Photo: OPEC Secretary General Barkindo; Source: African Energy Chamber

End of an era as OPEC’s Barkindo is preparing for exit

OPEC Secretary General, Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, is preparing to leave the role at the end of July 2022 following a two-term tenure.

A long-serving veteran of Nigeria’s oil industry and OPEC, Barkindo will turn over the reins to his successor Haitham Al-Ghais of Kuwait with effect from 1 August 2022, for a period of three years.

Al-Ghais, a veteran of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and Kuwait’s OPEC Governor from 2017 to June 2021, currently serves as Deputy Managing Director for International Marketing at KPC. He Chaired the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of the Declaration of Cooperation (DoC) in 2017 and subsequently served as a Member of the JTC until June 2021.

Announcing Barkindo’s departure and replacement in early January, the organisation said that he has been instrumental in expanding OPEC’s historical efforts to support sustainable oil market stability through enhanced dialogue and cooperation with many energy stakeholders, including the landmark DoC since its inception in December 2016. These efforts are widely credited with helping to stabilize the global oil market since the unprecedented market downturn related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and providing a platform for recovery, OPEC said.

The African Energy Chamber – a chamber of networks, transactions, and partnerships at the helm of Africa’s growing energy industries – said Barkindo’s departure marks the end of an era.

NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman at African Energy Chamber, said the industry has become accustomed to Barkindo’s steady hand on the rudder, guiding OPEC through the volatile waters that global oil and gas producers must navigate, including growing public sentiment against fossil fuels.

According to Ayuk, Barkindo in 2017 steered OPEC into a mutually advantageous relationship with 11 non-OPEC producers (10 nations since Equatorial Guinea joined OPEC in May 2017), including Russia. The benefits of the OPEC+ alliance were keenly apparent in 2020 when the pandemic hit and travel nearly stopped in its tracks. It didn’t help that an oil war between Saudi Arabia and Russia flared up in March of that year, driving up production when demand was at a dramatic low. By April, oil futures plunged, at least for one day, into negative territory, and the oil industry was in jeopardy.

It was Barkindo who skillfully brought all parties to the table to find a resolution: The 23 members of OPEC and OPEC+ agreed to record reductions in output, a move that helped oil prices recover more quickly than they might have otherwise. This outcome is a testament to Barkindo’s skills as a leader, Ayuk emphasised.

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Barkindo is also credited with being a champion for Africa as well as an advocate for Africa in the greater energy transition discussion. Recognizing his support of the continent’s energy industry, in 2018 the Africa Oil & Power Conference named Barkindo their Africa Oil Man of the Year.