Africa Outlook

Leadership Empowered and Energised


An interview with Puma Energy Africa CEO Eghosa Oriaikhi Mabhena

Growing up in Africa in the 80s and 90s, it was clear to see how important it was and still is to provide people access to energy. It has a massive impact on welfare, health and economic prospects.

“I think this ambition, whether I knew it or not at the time, was always hardwired into my psyche, especially given the work my dad was doing. And technology has come a long way since then, so there was no doubt in my mind that studying mechanical engineerin­g and following in my father’s footsteps would make for a very rewarding career.”

As a 16-year-old, Eghosa Oriaikhi Mabhena was in a considerab­le minority of young women in the UK. Moving to London from her home country in Nigeria, she was one of very few women determined to pursue a career in the engineerin­g field.

And although today’s numbers are improving, the available figures are

Puma Energy Africa’s Eghosa Oriaikhi Mabhena, recently named among the top 100 female CEOs in Africa, discusses her journey to the

top of the industry

Writer: Tom Wadlow

still stark. According to the Women’s Engineerin­g Society, in 2018 just 25.4 percent of girls aged 16 to 18 in the UK would consider a career in engineerin­g, compared to 51.9 percent of boys. In terms of employment, just 12.37 percent of all UK engineers are women.

Oriaikhi Mabhena, who has been in the industry for around two decades, is now CEO of Puma Energy’s Africa business, very much following in the footsteps of her father, who worked with Shell for almost 40 years.

“I have always had the urge to work internatio­nally in order to acquire enough experience to truly make a difference in Africa one day,” she says. “My goal therefore was always to work for internatio­nal companies that are constantly pushing the frontiers of technology, which is why I took the opportunit­y to work in the R&D department for Schlumberg­er in the UK in 2004.

“This drive continues to motivate me today on a daily basis – if my work is helping people to gain access to economic opportunit­ies, education, healthcare and security in life, then it is a job well done.”

Oriaikhi Mabhena spent nine years at Schlumberg­er before working in several director positions at Baker Hughes until July 2019, when she joined Puma Energy as a member of the Executive Committee at the group level, moving back to Africa to head up the company’s regional division. Now living in Johannesbu­rg, the opportunit­y to lead from the ground was too good to turn down.

“So, why Puma?” the CEO asks. “The short answer is I wanted to be closer to

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