regard. We predict an increasingly integrated approach towards creating solutions for renewable energy utilization and this may feature an increased participation from financiers into Africa’s renewable energy resources.
Against the backdrop of rising gas demand in the EU market, renewed international efforts at establishing partnerships for Africa’s gas resources is another interesting development to watch.
We are constantly driven to fully understand the factors shaping a fast-paced industry, and we are working closely with different stakeholders including regulators, financiers, operators and policymakers, in the energy industry to develop market-making transactions, as well as sustainable policies and strategies which would bring the benefits of Africa’s vast energy resources to the domestic and international markets.
What predictions do you and the team have for 2022/23 – what market activity and trends can we expect to see moving forwards?
Olaniwun Ajayi is planning additional recruitment in London and to extend its service offering to meet and exceed client’s expectations. The overriding aim is to develop a pan-African structure where the firm’s services can be accessed across the key African energy markets and other leading jurisdictions, in a closely integrated approach that considers the law where respective transactions are taking place.
There is no doubt that in the short term, sharply rising global oil & gas demand, the Russia-Ukraine war, intermittent Covid-19 lockdowns in China, and a possible US-Iran nuclear deal to lift sanctions, are some of the dynamic factors currently impacting the global energy outlook.
In the domestic context, Nigeria, Africa’s leading crude oil exporter, is undertaking its implementation of the oil and gas sector reform law, so we expect other significant regulatory developments in that sector to follow. In addition, the outcome of Nigeria’s national elections, in February 2023, may influence the direction of the country’s energy market.
We likewise believe the outcomes of certain mulled mergers and acquisitions activity in Nigeria’s upstream sector, and their eventual outcomes, should shape the gameplan for international investors and stakeholders.
Broadly, we are confident of Africa’s potential in the global energy market, and our world class, experienced lawyers are ready to provide local, national and international guidance and advice for investors operating in or looking to break into that market.
Olaniwun Ajayi are a premium sponsor of the Energy Council’s World Energy Capital Assembly, where Dr Gabriel Onagoruwa will be moderating the panel on ‘Global Energy Transition Perspectives: Taking off the Blinkers – How Can A Global Value Chain Approach The Energy Transition In A Pragmatic Way To Achieve Success?’
World Energy Capital Assembly
Returning to London 28 - 29 November 2022
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“Olaniwun Ajayi is Africa’s premier international law firm with a track record spanning nearly six decades. With over 100 lawyers across the key political and commercial African hubs of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, the firm’s new office in the heart of the City of London is a vital component in the firm's strategy to address the needs of its clients for integrated, end-to-end legal services, transaction management and efficiency on cross-border transactions across key markets in Africa.
Through its team of highly-experienced, English law qualified lawyers with demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the African context and a network of relationship firms in Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa and the Maghreb, the firm is strategically positioned in meeting the expectations of clients – from transaction inception to completion – for high-end and specialist legal services across key industries in Africa, including power and renewable energy, infrastructure and utilities, oil & gas, mining and metals, industry and manufacturing, healthcare and Fintech.
Olaniwun Ajayi has established itself as the market leader and Africa’s preeminent full-service law firm.”