NJ Ayuk Critical of Empty Promises at US-Africa Leaders Summit
On December 13 to 15, 2022, United States President Joe Biden hosted the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. According to the President, the summit’s goal was to “strengthen ties with African partners based on principles of mutual respect and shared interest and values.” While NJ Ayuk generally supported the purposes behind the summit, as the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, he also noted that action—not just talk—was necessary.
The Conflict Between Talk and Action According to NJ Ayuk
Who Is NJ Ayuk?
NJ Ayuk is an African attorney who founded Centurion Law Group, a law conglomerate that operates in the energy and financial sectors. He is the Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, an energy law group based in South Africa. Its focus is on legal issues that affect oil and gas in African countries.
Ayuk also holds an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology. His work history includes a law practice at Baker Botts, a U.S. law firm headquartered in Houston, Texas, and work at the United Nations Development Programme. Further, his work at Vanco Energy and later founding of Centurion Law Group makes him uniquely qualified to provide opinions on energy and the law in African Countries. For instance, in 2023, Ayuk was dubbed one of the top 100 most reputable Africans who have contributed to authorship and business. He was also listed in Forbes’ Top 10 Most Influential Men in Africa.
Ayuk’s Take on the 2022 US-African Leaders Summit
The US-African Leaders Summit aims to bring African countries and the United States together to work toward common goals. However, Ayuk puts little stock in the decisions or programs discussed at the summit. He states: “History tells us that time and time again, the high ideals, good words, and handshake commitments (and even contractual obligations) which are reached at these meetings have, for any range of intervening reasons, been ignored, set aside, overlooked, or found to be too ambitious to complete.”
Ayuk urged leaders to avoid “building bridges to nowhere” at the summit, requesting more realistic goals. He also requests that the focuses shift from decreasing public financing for fossil fuel projects under the guise of climate justice. While he recognizes that Africa may be more vulnerable than most to the severe effects of climate change, that does not mean that it should abandon oil and gas opportunities altogether. Oil and gas industries often provide much-needed jobs, social improvements, and other economic benefits, and those gains must be weighed against the benefits of renewable energy. He argues that renewable energy options are not a blanket solution in some cases.
Ultimately, Ayuk is looking for action. He states: “[W]e are asking that everyone who attends the summit only make promises they can keep. The time for empty gestures is over. Today calls for action.” He notes that as time passes following the summit, the true test of how successful it was will depend on the action steps actually taken and the progress made long after the summit.