March 13, 2018
Sahara Group hosted a delegation of Instructors and students from the Air War College, Montgomery, Alabama, USA at its Lagos office in Ikoyi last Wednesday afternoon.
The delegates included colonels, lieutenants’ commanders and diplomatic workers from the US consulates in Lagos and Abuja.
The Air War College is the senior professional military education school of the U.S Air Force and forms a part of the US Air University with a focus on air, space and cyberspace in its teaching curriculum.
Topics of conversation went right to the heart of the realities of conducting business and captaining industries in the Nigerian operating environment.
Tonye Cole, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Sahara Group explained some of the peculiarities of achieving value chain integration across the Nigerian energy sector. He advised that US investors seeking a viable and sustainable stake in the Nigerian real sector should do so via larger projects which may call for public sector participation and significant volume of working capital.
He explained that the Group’s initial successes were predicated on the boldness with which the founders approached any opportunity to provide solutions and establish market presence in greenfields and strategic acquisitions in brownfields.
Cole said “Sahara Group has grown expertise in leveraging on its cross border and cross-sectoral linkages. Consistent stakeholder engagement continues to underscore a lot of our business triumphs especially as we expand into international markets previously unfathomable to indigenous Nigerian companies.”
The delegates remarked on what they perceived to be a very rich and convivial culture at the organization evidenced by the wall of fame (pictures of staff at the highly feted end of year party held annually in Lagos) plastered all around the boardroom and expressed curiosity as to how the culture was shaped.
Cole explained that the culture of the organization has evolved as the company has grown larger. “We’ve been able to enjoy the full benefits of a rich culture because we never stop mining our pool of human talent for all of the experience and expertise [soft and technical] that they can give us. Our people know how much the organization appreciates them. We really have a one dream, one team ethos in practice here.”
In terms of leadership, Col. Glenn Hillis who is also an Instructor with 27 years in the air force commended the flexibility and timeliness with which the founders navigated the expansion and sustainability of the organization.
Said Col. Hillis, “it has been very instructive to hear you narrate how you have been able to stay ahead of the curve in over two decades of international operations. Sahara Group has a lot to share in terms of the dynamism of its process design and the constant curiosity it seems to have about finding a new way of doing things to circumvent the risk of losing momentum.”
The meeting drew to a close on an outward looking perspective with Cole enlightening the delegation on how and why he rose to prominence on the international speaking circuit.
“It just seemed like in most international forums and arenas where corruption was being discussed, Nigeria tended to be the poster child. I observed that Nigeria was the frame of reference within which most conversations on corruption, graft and the lack of transparency in Africa were pinned.”
“I thought it was important that these international thought leaders and influencers understood what the root causes of corruption in Nigeria were and the systemic factors which perpetuate them. It was gratifying to see that in subsequent speaking engagements in which I was either a panelist or sat in the audience Nigeria ceased to be referenced as an exemplar for corruption following the insight I provided and the pioneering work Sahara has been doing as a member of the World Economic Forum Partnering Against Corruption Initiative.”
Feedback from both sides was extremely positive, each team having added and gained value through the mutual exchange of insights and exploration of shared values.