Sahara Group CEO, Tonye Cole, Discusses How The Company is Diversifying from Oil on ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’


This week, ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’ host Eleni Giokos speaks to Tonye Cole, CEO and Executive Director of Sahara Group, about the company’s expansion and attempts to diversify from oil.

Cole begins the interview with ‘Marketplace Africa’ by outlining Sahara Group’s current standing and challenges it’s faced expanding into East Africa.

Cole tells the programme: “I would say challenges always bring innovation because it makes you to do things differently, and also moves you into different territory… Which makes us the largest independent power company in the continent.”

Examining the company’s expansion into East Africa further, Cole tells Giokos: “It teaches you not to be afraid of anything… East Africa provided an opportunity for us to experiment and test out the things that we already discovered in Nigeria and West Africa… We're seeing East Africa being welcoming. The margins are tighter than you would find in West Africa. But once you understand how to move the logistics, then you have a good business.”

With Sahara Group now constructing an oil refinery, providing the company with the capacity to refine oil and petroleum products, Giokos questions Cole on whether he feels this diversification is going to be a positive step for other refining companies.

Cole tells Giokos: “For me, I think that's evolution… For companies who sit down and are not adapting to change, then naturally they will die, and that's a natural consequence for you not adapting… Today, mine may be the largest but you'll find that people will compete for size and capacity as well. And there's nothing wrong with it. We need to encourage competition. So, I think it is a good thing.”

As a company operating across the continent in ever expanding sectors, Cole explains what it means to represent Nigeria on the global stage:

“What drives me the most is that if we can make a difference at the forefront, we are the forefront as an African… When it comes to Nigeria, we actually carry an extra burden of changing the entire narrative as to what Nigeria is about… But most importantly, when we push that it's for a whole generation coming behind us who can see us as role models. That you've been able to break the mould, you've changed the perception as to how people see us, and we can do it.”