In the last couple of years, there have been advances in leaps and bounds in digital transformation in Africa. Nigeria is leading the charge as home to the highest number of tech hubs in the continent. In addition to this advancement, global initiatives, such as the Biden administration’s Digital Transformation with Africa, will help the continent’s digital infrastructure to grow significantly. Unfortunately, despite the spike in technology in the country and the continent, Nigeria’s energy industry is lagging behind its global peers. Consequently, its big ambition to be a gas-powered economy by 2030 is at risk.
Nigeria is on the verge of a big oil and gas infrastructure boom. This could be the gateway to the country’s unlocking the economic prosperity residing in its abundant natural resources. Millions could be lifted out of energy poverty by augmenting domestic supply and boosting export. But for years, Nigeria has been severely hampered by a lack of oil and gas infrastructure. It is just in the last few decades that progress is finally being made, as a result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Decade of Gas Initiative as well as the long-awaited reforms through the Petroleum Industry Act.
Country’s erratic history with digital technology can jeopardize things.
Though the pace has been slow, large infrastructure projects such as the Dangote refinery, the 614-km-long AKK natural gas pipeline, and several liquefied natural gas plants are anticipated to be commissioned over the coming months and years. The state-owned refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna are also being rehabilitated. Doing this will also boost the Nigerian economy. Despite these planned projects, Nigeria’s checkered history with the use of digital technology within the oil and gas industry can jeopardize this potential success story. Many companies are also becoming disillusioned by digital transformation.
Most decision-makers in the oil and gas industry can tell at least one story of how a vision of digital transformation was sold to them only to be left with an inferior product and no support to assist with implementation. These purchases not only failed to contribute any productivity or financial improvements but also, in many cases, did not solve the issues that they were bought to resolve. This has become a very common drawback in the industry, which is being engineered by salesmen who only do it for their own benefits.
Oil and gas workers struggle without latest innovations.
One would understand why this has led to distrust and hesitation in adopting new innovations that would have a positive effect, whether on production, maintenance, resourcing, or construction. Many have ambitions to mirror their global peers when it comes to digital innovation but are hesitant to do so based on their past experiences. While industry leaders elsewhere are benefiting from the latest innovations in digital twins, data analytics, and preventive and predictive maintenance, many Nigerian workers are still struggling to organize their maintenance schedules from incomplete plant plans and records kept in Excel.
Because of this, employees waste a lot of their time looking for data that has been confined in several systems and documents, or worse, has not been captured at all but residing solely in colleagues’ memories. This frustration is foregrounded only when annually, they attend the same industry conferences but are left out of conversations for being no further along in digitally transforming their Nigerian operations. This deflated feeling is particularly acute for the globally mobile portion of the workforce that has benefitted from digital transformation first-hand in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe, and previously gained satisfaction from using digital tools to amplify their decision-making.
Nigeria will lag behind without digital transformation.
So, it is clear that without digital transformation, Nigeria will continue to trail behind its global peers. While domestic supply and exports might rise, economic prosperity would not be unlocked to the fullest potential. A new approach to digital transformation is needed to mend the gap created by digital disillusionment. Collaborative partnerships with an innovative ethos offer a compelling alternative to previous digital transformation attempts. Built on mutual trust and understanding, they can wash away the hesitation and disenchantment of the past, revealing the almost limitless opportunity of a digital future.