KUWAIT - Green Economy
Chairperson & CEO, OilServ
Sara Akbar has over 35 years of experience in the oil and gas industry and is currently the Chairperson & CEO of OILSERV Kuwait. She is a member of the Kuwait Supreme Council for Planning and Development and an active member of the board of trustees of Kuwait’s Silk Territory project. Previously, she has worked for Kuwait Oil Company and Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company. In 2005, she co-founded Kuwait Energy. Sara has received many accolades, including a Global 500 Award presented by the UN’s Environmental Program and Leader in Energy award at the Women in Leadership Awards & Forum in 2009. In 2013, she received the AIME Charles F. Rand Memorial Gold Medal. She was named among the top 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen of 2017 by Forbes Middle East. In 2018, she also received the Hall of Fame award recognizing her as a pioneer in the oil and gas industry. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Kuwait University.
With many opportunities still available in the country and region, OilServ is looking at expanding its operations and training more local talent.
What progress have you noticed in Kuwait in terms of entrepreneurship, infrastructure developments, and foreign policy improvements?
All these are still in progress, but Kuwait has been stalled by the political deadlock, and no useful laws can be passed, as the government and parliament cannot agree on their execution. The Northern Economic Zone cannot be created without a law in place. What Kuwait needs is political harmony. During the pandemic, many businesses had to close leaving people jobless. This mobilized some to establish their own businesses. Some of these entrepreneurs still do their old jobs, in the meantime running highly effective and successful ventures. This trend is not only found in the country, but region wide.
What opportunities and challenges did digitalization offer OilServ?
The pandemic made us use online platforms, which brought the company closer together. We have adopted tools to communicate more efficiently and increased our digital intelligence. Furthermore, we used this shift to increase our abilities in tracking our assets and measure efficiency on all fronts. These are all small improvements of a great value.
Are you looking into other markets or partnerships to be established?
We have signed a few partnerships that are important for the company. These are mainly in the areas of emission control and management. We have established a partnership with Questor, a Canadian company, to help us bring emissions to net zero. Our second partnership involves gas-to-liquids (GTL) system. This way, in small quantities, we can take care of gas waste in an environmentally friendly way. The third partnership is with a company where we take all the gas and use it to create electricity; however, as transporting gas in small quantities is not efficient, we have decided to use our partnership with EWP and create data centers attached to our system, so we can offer data space for international companies to use. This way, we can take care of the emissions sustainably wherever we are.
What important steps still need to be taken for a better inclusion of females within the business community?
I would advocate three things. Although women on paper have political rights, they are not represented in Parliament. We have only had one female minister, and there is plenty of space for improvement. Recently, there has been positive developments, because four women were placed in the Municipal Council. For a more inclusive space to be available, there should be a practice of recommending women whenever a new opening in the government takes place. When it comes to politics, women lack experience and connections in that sphere, since they only entered this space recently. To close the gap here, we should establish a temporary system to introduce more women into the sphere, so they can gain exposure and establish their networks. As long as women are not in that circle of decision-making, their influence will not increase. The third element is in decision-making in the private sector. We should introduce an initiative similar to the UK or Europe, where 30% of executive-level positions must be filled by women. We do have some fantastic women sitting on boards and C-level chairs, and we need to enhance that further with regulations. Once we have these in place, there can be a more even playing field for all.
What priorities and expectations does OilServ have in the coming months?
We would like to expand our business and service the industry in various areas of the sector in Kuwait. We are here to stay, so all the services we offer are already executed elsewhere. Currently, we only provide one service in Kuwait, and there are at least 17 more to explore and provide. There is a whole suite of other things that we can do to improve the market. Our priorities therefore are to grow, expand, and train up more Kuwaitis to serve the industry with the best possible service.