Local companies must be able to respond to industry demands, which are very technical and rigorous.

A strategy for growth in Angola

August 23, 2021

Alan Glyn-Cuthbert, general manager of Petrowork Solution, talks to The Energy Year about how the Local Content Law can support growth in the domestic oil and gas industry and why the company has focused on building a solid Angolan workforce. Petrowork Solution is an Angolan service company set up to provide diverse support to the oil and gas industry.

How has Petrowork managed to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic?
We’ve experienced the same challenges as everyone else, which, just like with everyone else, led to a very large reduction in work. Our clients reduced their activities significantly, so we were forced to follow suit. But, given the scope of our services in the Angolan oil and gas market, we’ve been fortunate enough to keep up a reasonable degree of activity. We haven’t shut down and we’ve been able to adjust our activities on all fronts. Most importantly, we kept all our employees safe.
We have long been offering and developing a diversified portfolio of services. Lately, the industry has required a lot of surface facilities protection services, given the exposure to the oil and gas environment. We have significantly expanded the corrosion protection line of our business by adding surface preparation, plastic coating and painting services. Painting is one of the major services we provide to the industry, as well as coating, insulation and fire protection.
We have other activities in our portfolio such as manpower supply and scaffolding. The latter two are areas that experienced a significant reduction in activity as they require lots of physical interaction. Other service areas like coating and painting remained pretty strong as they are very relevant to the preservation of facilities.

In what ways will the new local content law support growth in the domestic oil and gas industry?
The new Local Content Law (in fact it’s a Presidential Decree on Local Content), brings a change in paradigm for the whole concept of providing support to Angolan service companies in becoming more competitive and able to be contracted for services within the industry. In the past, for most part, companies would pretty much co-ordinate by themselves who they wanted to work with, as the regulatory framework wasn’t strong enough. What we need now is to make the law work and see how it works in practice.
This law will give guidance on how international companies must operate in Angola and give more relevance to the Angolan entities. It will also challenge the Angolan workforce and Angolan companies to step up and interact with larger companies and, as a result, become more competitive and efficient.
It will provide more incentives for local businesses and consequently lead to a greater local participation and involvement; more Angolan companies will be encouraged to grow, thus creating more employment, industry growth and opportunities for greater value creation on all fronts within the Angolan economy.

What are the still-existing challenges for the local services community as it increases its participation in the sector?
With or without the law, the challenges in Angola have been the same for many years. It’s the ability of local companies to evolve technically and financially to a point where they can also be a relevant participant in the services sector in-country. What we see now is only a handful of really competitive domestic services companies that can offer complex services of their own. The challenge for the rest of the industry is to evolve in those two areas and bring their personnel along. They need to comply with international requirements and regulations and be efficient technical and commercially.
Local companies must be able to respond to industry demands, which are very technical and rigorous. Those are the challenges that the Angolan companies need to overcome and perhaps can’t overcome by themselves in the mid/long term.
One of the options for them would be to partner with more robust international companies, so that they can empower their portfolios and become more competitive. At Petrowork, we are continuously exploring partnership opportunities in Europe and the US. There have been several international companies showing interest in entering Angola and working with us.

 

What steps has Petrowork taken to encourage local capability development?
Petrowork has established a very aggressive training and development programme for our current and future employees. We have a number of Angolan employees that are undergoing evaluation and development. For us, it’s not just about hiring people; it’s about helping them to become meaningful members of our company.
Going forward, we are planning on building a training centre, which should be up and running with 60 students by the end of 2021. This centre will provide training for various disciplines that are part of our operations, including civil construction, maintenance and some other areas. If there is demand from the market to train personnel in different areas, we would make that into a business opportunity as well.
We have expats within the company who bring extensive experience and know-how, and with their help we will remain fully focused on training and development going forward. At the end of the day, we must aim to have a very solid and capable Angolan workforce, which is really the only way a company can succeed here in the long run.

What steps has the company taken to ensure the highest quality assurance certification for its training programmes?
Our partnership with AGB Training has been fundamental as their services are certified by the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA), which is known as the world’s leading authority on industrial rope access. IRATA offers an international certification to solve maintenance challenges in the offshore oil and gas industry and it’s very difficult to get. In Angola, no other company has IRATA-certified training. This is something we can take advantage of to help requalify the local rope access industry.
We want to provide a service so that companies and workers are or can be certified and work, not just for the oil and gas industry, but for all other industries.

What makes Petrowork’s offerings unique and attractive to industry players?
I think the main thing is that we think and behave fairly. Our long-term business decisions are founded on the principles of well-functioning relationships and trustworthy partnerships. We see and treat our clients and suppliers as our partners – when they suffer, we suffer. We are all in the same boat. Everybody faces challenges, we all have issues and we need to understand and adapt our strategy and prices to be able to add value. It’s not only creating value but creating relationships, and of course, creating happiness within our workforce.
Our business model makes us very competitive. Our indirect and cutback costs are well managed. We have built them into our operations in such a way that we can be very competitive. We have our costs well under control. It’s a differentiator in the market – we can adjust as the market dynamics demand, hoping that we are always very competitive.

What are some of the key objectives Petrowork has set for 2021 and beyond?
We have an aggressive strategy in place to grow our business. We’re looking into developing joint ventures with other multinational companies. In addition to building the training facility for the oil and gas sector, another big thing that we’re working on is reshaping the company and its personnel. That’s a big challenge; we want to streamline our internal processes and make sure that everybody fits in the organisation.
We are also looking at regional expansion opportunities. Mozambique is a very attractive market for expansion, mostly because of the country’s gas potential. We are also monitoring Ghana and Tanzania, as well as some other markets.

What are your expectations for the Angolan oil and gas market in the years to come?
I believe that the Angolan oil and gas industry will have a tendency towards growth. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow but looking at the international projections, the oil price movement, it’s fair to have good expectations about future opportunities.
As an oil and gas province, Angola still has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to new exploration. With exploration comes development and with development comes operations. We see opportunities, and the existing operations also bring opportunities for companies like ours.
The Angolan oil and gas industry is not going to shut down within the coming years. The country’s economy looks reasonably stable and strong as far as the industry is concerned. Of course, there will be some economic, social and political challenges. There are elections coming up in 2022. Those events always tend to slightly unbalance the ambience of a country and the business, but we are optimistic. I personally believe it’s going to be a good year.

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