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Kate Mavuti: Insights on the Extractives Industry

Kate Mavuti, Director SEIC, leading a session on promotion of gender equality within the mining industry at the 2018 African Mining Legislation Atlas (AMLA) workshop. (Photo courtesy of AMLA).

Commercially viable oil deposits in the Turkana region were first discovered in 2012 at the Ngamia 1 exploration well. The first consignment of crude oil was flagged off in June 2018 and Turkana residents as well as other Kenyans are hopeful that this will propel the oil industry to becoming a major contributor to the nation’s economy. About 560 million barrels of oil from the South Lokichar Basin can be technically recovered at a cost that is financially feasible and commercial oil production is expected in about three to four years.

Shaping the policy landscape in the extractives sector is the Strathmore Extractives Industry Centre (SEIC), founded by Dr. Melba Wasunna in 2014 and based at the Strathmore University Law School. In addition to this, the Extractives Baraza (EB), the public outreach arm of SEIC, was launched in 2017 and works as an information dissemination platform as well as a convener for stakeholder engagement in the industry.

Kate W. Mavuti is the current director of SEIC. We sat with her to get her thoughts on this emerging industry.

How is research viewed at the SEIC?

At SEIC and the EB, we view research as more than tool of study of thematic issues; we go further and focus on how that research has an impact on the industry.  The oil, gas and mining industry is fascinating but it must be approached from an informed and inclusive angle. Therefore, our role as academia allows us the opportunity to create a neutral space bringing together different players in the industry: government, civil society, community, private sector and academia.

Do you find research interesting?

I never thought research could be this interesting or diverse; I had initially thought that research was for those in academia, that is, professors and lecturers. But having carried out research work and interacting with the professionals in the industry, I have realised that there is massive potential in research. Research is a catalyst for development. With it one is empowered with information and is able to find solutions to problems. There is also a lot of opportunity for personal growth and career development.

How can the university demystify research?

Strathmore University is one of the leading universities in the country when it comes to research, more so in extractives. I believe increased partnerships and collaborations with different players is necessary. SEIC and the EB have been working together with the university to forge more partnerships, and have workshops, trainings, and public lectures. With the support of such partnerships with both academic and non-academic institutions the arena of research will be opened up and those who may otherwise not have thought about research will jump into the bandwagon.

How is SEIC engaging the youth in the extractives industry?

We are currently engaged with our Youth In Extractives (YIE) Program which involves three flagship projects: Energy 4i, Mining 4i and an annual moot court competition. In January 2018, we hosted Africa’s first ever moot court competition based on legal issues.

In the Energy 4i and Mining 4i, which we undertake with our partner KIPYA Africa Ltd, young innovators from all across the country and the East African region go through a Shark-Tank set up which we have dubbed Pango la Simba. This gives the young innovators an opportunity to showcase their remarkable innovations to a panel of Simbas pulled from industry professionals. We just successfully completed our second Energy 4i event sponsored by the Kenya Oil and Gas Association (KOGA).

SEIC is involved in capacity building, research and policy development. Could you tell us of the project that has so far had most impact?

We are seeing a lot of impact from the flagship project, the Extractives Policy Working Group (EPWG). The 2018 EPWG was chaired by the Kenya Institute of Public Policy, Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), convened by the Extractives Baraza and co-hosted by Oxfam International and the Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas (KCSPOG).

The three main policy issues identified by the EPWG in Kenya’s petroleum sector were Revenue Sharing and Management, Local Content and in-country Value Addition, and Environment, Health and Safety (EHS).

What follows the discussion of the policy issues?

To give an overview on what happens with the EPWG, a discussion paper for each of the three topics was researched and published during the Kenya Policy Dialogues. After each forum, a dialogue paper was generated and for purposes of policy impact, officially presented to the requisite agencies mandated to lead policy development in that area. Each thematic area had a guiding technical committee.

Leading the technical committee for revenue sharing and management was the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), for local content we had the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (NOCK), and for Environment, Health and Safety we had the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining with the primary technical partners being the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS) and the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA). We are currently working with these agencies to further build on and track the impact of such work.

Why should we pay close attention to the extractives industry?

The industry is definitely a game changer in terms of economic growth, employment opportunities, technological development, innovation and research. We need to leverage that. The industry has ignited interest in Kenyans; there is a hunger to know more. From a research perspective, this is exciting because you know there is an audience waiting to consume your research.

Kate W. Mavuti is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of the Law Society of Kenya. She has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from the University of Nairobi, a Postgraduate Diploma in law from the Kenya School of Law and a Master of Laws (LL.M) in Oil & Gas Law from the University of Aberdeen and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Oil & Gas at the University of Cape Town.


This article was written by Wambui Gachari.

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