Africa, Energy Security, and Leon Sullivan

By Peter J. Robertson, Vice Chairman
Chevron Corporation

Presidential Plenary

Abuja, Nigeria, Jul. 19, 2006

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by thanking President Olusegun Obasanjo. Mr. President, you are most kind to again host the Sullivan Summit in this great city of Abuja at the center of Africa's most populous nation. How appropriate it is that the nickname for Abuja is 'centre of unity.' We deeply appreciate your hospitality.

This is the seventh Sullivan Summit, and the second since the passing of our friend, Leon Sullivan. Rev. Sullivan always reminded us that what we can conceive, we can achieve. He conceived these summits, and look what they -- and he and we -- achieved.

Leon Sullivan believed these meetings, in support of sub-Saharan Africa, ranked among the most important gatherings on earth. I'm honored to be here and delighted that we are taking this occasion to re-dedicate ourselves to the Global Sullivan Principles.

I've always been deeply proud that in 1977 my company was one of a dozen charter signatories of the original Sullivan Principles. That document was part of a long struggle that, eventually, tore down the walls of South Africa's apartheid.

Today, I am equally proud that Chevron is supporting the renewed Global Sullivan Principles. I think of it as giving us all a second chance to spread Leon Sullivan's legacy of self-help, individual rights and human progress.

For me, one phrase defined Rev. Sullivan's approach. 'Use what you have in your hands,' he said. He was convinced that people everywhere wanted a hand up -- not a hand out.

Leon Sullivan advocated self-help. But he was also a master of coalition building. Because he knew that the only lasting change -- sustainable change -- was that won by partnership.

Leon Sullivan inspired my company to look at the way we worked with our host communities, in Africa and wherever we operate. From him we learned that helping others help themselves was the best, and only, way to achieve sustainable growth.

My company, for example, is investing millions in the communities of its African partners extending a 'hand-up' in the form of basic tools and training that can help people shape their own destinies.

I've seen the results with my own eyes.

Here in the Niger Delta, Chevron is helping reinvent the concept of community engagement. New initiatives are empowering communities to create projects that improve lives.

And these initiatives are implemented through eight Regional Development Councils. These councils include representatives from state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, our company and, most important, local citizens themselves. All the stakeholders are not merely involved, they are held accountable for results.

In Angola, on a trip to Huambo in the interior two years ago, my wife and I saw the devastation left by a long civil war. But we also saw seeds of hope in areas where Chevron -- leading a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations and others -- is helping to revitalize that country's agriculture.

You could still see the scars of conflict. But when we visited Angola's only agricultural institute, we also saw a new beginning.

Rebuilding the institute was only one of the partnership's efforts to revive Angola's small farms. Overall, more than a million rural Angolans have benefited from this program.

Africa was Leon Sullivan's great passion. He'd remind us of a Nigerian proverb: Work is the medicine of poverty. Then he'd push us on toward greater collaboration and greater achievements.

Early on, Leon Sullivan recognized the critical importance of Africa's energy industry -- to Africa and to the security of the world's economies.

If Rev. Sullivan were here today, however, I think he might warn us that too often discussions about energy security and Africa simply reflect the viewpoint of the developed world.

I think he would tell us, in that utterly persuasive way of his, that the time has come to turn this around, that we must recognize the importance of a secure African energy industry, not only to the world but to Africa, to Africa's people and to Africa's future.

Africa occupies a unique position. Its oil and gas fields are among the world's most prolific; its prospective areas, where new energy will be found, among the most promising. These resources are critical to consuming nations. The United States, for example, imports more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia -- more oil from Nigeria than from Kuwait.

At the same time, the capital and technology that consuming nations provide are crucial to Africa. It is this interdependence, this value exchange, that provides the basis for a grand alliance between consumers and African producers -- and an historic opportunity for achieving energy security.

Any successful framework for energy security must include certain critical elements – open markets; sound and predictable investment policies; robust technology; and energy efficiency to name a few.

But energy security requires another vital element. It is responsible development. We must ensure that the economic benefits of energy flow to all stakeholders. This includes the development of people through jobs and skills training, increased educational opportunities, better health care, and the continuing nationalization of the workforce.

Remember, besides offering a hand up, Leon Sullivan urged us to stretch our hands out to each other -- to build bridges of cooperation.

I believe a secure African energy industry can build an essential bridge, one that forges a strong energy partnership between nations. Across this bridge will flow much oil and gas to consumers around the globe. The benefits flowing back to Africa can help millions create a better life.

All this gets back to the goals sought by Rev. Sullivan -- goals that are today embedded in the renewed Global Sullivan Principles: namely, human capacity building and responsible development.

Success takes leadership -- leadership with vision and a strong sense of purpose.

Over the past decade, we have seen evidence of that vision and purpose – starting here in Nigeria and extending across the continent. Thanks to President Obasanjo, transparency is a new imperative. The number of African democracies has doubled. Two dozen countries count themselves as members of the new partnership for Africa's development. And we have witnessed creation of the African leadership council with its mission to encourage reform across the continent.

These actions can increase energy security for Africa and, by extension, for the global energy community. They can provide the foundation for a better life. They are essential elements of a new producer/consumer framework -- one based on interdependence and a level playing field in which Africa can and must have a central role.

Leon Sullivan told us to stretch our hands out to one another, to build bridges of cooperation. That is exactly what we are doing at this summit and in recommitting ourselves to the Global Sullivan Principles.

If Leon Sullivan's life had a central theme it was this: that we will always accomplish more by working together than by working alone. Africa's potential is too great, its resources too vast and its people too proud for it not to reach its destiny. A secure energy future can be a step toward making that destiny a reality.

What we can conceive, we can achieve. And I'd like to add just one word to Leon Sullivan's phrase -- we will achieve.

Thank you.

Published: July 2006