Salma Okonkwo, founder and CEO of Blue Power Energy, is a senior business executive with over twenty years of experience in Africa’s energy sector. Having worked extensively across oil and gas in West Africa, Salma founded UBI Petroleum in 2007, an energy trading business specialising in procurement, storage, marketing and distribution of petroleum products in West Africa, with a primary focus on Ghana. Her focus is now on the development of green energy businesses in West Africa.
This interview was originally published in African Power & Energy Elites 2021.
WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?
I am continuously inspired by the technology and IT sectors because they have a strong grasp and understanding of what it means to innovate. Change is what drives those industries forward. For example, the recent breakthrough made by Google’s DeepMind AI in the medical sector. They solved a problem that had stumped scientists for 50 years, using new technology. I try to bring that same mentality of innovation and persistence into my business.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHEN LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?
As a leader, I must project certainty to my team, especially when the environment is anything but certain. I believe that the mentality of a team is set from the top, from the leader of the company, and therefore it is imperative that the leader is steadfast in their vision. I constantly spoke with my team throughout the pandemic and always set and reevaluated our goals so that we were always moving forward. This demonstrated to my team that we were not directionless despite the global situation.
When we experience market changes, it takes time to identify the positive and negative consequences that could impact our growth. Understanding that this is a possible blind spot, we perform constant research and development (R&D) tasks to promote improvement and mitigate blind spots. That is how we stay on top of a constantly changing environment.