Strong digital core key for growth in Africa’s Energy Sector

AOP talks about technology’s role in Africa’s Energy sector in an interview with Marleze van Loggerenberg, Head of Business Development Africa Wipro Limited.

What are the technology trends you’re seeing in Africa’s energy sector and how can this be improved?

What we have found in the oil and gas industry is that a lot of new startups are getting the company up and running and they don’t give a lot of attention to business administration and analytics. But once the company structure is established, two to four years down the line, they realize they can’t operate their systems efficiently if they don’t have a business solution with a strong digital core that enables them to run their operations more efficiently.

A strong digital core is vital. For the energy industry, this paves the way for implementing digital oilfield solutions. Examples of this are to the use of predictive maintenance and the digital twin in maintaining equipment and plants, etc. With technology, we’re not just talking about preventative maintenance anymore, we’re talking predictive maintenance where you have devices that monitor the rigs and plants and give notifications before things go wrong. The only way to deploy that technology is to have the proper digital core.

Cybersecurity is also a major issue. With all of the new technologies being deployed, you have to secure your business from all fronts.

Is Africa falling behind on the technology front?

We are seeing that traditional utilities are very slow to adopt new technology, in both South Africa and the rest of Africa. We are seeing disparate systems, from archaic billing systems that are done manually. But we are starting to see an uptick at the moment, with the major utilities starting to deploy digitalization’s and showing more interest in predictive maintenance.
In oil and gas, we are starting to see a huge uptick and more interest in digitalization.

The benefit and the big opportunity that I see for Africa is that they can leapfrog what the rest of the world has done. Africa boasts several technology hubs that are truly innovating. We see in Kenya a whole new generation that is coming up and developing new apps and technologies and this technology is transcending what is being done around the world. There are some examples in the medical field, for example, where they deliver blood with drones. In the energy industry, they have this same capacity to think out of the box, leapfrog over what is being done, and deploy new technologies.

Is LNG a viable option for Africa’s energy future?

It is hailed as the energy of the future. Twenty-five percent of the world’s energy will be provided by natural gas. I do not believe it is going to the only source or the best source, and I do see a lot of green technologies coming up like solar and hydro, but LNG will be one of the key players.

Obviously, there can be issues with economies of scale, but the applications of LNG for Africa are vast, from gas to power, to fuel for vehicles. LNG has many benefits for Africa, especially given that there have been several major natural gases finds on the continent.