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Kevin Okyere

Kevin Okyere was born in 1980 to an affluent family in Ghana’s gold-rich Ashanti region. His father had built a substantial fortune in construction, steel manufacturing, and large-scale cocoa farming before he was enstooled as a traditional chief.

Okyere displayed entrepreneurial promise at a very young age. By the time he was 11, he was already selling iced water to football supporters in the Kumasi Sports Stadium to make extra pocket money. During his family’s annual summer vacation trips to London, he would take on jobs with textile companies in the U.K.

After completing his High School education in Ghana, he proceeded to the United States where he studied Accounting at George Mason University in Virginia. While studying, Okyere worked several jobs at varying points – caring for mentally challenged patients at their homes, working as a security guard, and at one point working in the mailroom at AOL.

At the later stages of his Accounting degree, he was able to secure more prestigious jobs. He was one of the earliest employees of XM Satellite Radio (Sirius XM Holdings) where he worked as a radio programmer. He also had a stint at Sprint where he worked in the customer service department. By the time he had completed his degree, he had gotten a job offer from one of the leading commercial banks in the U.S.The job was to pay him $72,000 a year.

As tempting as the offer was, Okyere decided to return home to Ghana. Okyere moved back to Ghana in 2004 and joined his elder sister in her business in order to understand how the country worked.

A year after working for his sister, he put together a small team of investors and established Westland Alliance Ltd, a telecoms company that provided international call routing services for AT&T and several international calling card companies.

Westland Alliance and its subsidiaries eventually diversified into cell towers and value-added services (VAS) for mobile phone companies. The company was extremely successful, but it wasn’t long before he got tired of the telecoms business and decided to opt-out. In 2006, while still running Westland Alliance, Okyere started working with a business acquaintance who supplied crude oil and condensates to the Tema refinery.

As Okyere interacted frequently with this associate, he learned that there was a shortfall of storage facilities for petroleum products in Tema. Flush with cash from his telecom adventures, he acquired land and began building a storage tank farm in Tema, close to the refinery.

When he invited officials from Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority to inspect his construction project, they were so surprised that someone so young – he was 26 at the time – was undertaking such a capital-intensive project, and employing scores of indigenous Ghanaians. The officials were so impressed with what he was building, so much that they asked him to apply for a Petroleum Product import license.

That marked the genesis of Springfield Energy’s flagship trading business. Ever Since 2008, Springfield Energy has imported refined petroleum products such as gasoline, dual-purpose kerosene, gasoil, naphtha, and jet fuel to Ghana. The company is now the dominant importer of fuel products into Ghana with revenues of more than $1 billion in its trading business alone. In those days, only locally owned trading companies were permitted to import fuel products.

International oil companies who were looking to do business in Ghana had to partner with locally owned companies. When BP PLC came to Ghana in 2010 and was looking for a trading company they could partner with, the British multinational partnered with Springfield – a partnership that still exists today.

Springfield Group has consistently plowed its profits from its core trading business into building and acquiring other businesses within the energy value train and now co-owns gas stations in Ghana, storage facilities, an oilfield services subsidiary, and a haulage company. In 2011, looking to expand their business beyond Ghana, Okyere and his partner, Geena Malkani, decided to visit neighboring Nigeria to explore opportunities in the downstream space.

They formed a new company, Springfield Ashburton, and applied to the state-owned oil corporation, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to be included among the international companies to be awarded the lucrative crude oil lifting contracts. For two years – in 2012 and 2013, Springfield Ashburton tried without success to make the cut.

In 2014 - three years after Springfield Ashburton had been registered in Nigeria – and after partnering with BP PLC, they were enlisted for the 2014/2015 Crude Oil Term Contract. It was the first time a Ghanaian company – an unknown trading house in Nigerian circles, was awarded the highly coveted long-term oil contracts. Nigerian media questioned the selection of a Ghanaian company for the contracts and insinuated that Okyere was a close business associate of Nigeria’s former powerful Petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

Okyere is quick to deny any association with her and notes that the newspapers that wrote the stories linking him to the former minister retracted their stories after Springfield successfully sued them in court. Okyere also won financial judgments as well. Springfield Ashburton still does business in Nigeria and in 2015 was shortlisted by the NNPC for the Offshore Processing Agreements (OPA) – a contract whereby oil traders or refining companies lift crude, refine it abroad and deliver the resulting products back to the NNPC.

NNPC subsequently discontinued the entire Offshore Processing Arrangement, adopting direct trading of Nigeria’s oil instead.

In 2012 Okyere applied for an oil block in Ghana, setting his sights on WCTP2, an oil block with proven reserves on it. Kosmos Energy, a Dallas, Texas-based Oil Company, and Tullow Oil, which is currently producing oil from the Jubilee oil field, had just relinquished WCTP2 which was carved out of the West Cape Three Points block, following the delineation of the Jubilee unitization area.

The Ghanaian government, worried that Okyere could simply flip the block for a profit, compelled him to set up a full-fledged E&P unit before they could award the block to Springfield Group. The government also required Okyere to commit at least $100 million over a 7-year period in developing the block. Okyere set up Springfield E&P in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2016 – four years later, that the government awarded Springfield the rights to explore for oil on WCTP2 and it was ratified by parliament.

Okyere subsequently hired oil veteran Bernard Vigneaux, a former executive of Total and Perenco, to lead exploration efforts. The block, WCTP2, is located in an enviable position, with Tullow Oil/ Kosmos Energy’s prolific Jubilee field immediately to the west, Hess’ Greater Pecan project to the south, and Eni’s Sankofa-Gye Nyame field to the east. The previous operator of the block, Kosmos Energy, drilled five exploration wells in WCTP2 including the Odum and Banda oil discoveries which are substantial.

Based on vintage seismic 3D data inherited from Kosmos Energy, Springfield has been able to identify a number of large Campanian-age leads and prospects on the block. The company is currently evaluating about 800-square kilometers of fresh 3D broadband seismic data that PGS’ Ramform Titan vessel acquired on the deep-water block earlier this year, whilst simultaneously conducting exploration activities for new leads and prospects.

It’s a ridiculously expensive venture, and so far, Okyere has pumped in $70 million of his own funds into the project. According to him, the entire block is sitting on 3.5 billion barrels of oil and 5 trillion cubic feet of gas. Springfield E&P is set to drill a debut well in January 2019.

When he is not building Springfield Group into Ghana’s dominant energy company, Okyere devotes his time to philanthropy. His Kevin Okyere Foundation in partnership with the Springfield Group supports programs in education and health across Ghana.

The Foundation has a standing agreement with the largest government-owned hospital in the country whereby the foundation funds the hospital bills of poor patients who cannot afford to foot their bills. The foundation pays the school fees of hundreds of Primary school children in Ghana, and he sends some of the country’s brightest students to Universities in North America and Europe.

Kevin Okyere
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