Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
This week has seen a rush of key policymakers and business executives from Africa flocking to London. Apart from Sierra Leone, oil and gas executives have been discussing the outlook for Equatorial Guinea, a small central African state rich in oil.
Equatorial Guinea made a relatively rare foray into the global news earlier this month for a presidential pardon of former British army officer Simon Mann, who was serving a 34-year prison sentence in the country for his role in a failed coup d'etat in 2004.
Gabriel Obiang Lima, vice minister of mines, industry and energy, was in London to talk about his ambition for the country. "Our aim is not to be the Kuwait of the region. It's to be the Singapore of the region," he told dozens of business executives in a conference in London on Wednesday.
"Equatorial Guinea has to have other industries that are not dependent on oil and gas."
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 10 day trip to Africa ends this week with many commentators viewing it at least partly as being aimed at offsetting China’s growing economic clout on the African continent.
In public, Clinton has delivered Washington’s traditional messages on the importance of fair elections and of fighting corruption and human rights abuses.
But the fact that top oil producers Angola and Nigeria are both on the tour has made clear the importance of the visit from the perspective of ensuring access to resources – an area of huge importance to China too.
from The Great Debate UK:
-Arvind Ganesan is the Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has laid out the details of a 60-day amnesty programme for militants and criminals in the Niger Delta. Under the deal, all gunmen who lay down their weapons during a 60-day period ending in October will be immune from prosecution. The offer extends to those currently being prosecuted for militant-related activities, meaning Henry Okah – the suspected leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) – could also walk free if he agrees to renounce the notion of armed struggle.
Several factional leaders – including Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo, Soboma George and Boyloaf – have said they accept the idea of amnesty in principle but want talks with President Yar’Adua to hammer out the details.
Nigeria marks its first 10 years of unbroken civilian rule on Friday after emerging from nearly three decades of uninterrupted military dictatorship on May 29, 1999.
The political elite in Africa’s top oil producer are rolling out the drums to celebrate the milestone. And why not?
Buoyed by recent discoveries of commercial scale oil deposits in Uganda, east African policy makers, foreign oil explorers and their local partners trooped to a five-star hotel on the Kenyan coast this week to reflect on the progress and chart future strategies.Viewed as a frontier region for oil exploration, east Africa’s first major oil find was made by Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil companies in the Albertine Basin, which spans the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (whose improving relations are making the exploitation of the reserves look morel ikely).Before that, Tanzania had found vast reserves of natural gas in Songo Songo and Mnazi Bay areas.Just like Rwanda, which hopes to revolutionise electricity generation in the region through methane gas from Lake Kivu, Tanzania hopes to power cars from the gas and generate much needed electricity from its natural gas.The regional economic power house Kenya has, however, had disappointing results so far in its search for oil.Although 32 wells have been sunk here since the 1950s, only traces of oil and gas have been found. It is now reprocessing data gathered over that period in the hope new knowledge and technology will reveal hidden deposits.Drilling, an expensive affair that prospectors say can cost a firm $200 million for one well, took a commercial break in the 1980s. But it has also seen a resurgence of interest, thanks to last year’s rise of crude in global markets.Kenya issued 14 exploration licenses last year and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is set to sink its first well in the second half of this year in the eastern province.Kiraitu Murungi, the nation’s energy minister, told the meeting in Mombasa they were praying day and night for the new well and data reprocessing to show signs of oil.On the other hand, Uganda — long reliant on Kenya’s ageing oil refinery for its supply of petroleum products — has grand plans for its newfound oil resources.They include the construction of a state of the art modern refinery at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion to process its oil as well as oil from any new finds in the region.Uganda’s energy and mineral development minister, Hillary Onek, spoke of the plans with a grin and added that the region, believed to share common geology, could be headed for a better future as it taps its oil and gas reserves to power development.However, as officials and oil prospectors retired to the hotel’s restaurants and beach bar for a drink in the evenings, they must have wondered if a few obstacles may not block the path to that prosperous future.The global financial crisis is weighing heavily on the finance base of some companies prospecting in the region.Lack of local skilled manpower in oil and gas industry is also worrying. So is the big question of how to equitably manage revenues from oil and gas so that oil and gas do not turn into a curse for the region as they have elsewhere on the continent.Is east Africa ready to handle oil and gas? Will oil discoveries help local communities?
Nigeria’s main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), has not so far carried out any major attacks on the country’s oil and gas industry since announcing last month it was ending a five-month-old ceasefire. But the level of insecurity in the vast wetlands region is so great that the industry is feeling the pinch nonetheless. Royal Dutch Shell, Nigeria’s longest-standing foreign oil partner, has warned that “logistical challenges” caused by the insecurity mean it may not meet all of its oil export obligations for this month and next from its key Bonny export facility. Shipping agents and industry sources say security measures at loading platforms mean shipments of crude are being delayed, while some smaller oil services firms have started openly questioning whether to scale back their presence in Nigeria because of high levels of piracy.
On Tuesday, gunmen loyal to militant leader “Kitikata” opened fire on Shell facilities in Bayelsa state. They delivered a letter to the security guards at the site demanding they be given a contract to guard facilities at Nembe Creek, a hotspot for criminal raids, or else they would carry out further attacks.
Much of the news that comes out of the Niger Delta, the vast network of creeks home to Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, is generated either by militant leaders claiming spectacular attacks on oil industry installations or by the military, keen to publicise its victories flushing out crude oil thieves from camps nestled deep in the mangroves.
Rarely heard are the voices of the “boys” who have taken up arms and make up the rank and file of the militant gangs. Oil theft on an industrial scale or kidnappings for ransom make some of their bosses rich. Peace negotiations see others rewarded with the veneer of political legitimacy and a comfortable new government-funded lifestyle. But the grunts tend to share little of the spoils.
from Global News Journal:
Islamist militants imposing a strict form of Islamic law are knocking on the doors of Somalia's capital, the country's president fears his government could collapse -- and now pirates have seized a super-tanker laden with crude oil heading to the United States from Saudi Arabia.
Chaos, conflict and humanitarian crises in Somalia are hardly new. It's a poor, dry nation where a million people live as refugees and 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Islamist-led insurgency of the last two years. A fledgling peace process looks fragile. Any hopes an international peacekeeping force will soon come to the rescue of a country that has become the epitome of anarchic violence are optimistic, at best.
from Global News Journal:
After the Algerian parliament changed the constitution to lift presidential term limits, north Africans are asking whether Algeria now has a president for life.
In making the change, Algeria has followed a route taken in recent years by other African countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Uganda, all of which removed the limit of two presidential terms.