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Africa's energy: east is east, west is ...

I am an avid reader of your correspondent Neil Ford's excellent energy articles and usually agree with much of what he writes. But I was surprised by what he wrote in his article Interest rises in East African Oil Prospects (African Business November 2006) where he suggests that East Africa is "highly unlikely to possess anything like the same volumes of hydrocarbon reserves [as the Gulf of Guinea]".

Mr Ford may well be right in this assertion, but it could be argued that simply no one knows what lies beneath East Africa's offshore waters. We do know that the geological structures are in place to make it at least probable that hydrocarbon reserves are there to be exploited.

What is distorting opinions over East Africa's oil and gas potential is that West Africa got lucky back in the 1960s with the discovery of quite large off-shore oil fields. That led all the oil companies, displaying the herd instinct that they are so famous for, putting nearly all their exploration eggs in one basket and concentrating all their energies on this region while virtually ignoring East Africa.

Another factor was the closer geographical proximity of West Africa to the important industrialised markets of the US and Western Europe at a time when Asian markets were struggling to develop.

Today, of course, the picture has radically changed and India and China are generating strong demand for Africa's energy resources. Where better for Asian oil and gas importers to source their needs than East Africa--thousands of miles closer to their markets than the Gulf of Guinea.

Pablo Sanchez

Madrid, Spain
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Author:Sanchez, Pablo
Publication:African Business
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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