Facing South: The new gateway for growth

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 January, 2021 at 1:50 pm by Andre Camilleri

John Naudi established PBSERV Ltd in 2008 as an engineering product and service specialist in the upstream oil and gas industry.

For post-Covid growth and economic regeneration, we need to reboot our economy and move on from the more traditional sectors.

Perhaps it is high time we venture beyond our comfort zone to identify economic sectors which can be a new source of economic growth, wealth and employment over the next decades.

No one owes us a living and the world’s “new normal” demands a fresh approach, away from the comfort of tried and tested solutions which have permeated our thinking.

We have long been highlighting Malta’s strategic role in the middle of the Mediterranean? But are we really and truly exploiting this advantage? This keeps on inspiring me to look south as Malta’s perfect opportunity for growth and success.

Africa is considered as the last energy frontier, a huge continent of untapped opportunities with vast oil and gas reserves ready to become the next global hub. At the same time, new technology enables a greener form of investment that is more sustainable and reflective of the direction the world is taking on such matters.

Although many countries have discovered new reserves, leading many major players to invest heavily in the continent, no one is as strategically located as Malta in terms of proximity to this large continent. This opportunity invites us to look beyond the traditional Maltese view that Africa means Libya or that opportunities in oil and gas mean only a few months on a rig.

Africa is more than this. We can strategically tap into this continent by addressing crucial energy issues such as the creation of business development hubs for the region, the provision of logistics and services, storage solutions and fabrication facilities. This cannot be achieved unless we are prepared to make oil and gas a prominent pillar of Malta’s new economic architecture. Malta can lead in this and in doing so; the spin-off on other sectors of the economy can be manifold.

Besides attracting leading international players who can employ thousands of people, we can also attract highly qualified human resources to deepen the level of expertise and offer new career prospects to Maltese graduates within popular academic areas such as management, law, design and architecture.

I see immense potential for further growth not only through private investment but also through a strategic vision and dedicated investment in infrastructure by the Maltese government to enable such growth. Malta can become an important player and a natural choice within the region.

The next years must be characterised by the development and consolidation for the few players in the Maltese market who will need to align their respective specialisations and transform themselves into a strong platform focusing on creating a national flagship cluster rather than settling for isolated initiatives.

We need to learn how to work together, how to merge our experience and resources and how by collaborating together we can all make this country a regional pole of competence in the sector.

Private business however cannot do all this alone. We face challenges, such as the lack of trading banks willing to operate such niche areas, the lack of diplomatic support on the continent, the lack of flight connections and specific fiscal support.

If the Maltese economy is to revive itself from the doldrums of the pandemic, it needs to act quickly, decisively and by looking at directions which have not yet been explored. Yesterday’s solutions will not be enough in the world of tomorrow. It is time to set a new course to a new destination for Malta’s growth and success for the coming decades and for our younger generations.

John Naudi established PBSERV Ltd in 2008 as an engineering product and service specialist in the upstream oil and gas industry. Today, John is the CEO of PB Group, a strong logistics, engineering and technical services provider operating across a number of territories in the African region.

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