Kofi Amoa-Abban
Kofi Amoa-Abban

I came to Ghana in August 2010 and started working with Atwood Hunter, a manual semi-submersible rig, as a roustabout, became a roughneck. It was working for Kosmos and drilled the TEAK 1, TEAK 2 and the Banda wells offshore Ghana.

Kofi Amoa-Abban
Kofi Amoa-Abban
Working there, I got to know that the industry was young and there were no companies that could embrace or support the industry. I remember at some point when I told some of my mates and colleagues from school was working on a rig, they laughed at me because they thought I should be working with a bank, insurance firm or any financial institution. So, I saw it like a challenge to work and also start my own company and grow a career in the industry.

Challenging beginning

Being a business owner in Ghana isn’t easy, Rigworld was, therefore, incorporated in 2011 when My contract with Menergy have been terminated due to that fact that my own Ghanaian crew members have gone to report me to the offshore installation Manager (OIM) of been extremely lazy whenever I am on deck to resume my 12 hour shift .My crew took their bags and went to the Helideck that they will demobilse from the rig if I wasn’t sacked .I accepted my termination letter and came back home with nothing .I remember one evening I visited my mom in Tema to lend my GHS 250 to incorporate Rigworld which she assisted and went to her friend to borrow money on my behalf and that actaully started the journey of Rigworld .My friends and even family members never came to visit or call me often because I was financially broke and I also remember that those days when we went to places such as the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the then regulator of the upstream petroleum industry, as a young man and I was 27 years to apply for permit for an upstream oil and gas logistic company, my crew /colleagues offshore made fun of it, wrote me off.
But with perseverance and maintaining consistency and focus in whatever I wanted to do I was able to cross that hurdle of incorporating a company and having the permit to operate as an upstream service company.

We had a second permit to provide offshore labour. It was amazing; we celebrated, but no contract. But we had to move on with the company in order that it will not remain on the shelves. We had to push and push to get something to do but that was not easy, no contracts were coming. I trusted my guts and said to myself enterprenuers are enterprenuers because their gut has an insight or an idea that drives them and this same gut is one of the most potent and power advisor for them.

Dream on brink of collapse

Our office at the time was in Osu, in a small place opposite Rlg. I had a partner, who actually connived with his cousin to take the office from us. It was one midnight when I was thrown out of the office. I had to go to Tesano. I rented a truck to pick up the things.

The partnership agreement was based on me bringing my expertise and knowledge of the industry while my partner brought in the finance and physical assets. We had about three old computers, two office tables and some window blinds, which I bought with all the saving I made when I was working offshore.

I went to plead with an elderly man who had a shop at Santana Market to allow us use his space as an office. I explained I didn’t have the cash but could pay him some amount after about three months. The man was very kind and understanding and accepted my proposal.

After packing everything that midnight, I tried to reach my partner on phone but he wouldn’t pick up. This went on for about three days. Later, I found out that it was his own machination to kick me out of the office so that he and his cousin could set up a similar company to do what we set out to do.

So at the beginning, it was me, my partner, his cousin and another lady Sandra who started working in that company.

The new office had a metallic table with about six chairs, and another set of three tables and chairs for the computers. There were two ceiling fans and no office partitioning .

Police arrive

I purchased another two chairs in addition, hoping we could make the office presentable. After working for about three days, I received a call from the Police Headquarters that my partner had gone to report me to his aunty, who was working at the Police Headquarters. They later came to my office to question me. I invited the landlord, an elderly person, to sit in the matter. There, I explained my part of the story and that the partnership is structured such that I will bring on board my expertise and experience, while he brings on board the finance and the physical assets.

So it was during the meeting that my partner walked in to announce that he was no more interested in the 20% partnership in RigWorld and that he was relinquishing all his shares to me and packing all his chairs and tables. He didn’t want anything to do with the company. So he picked the two computers that he brought on board and left me with only one old computer .My legal counsellor went to the Registrar-General to amend the documents. Then he also convinced his cousin to stop working with us. So I now own 100% of the company and only one staff as administrative assistant …..

Opportunity in challenges

In all these, I saw it like a moment that God was trying my faith and ability to hold on strong because GREAT SUCCESS COMES FROM GREAT SUPPORT FROM GOD.I saw it as a good challenge, because in every challenge there is an opportunity or success at the end of the challenge. So I didn’t give up. I pushed and pushed.

What most entrepreneurs go through

Lastly, I owned a VW Passat then but I had to go sell the car I bought for GH¢13000 for almost GH¢6000 and invest GH¢3000 in the company. I used the rest to buy a red Toyota Camry which was very old the doors were not even opening; the air condition wasn’t working. So if I sit in the car going for meetings I have to park at a distance far away from the meeting venue so nobody sees, because the car was extremely old. So most people were laughing that ‘an oil and gas company and look at the car they are using’. But in all these, I was convinced that someday there would be a breakthrough.

There was no money coming and everything was standstill. So with my training background in oil and gas, I decided to organise oil and gas training programmes. So I started to organise oil and gas programmes. The first programme was in Keta. We had about 140 to 150 people at GH200 per person. Trust me, this was a breakthrough as it was our first time making like 14000gh.
So I came back and I paid salaries to the skeletal staff we had, but I wasn’t paying myself salary because the money wasn’t enough which meant that I had to sacrifice my salary to main the payroll of the skeletal staff. I also gave free lunch. It was no proper lunch, something like ‘check check’.
So when Keta really caught on with the eight-week course, I had to drive the Camry there and stay for Thursday, Friday and return after lectures on Saturday so that I could go to church on Sunday.

After the eight weeks, we started the same programme in Ho and the turnover was very good. So I decided to multitask and do Ho and Cape Coast. So from Monday to Wednesday I was in Cape Coast then Thursday, Friday, Saturday I’d be in Ho. I only come to the office on Sunday for official stuff so that at the end of the month the four staff we had could be paid.
I extended the seminars to Kumasi and Sunyani. For Suyani, I take the night bus from Accra, sleep in the bus so I could arrive in the morning on Friday. I do the training in Sunyani and go to Kumasi.

The last place was somewhere in the mines Tarkwa. At least money was coming to keep the office until we had a breakthrough when Sea Drill was coming to Ghana and they needed a company to provide logistics services to them. They visited our office but it was not well structured. But such companies when they see that your organisation is not well structured they cannot do business with you. Even the environment at Tesano Santana market was not conducive. It wasn’t looking good but they gave us the hope that they would give us a contract but later they said that as a small company we could not handle such a contract so they would give it to our competitors.

I remember that one Saturday I went to the office and I called one of the officers at the Sea Drill office in Dubai and he just said to me that, hey Kofi, am going to try you; am going to give you a small part of the contract. This was the breakthrough. So we started with the supply of only one labour. We took him to Singapore to bring a Rig and from there we started to build capacity in request if this two or three labor we started building capacity so.

So how do you get the labour, particularly the first labour?

The first labour we supplied was already skilled so we kind of poached him.

How has the local content law helped to unlock the potential within the local industry?

The Legislative Instrument has really helped the local companies in forming joint ventures with the foreign companies to have skills transfers from them and also to build capacity by learning from them in systems, processes and procedures.

With that the Petroleum Commission as a regulator has really done a good and impressive job. They didn’t just pass the law but you can see some element of monitoring to ensure that the companies and foreign companies are actually complying with the law.

Our success story, one, is built on God, good leadership and a good team who understands what they do, how the do it and why they do it .Less successful organization know what they do, and they know how to do it but they don’t necessarily know why they do it .Why their organization exist and why they get out of bed in the morning to go to work. I always imagine Ghana where vast majority of people know why they wake up every single morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when they’re there and they go home fulfilled at the end of the day. I believe loving our Job is a right and not a privilege.

Also Petroleum Commission’s coming out with this local content policy whereby all foreign companies coming into Ghana must have partnerships with local companies.

So far how do you see the capacity building that the government has been doing to train the critical mass of people to play in the oil and gas industry?
I can actually make reference to our operations. When I joined the industry there weren’t many Ghanaians in key high positions. But currently, we have a subsea engineers, we’ve DPO’s and others in higher positions as assistant drillers. So in terms of capacity building, we’ve come far but we are not there yet, there is more room for improvement.

The E&P Bill in Parliament

It coming into being will be a good idea for the country. It will usher in a lot more producers create a competitive environment. The country currently have few major players; we have ENI Hess, Tullow etc which is good.

How about the fiscal regime the country operates in the allocation of blocs?

I think the offshore oil and gas industry is capital intensive and not for small companies to play around it. But I will advocate for more major players to come in, with their deep pockets and financial muscle to create a lot of investment opportunities in-country. The smaller ones do not have the financial muscle for huge projects and developments.
Some fear that they will muzzle us and the country won’t have the needed benefits.

The thing to do with Ghanaians is that we’re always scared about being kind of muzzled up or cheated. But I see this as an opportunity for our leaders to also sit up and start doing the right things. Their coming will also be an opportunity for us to learn and develop our industry.

Six years into the production of oil in Ghana how have we fared?

I will say so far so good. Tullow, and the Jubilee Partners have done a good job. We have not had any major incidents as compared to some countries. Companies have complied with the environmental policies, the local content policies. When it comes to revenues, from what our leaders are declaring, I think we are not doing badly. This is in the context that currently we have only one FPSO and about to have the second and Yison’s third FPSO. So I think we are still in the early and development stages, so it is ok.

Back to RigWorld. In the medium to long term, where do we see the company?

As a company, we have our long term plan to become one of Ghana’s great success stories. We want to be a major player than we are now in the market. Currently, we are doing greatly in the logistics area.

Oh, already we are doing a lot of diversification. We have Pessure Tech Engineering which is the engineering segment of Rigworld, Transatlantic Services, Trans-Atlantic Farms etc
What is your value proposition because anything you touch is successful?

I’ll again give it to God. Also, RigWorld is always thinking about how to do things better through systems, structures and procedures. A good example is that, currently we have attained international standardization (ISO) 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 1800:2007. We are always looking at doing things rightly and properly. So when it comes to running projects, it all boils down to the team you put in place. And if you watch carefully, the cut-off age over hear is 35; everybody is young so each one of us is thirsty for success.

What legacy will Dr Kofi Abban like to leave?

I want to contribute my quota as best as I could to the economy to make Ghana a better place so that we do not have most of our own people travel in search of greener pastures overseas. We also want to create the environment for people to understand and believe that they could also do it in country.

Source: Graphic.com.gh

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