30 July, 2008

Tanzania's Quest for Oil

Tanzania hasn't had as much oil exploration as Kenya, but it has made discoveries of gas along its coast, at Songo Songo and Mnazi; and has produced and used some of it. Of late, there has been an increase in exploration activity in Southern Tanzania; mainly by Western oil companies. Tanzania's oil exploration has a long history, dating back to the early 1950s but without much success. It's only in the last few years that 'significant' gas discoveries have been made; just recently, more gas has been discovered by an Australian company near Songo Songo. (Photo: Songo Songo)

But despite these gas discoveries and expected oil discoveries, Tanzania - with an estimated 38 million inhabitants - is still struggling with widespread poverty and remains the poorest of the three East Africa nations. Tanzania is rich in mineral and other natural resources, and has a comparatively very good political system and governance; but due to mismanagement and bad policies, Tanzanians aren't benefiting. And despite the setting up of the SongoSongo Gas-to-Electricity Project over a decade ago, most Tanzanians in rural areas and many in urban centers, still live without electricity; most Tanzanians too, can't, yet, afford to use gas for cooking.

Still, Tanzania, has saved much foreign currency by using its own gas for electricity; and despite the mainland's differences with Zanzibar Island on how to share oil and gas resources along their boundaries, the country should be able to use and utilize any earnings from the minerals - wisely and suitably. Wisely and suitably, as Tanzania is one of the least corrupt and best governed countries in Africa. The Tanzanian leadership too, hopefully can be depended on - in taking better care of its environment and abundant wildlife, while exploring for oil.

Even without oil, Tanzania - with its other enormous natural resources - can rise economically and be rich, just as Botswana has without oil. All it requires for Tanzania, is for it to have good economic management and policies and a clear, ambitious economic vision like Kenya's.

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