HASS Petroleum CEO M. Salat “Africa is the land of opportunities” (Interview)

Interviewed F. Abdi owner and writer of the website www.ai-somalia.com
Interviewed F. Abdi owner and writer of the website www.ai-somalia.com

Hass Petroleum is a leading regional oil marketing company, incorporated in 1997 it has a significant presence in East, Central, and Horn of Africa. Countries with significant operations include Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda Zambia, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Key assets include major oil terminals, retail station networks, and established supply chain infrastructure. Its product range consists of all white oils, namely: Diesel, Gasoline, Jet A1, Kerosene, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and its own brand of lubricants, blended to world-class standards.

In this episode, we spoke with Mohamud Salat, Group CEO of Hass Petroleum.

The following is a condensed version of the full video interview.

What is your professional and educational background? Can you tell us more about your current situation?

I was born and raised in the Northern part of Kenya. That’s where I did my basic education and High school. I did my bachelor in Economics and my Masters in Economic Policy Analysis. I´m also a Chartered Accountant. I finished my University in the year 2008. Then I joined KPMG one of the international audit firms. That’s where I’ve got my first training. For about 6 years and then I left in my seventh year.6 years of working with those guys meant you go and audit almost all sectors from the financial institution to manufacturing industries. 

In the last 2 years of working there, I focused on the public sector, so the audit of government and NGO’s. Slowly I switched into the advisory role. Then came Hass Petroleum I joined them in 2013 as the head of internal audit, I worked for them for about 2,5 years. I transitioned to become the CFO. During that period we have turned around our business model. What we did is you know we are in about 9 countries. And you can imagine if you go to one country the accountants are very good in stock management the others are good in receivable Management the others are good in say payables. There was no consistency so we wanted to centralize this aspect of the business which we did. Alhamdulillah, last year I was allowed to lead the team as the CEO of Hass petroleum. 

Can you tell us about Hass Petroleum and your regional reach, specifically Somalia?

Let me say this. One of the reasons why I am quite passionate about what I do today as the CEO of Hass Petroleum is what Hass means to the Muslim communities at large. To the Somali Community to be specific.

Hass Petroleum is surprisingly first registered in 1997 it’s a 2-decade company. It was initially started by two brothers. 

I think the way they modeled and what they meant is what really transformed the company. They were keen on supporting society and the Ummah. 

Alongside Hass Petroleum we have the Hass Foundation, today we have built many children’s homes and pay for utility bills for a lot of masjids. at the moment we have 1,571 employees, mostly Somalis. Today Hass Petroleum is a billion-dollar business. 

Hass Petroleum Karen, Nairobi, Kenya.

Your mission is to be the region’s premier provider of high-quality petroleum products through innovation. Can you tell us more about this?

The reality today is there is a lot of evolution happening in the technological aspect of every business and only those who adopt and appreciate make the difference. I can’t compare myself with what’s happening in the West today. We are still building a typical petrol station using fossil fuel. We know where the world is heading and we appreciate it. 

We always say we should be the first one in innovation. In Somalia, we have introduced composite LPG gas cylinders. This makes usage and handling of the cylinders much safer compared to the regular steel containers which our competitors in the market are still using. 

As a company that operates in this market, we are always aware of what’s happening across the world. And we want to be the first in taking those kinds of innovations to the markets where we operate.

Sustainability is essential to the longevity of a big company such as Has Petroleum and your role as a member of society. What does sustainability mean at Hass Petroleum?

There is one thing in the back of our head that we don’t want to lose, the identity that we are Somali. 

For us to be sustainable then you must have a Somali society that is stronger, empowering that community is a top-notch priority. So by merely taking the brain, the creme de la creme of the company to a hub like Hargeisa says a lot. 

Whatever we do in our business we always want to influence the society where we work. Pass the knowledge to the next generation. We also very much appreciate Environmental sustainability. To do so we work with the local governments and communities. 

The world’s energy system is going through a transition. Access to reliable, affordable, and clean energy resources is a key priority. Is Hass Petroleum thinking of new energy business opportunities and new ways to connect customers to energy?

I agree the energy sector is going through a transition. Unfortunately, we cannot run faster than the economies where we operate. It might take a while before I see the first electrical car driven in Nairobi or even Hargeisa. At Hass Petroleum it’s a conversation we always have, how we can transition ourselves. The partnership with the Oman government through their biggest oil company allows us the opportunity to see what is happening in those kinds of markets. We are seeing a petrol station having a mix with elements of charging ports for electrical cars and so on. 

We are ready and aware of the evolution we just don’t want to run ahead of our economies. We want to wait when the economies and people embraced these technologies. And Hass we will definitely embrace this.

From machine learning to computer vision, deep learning to virtual assistants, and autonomous vehicles to robotics, There is a range of technologies that have supported advances in AI. Businesses that harness new data sources and use AI and machine-learning technology to provide insights will be in a strong position to shape future commercial development and influence how society changes. Many of the algorithms behind AI and machine-learning systems are not new but limited volumes of accessible data have hampered their application. The recent explosion in data volumes and availability has led to a step-change in the training of algorithms and provided important new insights. Easy access to vast data volumes is making AI algorithms smarter. Can you give us examples of AI delivering value to Hass Petroleum or are you planning to work with AI companies in the future?

The reality is there is a serious transformation happening in terms of AI technology. 

I can be specific around the oil industry; in a supply chain, you might have a refinery selling oil to Hass Petroleum.

A basic example would be a bill of lading documents issued. We would be interested in a few points like; quantity in metric tons, dates, and a few other clauses. With AI or machine learning you can have this basic information extracted and provided to you, and not necessarily the 10 pages that are technical and legal that have nothing to do with the transaction that you are keen on. 

As a business accepting this level of technological transformation will really ease this whole aspect of doing business. You should be able to use AI to get the basic information that will aid in speedy decision making.

There is currently a blockchain initiative that streamlines this process where I would be able to access this data from my end of the cycle essentially making manual data entry processes obsolete. The need for human involvement will never be eliminated in the process, but it will not be the same. 

There are a lot of opportunities for both Hass Petroleum as users and companies that are developing these AI solutions. 

Africa’s economies have largely failed to create stable and well-paid jobs. What can you advise Somali youth who want to work in a challenging work environment like Somalia or other African countries?

Let me start with demystifying first. Somalia is not a challenging environment.  I’ll start with that one. So ideally, I will say Africa is the land of opportunities. I have personally traveled to some of these developed worlds.  I will say life is quite stable there. It’s very easy for you to live stable, the best healthcare, the best education. 

But if you have this young Somali guy and this dream of becoming a billionaire.  I think you have better chances of being one in Africa. 

First I’ll advise the youth to come back to Africa and pick up these opportunities who are quite immense in this part of the world. There is no shortcut in life. It’s all about hard work. 

If you are Somali living in the West and you have an education and you have had opportunities to learn take it and come back home. We will welcome you with a red carpet and come and make it in Africa. 

In Somalia specifically, we all want to be bystanders. We want things to change but we don’t want to be part of the change. So if you are not coming back, if you are not taking part in the evolution of Somalia to what it deserves to be. The reality is; the Somalis who are blessed don’t want to come back.

The Somali community is resilient and a lot is happening right now in the country. Ideally, you can come back and make a difference. All the Somali community wants is that opportunity to go out in the morning, work somewhere, come back and share it with their families. That’s all they want and it’s up to me and you to come back and give them that opportunity to work.