Gambia to drill oil exploration well in offshore waters
President Yahya Jammeh has announced that an oil exploration well will be drilled later this year in Gambia's
offshore waters in the light of encouraging results from a recent seismic survey. Jammeh said that a western oil
exploration company had conducted a three dimensional seismic survey of a 500 sq km block of deep water off the coast
of this small West African nation.
"I now have the open duty to announce that the results of the survey are very positive," Jammeh said. "There exists oil in Gambia in very large quantities, especially in the study area.... Therefore, before the end of this year we intend to have a test or exploratory well drilled to firm up the results of the study."
Jammeh said he was "very happy" with the discovery of oil because it "had spelt the end of the dark days of Gambia,"
a former British colony of just over 1 mm people.
Since independence in 1965, the long narrow country which is entirely surrounded by Senegal has scraped a living from tourism and the exportof groundnuts. More than half of all Gambians live on less than one dollar a day and the country ranks 151st out of 175 in the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development Index.
Jammeh said: "We have always been on the list of the world's smallest and poorest countries. With this discovery... we have the potential of making Gambia become the richest country on earth." He pointed out that so far only one tenth of Gambia's 5,000 sq km of offshore waters had been surveyed in detail and the potential existed for the much oil to be found.
Oil has been discovered off the coast of several West African countries and exploration has taken place sporadically
in Gambia since 1956. The US company Chevron sunk an exploratory well off the coast in 1979, but it proved to be
The nearest commercial finds currently under development are in Mauritania, 600 km to the north and in Cote d'Ivoire, 1,500 km to the southeast. Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, warned his countrymen that the probability of a lucrative stream of future income from oil did not mean that they could afford to abandon work and wait for easy money to roll in.
"Even if the oil was to flow into our bedrooms, if we do not change our attitude, the majority of us would remain
poor," the president warned. "I am worried because the discovery of oil or its potential would lead to more laziness
and complacency," he added.
"I do not want to be the president of a country that has a great potential for agriculture and still becomes food insecure, because of the oil people have abandoned their farms," Jammeh said. "This would be a tragic mistake. Nobody would eat or drink oil." He warned that abandoning agriculture for oil, as some countries had already done, would be "the worst mistake" Gambia could make.