Our world is changing, necessitating a greater need for diverse and inclusive leadership. This concept of inclusion and gender diversity could not be more timely.
For many years, the global oil and gas sector, in particular, has been a male-dominated industry. It became critical for this peculiar industry to foster the idea of gender diversity and inclusion; thankfully, there appears to be some gradual progress in this regard.
Albeit, according to a McKinsey 2020 study, women make up only 15% of the world’s oil and gas workforce. Not surprising, women hold only 9% of senior management positions in the energy sector in Africa and the Middle East.
However, making the list as the world’s sixth most powerful woman in the industry, and one of the wealthiest women in Africa, is Catherine Uju Ifejika, the CEO of Brittania-U Nig Ltd. The company is an indigenous company for upstream Oil and Gas exploration and production. It is also on record that Catherine Uju Ifejika is the first woman to become chair and CEO of an upstream E&P company in Nigeria.
Early life and education
Born in Opobo, Rivers State, on October 28, 1959, Catherine Uju Ifejika attended University Primary School in Nsukka for her primary school and Queens School in Enugu for her secondary education, among other academic institutions.
Catherine earned a Diploma in Law and an LLB (Hons.) from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in 1985. In 1986, she was admitted to the Nigerian B Association. She took a step further by becoming a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN). Not relenting, she later became a fellow of the Institute of Arbitration and Conciliation, in addition to the Nigerian Bar Association.
Her experience in the upstream and downstream aspects of the petroleum industry was by sheer providence as a result of her stint at oil giant companies- Texaco and Chevron. It started with her completing her National Youth Service at Texaco.
She joined Texaco in 1987 as a Junior Counsel and worked for Texaco Overseas Petroleum Unlimited for two years, from 1988 to 1989. She became Acting Chief Counsel by 1991. She rose to the position of Company Secretary and Manager of Public and Government Affairs in 1997, appointed Company Secretary for Public and Government Affairs for West Africa in 2003. She later became a member of the Board of Directors of Brittania-U and affiliates.
Brittania-U Nigeria purchased a stake in the Ajapa Marginal Field, an oil and gas field with $4.3 billion in reserves. They took advantage of a government initiative to develop marginal fields and raised capital from local investors. Although founded in December 15, 1995, but only became operational in 2003.
Uju Ifejika founded Data Appraisal Co. Ltd. (2001), Nexttee Oil & Gas Trading Co. Nigeria Ltd. In 2009, and Brittania-U Ghana Limited in 2010.
A believer in identifying one’s unique entrepreneurial ability
A firm believer in God, authenticity and discovering one’s life purpose, she states that “In entrepreneurship, you learn how to be tough in shark-infested waters. The good thing about entrepreneurship is that you don’t get into it because others are getting into it. You must, first of all, understand who you are. Don’t ever look up to anybody to tell you what you are capable of doing. God created everyone unique.
Everybody wants to be an oil magnate, and nobody wants to be a carpenter or mechanic. But if you are born with that vision, people from around the globe will come looking for you.
As a young man or woman, you must find out that thing that distinguishes you from others. I didn’t start off as an Oil and Gas person with a prior education in the industry. I started early, just knowing how to make money like a typical Ibo person. Even if you are not the star in your family, it doesn’t matter because He (God) created us uniquely.
Be truthful, straightforward and make your foundation God, not any human being”.
Empowering local individuals and local communities
Catherine Uju Ifejika has stated that Brittania-U’s main objective includes people’s well-being, a better quality of life, job opportunities, and a safe and clean environment. As a result, Brittania-U Nigeria, an indigenous company, has partnered with local Nigerian communities, hiring locals and engaging in community development programs.
Uju Ifejika has received several awards and honours, including the 2013 African Businesswoman Award from Black Pumps, a non-profit women’s organization based in Los Angeles, California.
She has been described as a giver, lover of God, mentor and the life of the party who loves to celebrate and have fun with friends and family. She has received both national and international awards for best practices in leadership and is married with children.