Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, has called on the East African Community partner states to strengthen the legal frameworks to enable more East Africans to participate in the development of the petroleum sector.
Murekezi was speaking at the opening of the seventh East African Petroleum and exhibition conference in Kigali yesterday.
The four-day meeting organised by Rwanda’s ministries of East African Community affairs and Natural Resources attracted about 500 participants, including oil and gas experts as well as policymakers.
It seeks to position the east African region as an investment destination for petroleum products.
It would also explore critical topics on emerging trends; provide awareness on the potential for petroleum development in the region and other important developments in the sector including technological advancements in exploration, development and production of the region’s petroleum resources in accordance with international best practices, according to officials. Premier Murekezi said the EAC dream of developing oil and gas sector can only be realised if EAC members seize the opportunity of building the industry using new technologies to produce energy in a more environmentally sustainable way.
“The enormous energy and natural resources this region is endowed with can be optimally developed through cooperation among partner states and other development partners. There is, therefore, need to join efforts in the development of this critical sector for sustainable development,” Murekezi said.
This, he said, would help promote investment in the oil and gas sector by demonstrating to the world the potential that lies within the region.
Regional priorities, according to Murekezi, should be on exploration, production, refining, storage and pipeline development for product transportation.
“It is only through taking up a bold regional approach that EAC can develop such infrastructure that a single country in EAC cannot afford as they require lots of money,” he added.
Amb.Richard Sezibera, the Secretary General of the East African Community, said harmonising the legal and regulatory frameworks will help position the region as an investment destination for the oil and gas sector to accelerate sustainable economic growth.
Sezibera called for joint effort on research and policy formulation, noting that declining oil prices will offer long term prospects for investors to invest in the region.
“The challenge is to provide an environment that will attract more investors into the region’s oil and gas industry,” he said.
Hassan Sumaya Athmani, chief executive officer, National Oil Corporation of Kenya, urged partner states to invest more in capacity building for the sustainability of the sector.
“This will make the region more competitive and accelerate economic growth,” Athmani told The New Times.
Eng. Irene Muloni, Uganda’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, said regional cooperation should be extended to logistics, research and information sharing among partner states.
Muloni added that it will be cost effective for the region to strengthen their cooperation and consequently help grow the oil and gas sector within the region.
“A decision has already been agreed upon on how Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya will move toward some of these projects, including the oil refinery and pipeline for the transportation of crude oil; and we are confident all parties will benefit from these initiatives,” she said.
East Africa is said to have about 2.3 billion barrels of the more than 130 billion barrels of oil yet to be tapped in Africa.
In Rwanda oil prospects have been found in Lake Kivu.
Six international companies have expressed interests in the country’s oil and gas sector, according to the Minister for Natural Resources, Vincent Biruta.
“It is important to note that the majority of our people still depend on charcoal and firewood thus the need to fast-track gas exploration,” Biruta said.
Plans are ongoing to construct an oil pipeline linking all the EAC partner states from Eldoret in Kenya to Kampala-Kigali and later Burundi.
The oil pipeline will be linked to Tanzania from a hub in Mbarara in Uganda with a pipeline to Mwanza, Isaka and finally to Dar es Salaam.