Africa – Italy: The inner circle of ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Friday, 19 November 2021 11:33

ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi is married to a Congolese woman, the former head of the Lagos and Brazzaville subsidiaries, and a connoisseur of Libya. The 66-year-old Milanese engineer hopes to further expand operations on the continent and has one of the most extensive Italian-African networks. Below are the key figures.


Claudio Descalzi

ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and his group were accused of corruption in Nigeria’s OPL245 case, but were finally acquitted at the end of March 2021 by the Milan court. In recent months, Descalzi, who has been at the helm of the Italian hydrocarbon giant since 2014, has gone back on a charm offensive aimed at Africa, where ENI prides itself on being the leading oil and gas extractive company.

The group extracts the equivalent of around 1 million barrels of oil per day from the African subsoil in some 15 countries, which puts it ahead of TotalEnergies’ 900,000 barrels per day.

The CEO made a high-profile visit to Abidjan in early October, just as the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil returned to its highest levels – above $85 on 18 October. ENI teams announced that they had made a major discovery, estimated at more than 1.5bn barrels of oil in the Ivorian offshore, and the group’s boss told President Alassane Ouattara that he expects to start production as early as 2024.

In recent months, Descalzi has also made several trips to Algiers to forge close ties with Sonatrach in the gas sector. He hopes to obtain the authorities’ approval for ENI’s takeover of BP’s assets in Algeria, a move that is currently under discussion.

Alessandro Puliti was appointed in July 2020 as the head of ENI’s powerful ‘natural resources’ division, which covers all extractive activities (oil, gas and renewable energy). The 58-year-old Florentine geologist is very active on the continent and has worked for the company’s Egyptian subsidiary. He is considered to be the group’s number two and accompanied Descalzi during the Abidjan visit on 2 October.

Guido Brusco previously headed the Angolan subsidiary, then the sub-Saharan exploration and production, before he was appointed head of upstream oil in 2020. He also traveled to the Ivorian economic capital.

Antonio Panza has been overseeing ENI’s North Africa region since 2017. The mining engineer, with 35 years of experience in exploration and production, has also been CEO of the Libyan and Egyptian subsidiaries since then.

Luca Vignati was appointed head of ENI’s sub-Saharan Africa region at the beginning of October. A mining engineer who has worked at subsidiaries in the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Libya and Tunisia, he was previously the group’s head of commercial negotiations.

Since 2020, Libya’s Fuad Krekshi has been in charge of the Middle East, Far East and North Africa zones. Previously, the former executive of the Libyan National Oil Corporation, who joined ENI in 1990, was head of the Western Libyan Gas Project, which was led by the Italian group.

Abdulmomen Arifi has been heading the Descalzi group’s subsidiary in Libya, where he is originally from, since 2019. The petroleum engineer, who gained more than 35 years of experience in the sector as he passed through the Milanese headquarters, worked on the Egyptian Zohr mega-project, which went into production in record time.

Nigeria’s Callista Azogu is a chartered accountant who specialises in local content policies. He trained in his home country and then in Milan before he became general manager in charge of human resources and organisation at the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), ENI’s subsidiary devoted to oil production in the Niger Delta.

Angola’s João Maria Da Silva Junior has been deputy CEO of ENI in his home country since 2014 and vice president of the sub-Saharan Africa region for upstream oil since 2018. He is a petroleum engineer who specialises in exploration, particularly in his native country and Nigeria.

Egypt’s Marwa Elhakim has been in charge of diversity and inclusion since January 2021. She previously served as vice president of international negotiations for North Africa.

Born to a Franco-Italian father and a Congolese mother, Marie Magdalena Ingoba (aka Mado) is the wife of Descalzi and headed the ENI subsidiary in the Republic of Congo from 1994 to 1998. According to her official biography, available on her website, she is a businesswoman who has turned exclusively to philanthropy and is the director of the Ingoba-Descalzi Foundation, which is dedicated to the education and health of Congolese youth.

However, an investigation by the Italian weekly news magazine L’Espresso revealed that she may be involved in the misdealings of the Cypriot company Cambiasi Holding Ltd, which controls several African oil import companies linked to ENI. For the time being, no legal proceedings have been brought against her.

Lapo Pistelli, who served as Italy’s deputy foreign affairs minister from 2013 to 2015 and is a former member of Matteo Renzi’s democratic party, has been responsible for ENI’s international public and institutional relations since 2017. Due to his extensive knowledge of the Italian-African networks as well as the countries of the Horn, Egypt and Libya, he joined Descalzi in Abidjan in early October.

Emma Marcegaglia was the head of Confindustria, the Italian employers’ association, from 2008 to 2012, and chairperson of the ENI board of directors from 2014 to 2020. The 55-year-old billionaire is currently heading the B20 – a group that brings together employers’ representatives from G20 countries – which is chaired by Italy this year and has made increasing economic trade with Africa a priority.

Paola Severino, Italy’s justice minister from 2011 to 2013 under Mario Monti’s government, has donned her lawyer’s robes again and returned to her legal duties. She defended Descalzi during the OPL245 trial in Milan.

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