NJ Ayuk, Africa’s most trusted energy lawyer, is a founding member of the Ethiopian Constitutional Court. He has wrestled with some of the most challenging moral dilemmas imaginable.
Many people in the West have never heard NJ Ayuk’s name. Maybe they will now.
NJ Ayuk is an African powerhouse: founder of Earth Law – Africa, a law firm that has pioneered green business on the continent; advisor to both Ghanaian and Ethiopian governments in their energy sectors; and Board Chair at one of Africa’s largest renewable power companies, Wanjiru Power Company Limited.
How Africa’s Biggest Energy Lawyer Follows His Moral Compass
Africa’s most prominent energy lawyer has a calling that has taken him from being a founding member of Ethiopia’s Constitutional Court to advising the president of Ghana and sitting as chairman of one of Africa’s largest renewable power companies, Wanjiru Power Company Limited. He is NJ Ayuk, who in 2015 received the prestigious Energy Person of the Year Award at the Africa Utility Week awards gala in Cape Town. Read more about NJ Ayuk on howwemadeitinafrica.com
In his mid-40s, Ayuk is an imposing figure with a distinctive voice and the sharpest eye for detail you will ever see. He has spent his career navigating Africa’s energy sector, a continent whose energy requirements have long outstripped supply. And by many accounts, Ayuk is the man to talk to if you want to make sense of the many laws, regulations, and opinions governing everything from oil exploration to mining.
Ayuk’s work on the Ethiopian Constitutional Court was instrumental in creating a democratic constitution that allowed free and fair elections in Ethiopia in 2005. But every activist knows that being an activist also means enduring years of imprisonment and being tortured by dictatorships. During the 2005 elections, Ayuk was arrested twice under the outdated rules of the repressive Derg regime. His opponents claimed that Ayuk was the founder of the opposition movement. It resulted in a 36-month prison term.
As #Africa strategically grows its energy mix and we work to create opportunities for Africans, we must make sure that we are doing the heavy lifting to ensure women can seize those opportunities, too.https://t.co/eR4h9TlQ0d
— NJ Ayuk (@nj_ayuk) March 17, 2023
Despite his achievements, Ayuk is incredibly humble and down-to-earth about what he has done for Africa and his impact on millions of people. Ayuk believes strongly in democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, and an independent judiciary. But not even his mentors think he has always done the right thing – to himself or others. In 2006 NJ Ayuk was among a group of prominent Ethiopians who were tried under the old regime by Ethiopia’s new government headed by Meles Zenawi. He was acquitted, but Ayuk says the case profoundly affected him. “I felt at the time that I had not lived up to my own moral principles. That taught me that I had yet to be able to fulfill them. If I have learned anything, it is that there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” he says, smiling broadly.
Ayuk speaks in a soft voice with a smile in his eyes, and this adds to his charm. He is at home in Africa and around Africans because he believes he shares some of their values – particularly regarding the environment and respect for human rights – even though he has been away studying law abroad for many years. He has extreme views on the continent’s extractive industry and is known to quote the old saying, “If a bird wishes to be free, it must fly far away.