If you mention Sahara Group in Tanzania, many would easily identify it as a company involved in oil trading.
Little is known about its power production and distribution leaving alone the oil and gas exploration and production activities in home land Nigeria.
The privately owned power, energy, gas and infrastructure conglomerate which turned 20 in August has 20 operating companies spanning the entire energy value chain.
Its assets were valued at over $12 billion in 2014.
A recent visit to some Sahara activities in both Accra and Lagos puts clearly what the company is up to and what should Tanzania expect as it enters the East African region.
The first Sahara Group Company – Sahara Energy Resource Ltd was founded in 1996 by three partners namely Tonye Cole, Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi who have professional qualifications in Architecture, Business Administration and Accounting, respectively.
Sharing a vision and a desire to play an active role in the development of Nigeria’s petroleum industry, they harnessed these diverse skills to offer insightful consulting services to companies that traded in crude oil and refined petroleum products.
The group of companies is well established in different countries within and outside Africa and now the focus is East Africa, a region which recently discovered oil and gas.
“We started with oil trading in Tanzania but we are now entering Uganda and Kenya. As usual, our core business is on energy but we do support social services like health and education in areas we operate,” said Mr Tope Shonubi, one of the executive directors.
In Ghana, Sahara operates both whole sale and retail trading of oil. It runs Ghana’s largest oil refinery called Tema Oil Refinery located about 24 kilometers east of the capital, Accra after acquiring it from the government. It refines 45,000 barrels per day. Apart from oil storage facility, the company also owns petrol stations.
In Nigeria, Sahara runs many energy-related businesses but the visit covered a few of them. Egbin Power PLC operates Nigeria’s largest power plant with a capacity to produce 1320 megawatts and the ongoing expansions target 3,000 MW come 2019.
This is the firm which also eyes to establish two gas-fired power plants for 900MW in Tanzania.
Sahara participates in both production and distribution of power in Nigeria.
At Apapa Port in Lagos, Sahara conducts wholesale trading of both premium motor and aviation fuel. Near Murtala Muhammed International Airport, there are also Sahara tanks for the aviation fuel.
One of the company’s corporate social responsibility projects in Accra is completion of 6 classrooms, one staff room at a technical school. It also supported a special ward and equipment to facilitate treating Buruli, one of the neglected tropical diseases.
In Lagos, the company supports a vocational training college which teaches different skills ranging from cookery, photography, textile, hair cutting and dressing and other activities which empower youth to employ themselves.
“These are a few projects and we normally carry such kind of social activities in areas we operate. We also have plans for innovative projects in Tanzania,” said the head of Sahara Foundation Mr Babatomiwa Adesida.