Changing guard

Côte d’Ivoire taps first woman to lead Petroci oil group

By Maher Hajbi

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Posted on August 11, 2023 09:59

Fatoumata Sanogo, the new head of Cote d’Ivoire’s national oil company
Fatoumata Sanogo, the new head of Cote d’Ivoire’s national oil company (rights reserved)

Petroleum engineer Fatoumata Sanogo will first have to clean up the state-owned company plagued by the missing butane gas scandal.

Côte d’Ivoire’s troubled state-owned oil company has a new pilot at the helm.

Meeting on 18 July, the board of directors of the Société Nationale des Opérations Pétrolières de Côte d’Ivoire – aka Petroci Holding – announced the appointment of Fatoumata Sanogo, a specialist in oil and gas production. As managing director of the group, she is now tasked with the research, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.

Sanogo graduated from the Institut National Polytechnique Houphouët-Boigny in Yamoussoukro, where she studied in petroleum engineering.

She succeeds Vamissa Bamba, whose term in office was cut short in May following the disappearance of 17,000 tonnes of butane gas from the company’s stocks.

A year after the scandal became public in August 2022, an internal audit has led to a shake-up even as its findings remain confidential.

Sanogo’s appointment also brings to an end the interim appointment of Mélanie Koné, the technical advisor to the Ivorian minister of mines and petroleum.

‘An essential asset’

At the head of Petroci, the new CEO will face a host of challenges, including the start of production at the Baleine oil field, the supply of hydrocarbons to the Ivorian market and the ever-increasing demands for profitability.

The task promises to be arduous, but within the supervisory ministry confidence is high. “She has the necessary skills to get the group off the ground, and her experience abroad speaks in her favour,” says an Ivorian official.

Since 2003, Sanogo has carried out a series of assignments for some of the world’s leading international groups.

These have ranged from oilfield services specialists, such as the US-based Halliburton and the French company Schlumberger, renamed SLB, to oil multinationals, such as the Romanian OMV Petrom and the French TotalEnergies, where she had worked since January 2013 prior to her new appointment.

Sanogo also founded Maroil International, a consultancy specialising in oil projects. She is handing those responsibilities over to Rokiatou Doumbia, Maroil’s new statutory manager so that she can “devote herself fully to her duties as Petroci’s head”.

Sanogo wants to revolutionise Petroci with management standards that meet international norms and make it a source of pride for Côte d’Ivoire.

A woman of action, the petroleum engineering specialist has managed numerous oil and gas projects around the world: in the US, Germany, Iraq, Romania, the UK, Italy and France.

In Africa, Sanogo has worked in Algeria, Angola, Chad, Gabon and Congo. “Her international experience is an invaluable asset,” the Ivorian official adds.

Ensuring cohesion

In 2022, the state-owned oil company’s sales reached nearly CFA518bn (around $870m), with net profits around CFA2.5bn ($4.2m). Internally, Sanogo’s arrival as managing director has won over her colleagues.

Although she has only just started her new role, she has quickly found familiar faces: those of the engineers with whom she spent her first training period at Petroci, 20 years ago.

“After a moment of nostalgia about her time here in 2003, she was keen to reassure the staff,” says one board member.

Informed of previous conflicts between some of the employees and their superiors, the new boss announced that she wants to rely on her workforce as the pillar of the Ivorian oil company.

“Her approach has been appreciated, and all that remains now is for her to find her footing in an important management position to implement her vision and develop Petroci’s operational and financial performance,” the board member says.

Aiming higher

Sanogo is the first woman to be officially appointed managing director, according to the company. She aims to make this strategic institution “a group that produces and supplies energy responsibly”.

Although she has not declared her objectives in terms of production or financial results, the specialist in petroleum engineering promises to “boost Petroci’s performance and profitability”, says an associate close to Sanogo.

Is this a real commitment or just empty words?

“Sanogo wants to revolutionise Petroci with management standards that meet international norms and make it a source of pride for Côte d’Ivoire,” says her colleague.

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