Meet James Crawford — Energy & Local Content Specialist
James Crawford is a profound international mind whose expertise goes beyond Oil and Gas operation and maintenance. His experience working for conglomerates such as Marathon Oil and Wood Group PSN in Directorial positions within the African continent in the last 30 years has equipped James with the skill set and tenacity to do business across Africa. As the Regional Vice President for Marathon Oil in Equatorial New Guinea and Managing director for Wood Group PSN’s UK and Africa business, James has influenced the development of the Oil and Gas sector as a whole — from promoting local content laws to introducing new labour laws that protect industry professionals in the 16 different countries he directly worked with. He is currently the Managing Director for Kuro — a global consultancy company whose expertise delivers services across a wide range of disciplines and industries.
Who is James Crawford?
James Crawford truly is a GlobalScot not only by virtue of title but by virtue of his worldly experiences that could make the most adventurous of lifestyles seem mundane. James was raised in Lesotho and Sudan and has never lost his connection with the lifestyle, culture and experiences Africa had ingrained in him. Whilst a Scotsman by birth, James carries the heart of Africa within him. His established career and an incredible degree of work experience has not been inspired by fame and fortune but rather respect and understanding for a region he once called home. James’ familial connection with Africa drew him back towards the continent at the first opportunity he saw working for Wood PSN as the Managing Director for Africa. His respect for his former home may be easily visualised through his expansive industry and community work throughout his career.
Over his 30 years of experience working with less developed countries with Marathon Oil and Wood Group PSN, James has held senior managerial positions throughout his career as Regional Vice President for Marathon Oil in Equatorial Guinea, President of the Asset Solutions Business Unit for the Europe business and Managing Director for Wood Group PSN’s UK and Africa business. James’ career has encompassed the most trying times for the African content whilst working in Equatorial Guinea during the Ebola epidemic, with several states during the Global Financial Crisis as well as working through Civil Wars in a number of countries.
James has personally worked with 16 different African countries each presenting their own unique opportunities and challenges. His experience with government at every level is truly something to respect and admire. James pioneered numerous initiatives alongside his projects that improved and promoted the welfare of the local communities. He aided the development of local content laws and new business practices such as “shift patterns” in Cameroon. In addition to introducing new “ways of working” in the country, James played a key role in implementing labour laws protected his employees and accordingly influenced labour law reform. James managed a 1200 person team in Chad, where skilled labour is typically scarce. The success in this posting didn’t only lie in the successful running of the Oil field but in the upskilling of the workforce were the most extravagant job title at the time was a local farmer. To see the progression of the workforce from “ farmers to crane operators was truly rewarding.” James’ contributions to society did not end with promoting legal change as he started numerous projects with the Wood Group that resulted in building small schools, partnering with charities to build orphanages and supplying communities with basic necessities like bedding and housing supplies. Whilst doing business has its knock-on effect of stimulating the economy, improving household wealth and technical knowledge, James understands that it doesn’t hurt to do more. These acts of kindness have attributed to the remarkable reputation James has acquired across the continent with communities and officials.
As a passionate African at heart, James truly understands, respects and admires the working environment the continent provides. He strongly maintains the philosophy that the risk of working in Africa is overstated and many of these perceived risks can be easily mitigated via building your network with experienced business professionals in the UK such as James himself and with local government, conducting hefty research prior to setting up your business and always being culturally aware of where you are. James stresses the importance of being open-minded and embracing the culture you expect to do business with. He insists that you “remember, you are not in Scotland, the rules here are different.”
The key to starting a successful business on the continent lies in your morals, transparency and your “apolitical” nature. James finds that those who fail to do business in Africa stumble at one of these hurdles. Through his decades of experience, James cannot stress enough how advantageous it is to be transparent and honest from the start in your dealings on the continent. By doing this from the onset the perception of you and your business by the community and the government is one of utmost professionalism which contributes significantly to the mitigation of risks during the course of business. Having engaged with a myriad of cultures and emphasising that each country has something different to offer; James maintains that transparency and honesty are welcomed across the board. There is no alternative and there is no better or easier way of doing business.
From living in warzones to more stable African countries, James welcomes the excitement the continent offers. His expertise in maintaining successful businesses in different regions speaks to the overall legal stability the continent offers. James has joined the SABA team as a board member for very similar reasons as to why he chose to work with Africa from the inception of his career. James loves to help companies grow and succeed just as much as he enjoys the impact successful business has on the livelihood of its employees. Through his work with SABA, James hopes to continue to promote successful business opportunities in the Energy sector across the continent. He believes that despite the popular narrative, the skills and talent available across the continent are admirable and worthwhile and his evidence to support this claim lies in his successful career. SABA looks forward to working with James and his network to facilitate the success of Scottish business in Africa.