Zakithi Zama is something of a rarity in the male-dominated upstream world — an African woman who heads up an oil and gas player.

South Africa-based iMbokodo E&P is a black economic empowerment vehicle that — backed by Hong Kong-based Meridian Capital — has ambitions to grow on its home turf and farther afield, with an initial farm-in deal set for conclusion this year.

Born in Durban in the late 1960s on South Africa’s lush Indian Ocean seaboard, 53-year-old Zama, an ethnic Zulu, was schooled in what was then Natal province — now KwaZulu-Natal — before making her way north to further her education in Pretoria.