12 December, 2012

Malawi's Quest for Oil

Lake Malawi
Malawi needs to find means to uplift its 15 million plus citizen's lives out of the abject poverty and misery that most live in. The small, landlocked country, which is very dependent on assistance and aid from foreign countries and international aid agencies, has taken steps and joined the list of East African countries searching for oil. If it can find oil, Malawi (one of the world's most densely populated and least developed countries) has a very good opportunity of very much improving the living standard of its people. But, the country faces a few daunting problems in its quest for oil.

First, there is the location which will be at the center for this prospecting for oil: Lake Malawi. Pristine, wonderful, fantastic, very scenic, still unspoiled  the third largest fresh-water lake in Africa and it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. The fresh water lake, is rich in fish (about 1,000 species of endemic fish) which is a major food resource for the locals around it; and it also provides livelihood for thousands of fishermen. Prospecting for oil in and around the lake, will undoubtedly disturb or even disrupt this fishing industry. Oil prospecting and drilling, always leads to environmental problems; should oil be found in or around it, there is great danger, that the lake will be polluted and its rich resources damaged. Should there be oil, there is no doubt that the local people's lives, around the lake, will be disturbed; the fishermen will have restrictions on places they can fish in and some places will be out of bounds for them.

Lake Malawi Map
Then, there is the border dispute with Malawi's neighbor  Tanzania. The border dispute has strained relations between these two poor, east-African countries and could lead to war between them; although this is most unlikely. Malawi insists that it owns the whole of the lake apart from what Mozambique has; while Tanzania claims that its border with Malawi should be in the middle of the lake. With the likelihood of oil being found in and around the lake, the two countries will have to resolve the problem soon.

If Malawi has oil, wherever it is - it has no alternative but to drill for it. Its present very dire economic situation and too much dependency on foreign aid, dictates that. If oil is discovered, it doesn't have to be unrewarding and destructive as it has been in other African countries. With wisely and properly managing it, oil can be a life saver and the best thing that has happened to this small country of one of the friendliest people in Africa. Malawi can (it needs to) learn from countries such as Norway and the Gulf States of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, on how to turn this valuable resource in to a great blessing and benefit for its people. 

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