Interview with Jewel Okwechime Founder of Suntaur

Jewel Okwechime,  an expert on creating success, is a co-author for the recent best selling book, The Art & Science of Success Volume 5, Proven Strategies From Today’s Leading Experts. On June 1, 2012, this book hit #1 in all three categories on Amazon: Global Marketing, Work Life Balance and Business & Investing.  A Visionary Entrepreneur, Professional Chartered Chemical Engineer and Environmentalist, Jewel has worked for major oil and gas companies and service companies such as BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Schumberger and Woodside Energy Ltd.

She is also a business and mastermind coach. Jewel brings in commercial skills with an entrepreneurial flair to identify and take advantage of opportunities and experience working with governmental and private sector client base, both in the UK and overseas. She sat down with IntelligenceHQ to discuss Africa’s future and challenges faced in the Oil and Gas sector.

IntelligentHQ:   Can you tell us about you and your background?

Jewel:   I am an International Business Entrepreneur, a Chartered Chemical Engineer and Environmentalist. I have worked for all the major oil and gas companies such as BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Schumberger etc. As a leader in my field, I provide ad hoc services to various industries around the world. My major clients are in the UK, Nigeria and Australia.
Through all my travels and work experiences, I have found out that I love helping people. I truly believe that once we discover our true purpose in life, all doors will open and we can live a life of abundance of health, wealth and much more.

IntelligentHQ:   You have been living and working in various locations in Africa, Australia and US and now you are back in London, can you tell us about that experience?

Jewel:  I feel very blessed to have worked in so many different countries. My vast amount of skills and extensive work experience has made this possible. I do enjoy working in a diverse workplace.  The best thing about working abroad is that it brings the benefit of establishing business contacts. By being constantly in touch with professional and influential contacts, it paves a ground for global business opportunities that may be offered in the future. I loved working in Australia however my family is all in the UK so it was a bit challenging travelling back and forth for so long. The best solution would be to relocate my whole family to Australia and Asia so we can be close together.

IntelligentHQ:   Africa is emerging as a new economic future powerhouse due to its resources and energy what are your views on it?

Jewel: I agree that Africa is emerging as a new economic powerhouse however this is not due to just resources and energy. Africa also has minerals such as gold, platinum, chromium, food and arable land. When one closely analyzes Africa, it’s easy to see why it will emerge as an economic powerhouse in the very near future. Decades of lack of development, civil wars, dictatorships, mismanagement and poor governance etc have left Africa as truly one of the only places left on earth where growth can be derived going forward. Africa’s greatest resource isn’t buried deep down under earth, on the contrary – its greatest resource can be found walking on the streets of every city and town in Africa. It is a little known fact that Africa currently has a higher population in the middle class bracket than India.

This educated middle class can be tooled to provide the sort of growth that was witnessed during the industrial boom in the west. I agree that having abundance of natural resources makes a huge difference – I however caution African nations on over dependency of such resources. Natural resources accounted for approximately 35 percent of Nigeria’s growth since 2000, and manufacturing and services are growing rapidly. Banking and telecom, in particular, are expanding thanks to a series of economic reforms.

IntelligentHQ:   How do you see the progress in Africa and Nigeria and the countries where you have been working so far?

Jewel:   Africa is the world’s fastest-growing continent and has never been in such good shape. Africa and Nigeria have made a huge stride forward economically, politically and socially. Africa is arguably the continent with the fastest growing middle class coupled with spots of double-digit growth rate. The progress in African can easily be seen on most Africa streets from new road networks to shiny Grade A office towers and condos.
In summary, time and progress forgot Africa until about a decade ago. A lot of African countries such as Nigeria have decided to embrace change and progress with economic, political and social reform programs. The growth of the middle class means the emergence of popular western retail brands.

For a very long time, South Africa was the only beacon of hope in Africa – today oil and resource rich countries like Nigeria, Angola, Ghana etc are seen as the future of the continent. Their economies are growing at breakneck speeds and a lot of foreign direct investments are making their way there.  Over the next five years Africa is will take the lead. In other words, the average African economy will outpace its Asian counterpart.

IntelligentHQ:  You are associated with business networks can you tell us about it?

Jewel: I have been a member of a couple of Elite Network Marketing Clubs worldwide and last year I became a No.1 Best Selling Author of ‘The Art and Science of Success’. The book is the fifth volume in the best-selling series of The Art & Science of Success®. In addition to my essays from Matt Morris, Joel Therien, Daegan Smith and Marina Moss, I have joined top professionals from around the world with accounts of triumph over adversity. I have been working closely with Matt Morris who is not only a dear friend to me but also a mentor. I love travelling and attend a lot of seminars and training events around the world. I have learnt so much and I love being inspired.

IntelligentHQ:   You are the founder of Suntaur (and other ventures) can you tell us about the company and its offerings, goals?

Jewel:   Suntaur is company set up by my business partner and myself and the main goal here is to empower others through personal development and travel. We provide our clients/members with positive support and advice on individual or group basis  to improve their personal effectiveness in the business setting. Our goal is to help each individual achieve his or her specific personal or professional result or goal. We have members from all over the world including Africa, Europe and even The Caribbean.
This year we are aiming to grow our team to over 1000 members this year. It’s really an exciting time for Suntaur.

IntelligentHQ:   You are an expert in Oil and Gas consulting various companies on these areas can you tell us about it?

Jewel:   I have been working for the oil and gas industry for over 13 years. My main interest has always been around environmental policies and regulations. The oil and gas sector have had a lot of bad publicity since the 60s and I felt like I could contribute in improving this area. I find it quite challenging but also rewarding. Engaging with stakeholders and strategic planning is the best part for me. I feel I am contributing to the quality of our environment.

IntelligentHQ:    What are for you the biggest challenges, regulatory issues in the oil and gas / energy sector?

Jewel:   There are the rapid changes and revised regulatory framework that affect the industries. Most industry executives are left with a lot of uncertainties over which guidelines to use. My job is to educate them on how to use these frameworks and find solutions that are cost effective, especially for SME companies.
I have worked in the areas of  project development, acquisitions and divestitures, financings and other dispute resolution, and regulatory proceedings. The biggest challenge for me is the lack of commitments and knowledge on what sort of energy industry we want in the future.  The cost implications alone affect how we make decisions. We do have isolated efficiency and climate change programmes on going in our industry but there are mounting questions around their political sustainability.

So the question is which companies are prepared to pay for cleaner energy system, and how will this affect the oil and gas prices long term?.

IntelligentHQ:  How can the energy sector benefit and shift from the digital and social media revolution and innovations?

Jewel:  The social media revolution can be a very powerful tool in today’s world in bringing change and a shift in ideas. The energy sector can use social media to amplify what they are working on in terms of innovations.
They have a website presence, e-commerce website, advertise online, blog about energy sector, create energy sector community, event, social cause, environmental issue, and green/clean energy. The energy sector can also use social media to advocate on issues and change policies, educate and train people on sustainability.

Most importantly social media engages with the younger generation who are the planet’s future (cliche but true). Done well, the energy sector would benefit very well from engaging with communities and individuals through social media especially in the generation of innovative technologies. However, the energy sector (at least in the UK) have a really bad reputation (second worst after bankers probably) in putting profits before innovation and the needs of their consumers so they shouldn’t be using social media as a sales tool to further drive up profits.

IntelligentHQ:  You have contributed with Katerva and other sustainability organisations can you tell us how you see the sustainability landscape and its challenges in general?

Jewel:  Dr Asli Tamer Vestlund and I are still involved in Katerva to some extent. I believe there have been some very innovative and good developments with regards to sustainability in the last 10 years or so.  The mindset of the 80s (and pre-80s era) seems to be shifting slowly (i.e. technological growth that is not sustainable but based on mainly financial gain) and the public as well as companies understand the problems we face as a planet and its inhabitants. However I am not sure if this change is happening fast enough and things seem to have stalled considerably since the economic downturn in 2008.

We have so many challenges ahead of us but for me the most important are the lack of investment,   unsustainable energy technologies, the throw-away culture in the west and the growing waste this generates (applies to food as well).