As a leading company in the oil and gas sector in Ghana, So Energy, an affiliate of the energy giant, Sahara Group, continues to redefine the bar of innovation and service excellence to boost economic growth and development in Ghana. In this interview, Yvette Selormey, MD, Sahara Downstream Companies in Ghana sheds light on the company’s operations, corporate citizenship and future.
Q: So Energy recently commissioned a retail station in Accra. What is driving the company’s decision to increase its retail outlets?
Yes, we currently commissioned a station at Alajo and we are going to commission several more during the year.
Our drive to increase the number of retail outlets in Ghana is in line with our vision to bring energy to life by providing access to clean, safe and efficient fueling solutions to drive economic growth and development.
We have been operating in the downstream sector for a number of years and have created a household brand amongst our customers who would travel long distances just to purchase fuel from a So branded station. To ensure easy accessibility of our products and services to the end users, we have decided to increase our retail outlets to also enhance our brand visibility.
Q: How long has the company been operating in Ghana and what has been your experience over the period?
Since 2005, it’s been an interesting yet challenging experience with the evolving and dynamic business environment in Ghana. We have had to infuse a lot of innovation into our business model to keep our business ahead by offering tailored services to our customers.
Over this period, the So Energy brand has grown with the market and created a strong bond with all stakeholders in the sector, all on the strength of our commitment to professionalism, service excellence and integrity. In fact, Ghana has been a home like no other to So Energy
Q: Can you share with us how So Energy gives back to Ghana in terms of corporate social responsibility projects?
So Energy has been involved in a number of corporate social responsibility projects powered by Sahara Foundation, the corporate responsibility vehicle of the Sahara Group. Some of these projects include a borehole project (this was a strategic partnership between Sahara, the Carter Center Foundation and W.A.T.E.R Ghana towards eradicating guinea worm across West Africa), collaborating with the Ghana Health Service to carry out surgeries for buruli ulcer patients in the Amasaman district, funding for the Saint Francis Xavier school in the north whose dormitories had been razed down by fire, funding for the Kumasi market women after the fire that gutted the market in 2018, contribution to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) general office to assist with relief and so many other projects. Support for Tema Senior High School through the donation of sanitation facilities (washrooms), rehabilitation of classrooms, hostels and laboratories. These facilities have improved the learning conditions for over 1,600 students.
Q: So Energy staff usually play prominent roles in some if your CSR activities. What is the reason behind this?
Helping the helpless is very fulfilling. Our aim is to imbibe the culture of giving back to our community amongst the staff. Our staff have over the years connected with the community and developed a sense of responsibility towards the society through the numerous Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that the company has undertaken.
This has become more of a personal responsibility to the members of staff and they pride themselves in being a part of the CSR activities. Through Sahara Foundation’s partnership with Ashesi University, staff members have reaffirmed our commitment to youth empowerment by serving as volunteer mentors during the annual Ashesi Innovation Experience programme which has directly impacted over 250 young Ghanaians.
Q: What do you think of the downstream sector in Ghana?
The downstream sector has shown remarkable growth over the years. It is an integral sector that has contributed in no small measure to Ghana’s economy. The deregulation of the market also encouraged a new wave of private sector participation; the number of stakeholders has increased.
Regardless of the industry challenges, all investors have their hands-on deck to ensure solutions are proffered. The National Petroleum Authority (NPA), as the regulator has in no small measure made for more accountability and efficiency in creating greater visibility in product distribution and integrity.
Q: We understand So Energy is looking to redefine supply chain efficiency in Ghana’s downstream sector. How do you intend to achieve this?
So Energy is part of a bigger scheme in the supply chain stream which aims to ensure competency in product movement. As we are strategically placed in each of the sectors, our customer promise is consistency in supply which is in line with the Sahara vision and to achieve this, we guarantee productive collaboration with all stakeholders. Through innovative partnerships and by leveraging on our core values and culture, there is an understanding of this goal which translates into satisfying customers.
Q: Achieving the United Nation’s sustainable development goals is a global quest that has 2030 as target date. How is So Energy contributing to this?
So Energy is an equal opportunities provider which means that we endeavour to give all employees, irrespective of background, tribe or gender a platform to showcase their abilities and talents and contribute to the growth of the organisation. We are bridging the gender divide actively and employing more women which is exemplified in females heading 3 out of our 5 departments aside myself as the head of the business. We actively organise health screening workshops annually for all our staff as well as provide access to healthcare 24/7.
Over the next 10 years we will continue contributing to Ghana’s economic growth with sustainable investments in more remote and rural locations, thus expanding the access to jobs, petroleum products and solutions and ultimately infrastructural development.
Finally, due to the nature of our business, we continue to invest heavily in our Quality Health Safety Security and Environment (QHSSE) and work closely with organisations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who assist us to audit and ensure we are continuously transacting our business in an eco-friendly manner.
Q: How do you think the adulteration of petroleum products can be checked?
The regulator, NPA is currently taking huge measures to curb adulteration in the downstream sector. Just one example is through the PPMS (Petroleum Product Monitoring System) test run by the Authority where random inspections are carried out by NPA officials on Petrol/diesel pumps to test product quality.
Appropriate action is then taken against the erring dealers Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) and its Dealers. As a company, we are currently embarking on Automation of our Retail Outlets which will enable the real-time capture of sales transaction and monitoring of tank stocks and receipts. This in a way helps curb the rare incidence of adulteration and immediate information on stocks and sales is readily available for audit.
Q: Safety in the energy sector is an essential requirement. How does So Energy manage its safety mechanism?
So Energy Ghana Limited is committed to managing Health, Safety and Environmental (HS&E) matters as an integral part of our business. It is always our policy to ensure the HS&E integrity of our processes and facilities and at all places.
We always seek to accomplish this by adhering to the principles of; Compliance, Communication, Continuous Improvement, Risk Reduction, Prevention, and Resource Management. We continue to adopt measures to minimize risk and protect our employees and the communities in which we operate by employing clean technology, including safe technologies and operating procedures, as well as being prepared for emergencies.
Q: What are the near and long terms plans of So Energy in Ghana?
In the short term, our plan is to expand our presence (retail stations) in every region of Ghana. On the long term, in line with our vision, and through adequate partnership, we plan to be a household name in downstream by constructing an LPG storage facility to help close the gap of inadequate gas storage in Africa.
Q: Running So Energy as a young Ghanaian must be an achievement you’re proud of. What does this mean for the youth in Ghana?
As a company we are passionate about promoting youth empowerment, especially at giving wings to their aspirations and changing the narrative. This remains a vision I largely share in. Consequently, I would continue to take keen interest in creating an enabling environment for young people to express their talent, challenge norms, break grounds and add incalculable value that will impact society and Ghana as a whole.
It is important to note that 65 percent of our staff population is mainly youthful, with a unique collection of vibrant young men and women connected to opportunities that will help them grow and reach their aspirations.