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Kenya: a new oil-frontier?

2008-02-15

Whilst reading through the Update just before publication, I was stopped in my tracks by the news that Kenya is, or was, intending to issue 20 exploration-licenses this year. And suddenly it all made a different sense.

Just to re-cap: in Kenya currently an ethnic cleansing and separation is taking place, reducing the country to a gathering of tribes, of which most have all but destroyed each other before fleeing to their “ancestral” lands.

The unrest started with alleged rigged elections, but it only exploded after one of the future leaders of the country was “taken out” in a very professional way. (He was shot in the eye and in the heart in front of his house and nothing was taken. (NYT))

Some background-research then revealed that this person, who had grown up in the slums but had brought himself to wealth, was a figure of hope for many tribes. He also proved to have a heart for the poorer people and had, amongst other things, built a sport-stadium in the slums.

Kenya is one of the new oil frontiers in East Africa and is promising substantial reserves in an almost unexplored area. It is also just beginning its journey as an intending oil-producer.

Of course we do not know how the current legislation, or the reality of the contracts, look like, but Kenya is not yet in the league for nationalisations or the ramping up of the government-take. It also does not look like this is going to happen soon now, with a presidency based on alleged rigged elections and a government that rules an ethnically divided country.

But the person that was so professionally neutralized, was a potential ruler of a much more unified Kenya, and with his mind-set and background, it would have been natural for him to increase the influence of the government in the resource-industry and up the stake in the profits substantially above what is now normal in these regions. This would of course have been difficult to digest for the industry, already world-wide under pressure of increasingly assertive governments.

Naturally, there is no proof for these thoughts, and probably there will never be. But let us just wait a few years and see how much oil and gas will be found in and around Kenya and how this will help Kenya to improve its living-standards, or not.
What is certain is that the current situation will help the companies to dash out favourable deals that will be very good for shareholders value.

Alexander

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