Tanzania, DRC, Burundi and Zambia moot joint oil exploration on Lake Tanganyika
Four Countries that share Lake Tanganyika on the north west of Tanzania; including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia are due to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for joint exploration of oil and gas on the lake.
In October 2016, Tanzania and the DRC signed a MoU on joint exploration.
A finding of oil and gas on Lake Tanganyika will be a game changer for Tanzania. In recent years, Tanzania has been upping her game against Kenya, hitherto East Africa’s most dominant economy. Tanzania is playing up her coastal advantage to divert some of east Africa’s and the great lakes region business traffic down south, through her own ports. The first success in this direction was to wrestle Uganda’s oil pipeline out of Kenya’s clutches; by getting Uganda to decide to build a joint oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean through Tanga, against Lamu in Kenya.
An oil hit on Lake Tanganyika will bolster and heighten the stakes for East Africa’s second largest economy for its southern corridor investments. The southern route will arguably divide the east African hinterland into two; the southern corridor- serving the Democratic Republic of Congo (82 million people)-at least the eastern part of it, Burundi (12 million), Rwanda (11 million), and Uganda (34 million).
The northern corridor –Tanga-Ethiopia-South Sudan will serve South Sudan (13 million) and Ethiopia (99 million). A southern route will also split east Africa’s oil resources routing into two: Uganda, DRC and Tanzania using the South; and Kenya and potentially South Sudan using the north.
Uganda’s decision to build a pipeline to the Indian coast down through Tanzania rather than joining the northern corridor through South Sudan- Ethiopia to the Kenyan port of Lamu, will have played well into Tanzania’s business game plan- the oil pipeline from Lamu to Hoima in Uganda and the standard gauge railway from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and onto Kigoma on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also discovered oil in other areas such as North Kivu and potentially the Albertine area, that will all feed the Lamu pipeline.
Hitherto, the mineral rich eastern DRC has mostly accessed the Indian Ocean through Kenya’s Mombasa port via Uganda. Of recent, Tanzania is offering the DRC Government incentives to route her more of her exports and imports through Tanzania. Once in place, the Tanzanian route will provide a shorter and safer route to the sea for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, a diversion that will cost Kenya millions of dollars in revenue. Tanzania will be richer by an equivalent revenue.
“Oil has already been discovered in Lake Albert, and there's a great possibility that there's also oil in Lake Tanganyika," Tanzania’s minister for Energy & Minerals, Prof. Sospeter Muhongo said.
"Oil has been discovered in Lake Kivu, which is just to the north of Lake of Tanganyika; this is a big boost to us, and now more than ever before, we're convinced that there might be oil and gas deposits in the lake. However, as we all know, there are four of us sharing the lake and we must sit down and discuss and execute the exploration activities together."
Scientists have however warned in the recent past that when oil and gas are eventually confirmed on Lake Tanganyika, its eventual drilling will need to be done cautiously as it has potential to destroy the environment in the heart of the Great Lake’s region ecosystem.