1 April 2012

Kenya: Turkana Oil Find - Country Must Get It Right From the Start

Photo: Nairobi Star
Ngamia 1 in Kalapata Location where oil was discovered will now remain under permanent watch.


Lake Turkana was once known as Lake Rudolf and is the world's largest permanent desert lake and the world's largest alkaline lake.

The Lake Turkana area is regarded by many anthropologists as the cradle of mankind due to the abundance of hominid fossils. Tullow Oil have been a hound on the scent of oil for a while now and I knew things were getting hot by the increasing seniority of Tullow officials passing through Kenya. As Tullow surveyed this inhospitable terrain, i increased surveillance of their employees and last year, I was at dinner with one of their senior officials in Muthaiga. When I asked my questions, his body language said a great deal more than his guarded words. Finds in the Lake Albert Basin in Uganda, in Mozambique and now in Turkana confirm that we are sitting atop a Lake of hydrocarbons in this part of Africa. We have had many false starts but this time I am sure we have a major tailwind.

Crude oil has proven a curse in many parts of the continent. The Niger delta is a toilet, for example. Jomo and his MEND [Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta] in Nigeria continue to wage an insurgency. And Tullow Oil and our government need to make sure there is trickle down and that the local community are invested in the oil business. This is one lesson, I urge Tullow to embrace. Lets get this part right from the onset and it will be sound economics. The new 21st century is all about win win. Win lose is an old and out dated concept.

We sit at an inflection point in our country's fortunes. I have been on an investor relations road show with Martin Oduor-Otieno the CEO of Kenya Commercial Bank and other key officials of the bank. Everywhere we have turned from London to New York to Washington, I am meeting folks who want to bet big on us. These folks have an incredible insight into our affairs. We no longer exist in a bubble somewhere disconnected from the world. The world is a village. I urge our key policy makers and our politicians to remember that fact because when the good Lord gives you a winning lottery ticket, it makes no sense to tear it up and throw it to the wind. It makes no sense at all. The opportunities around this find are plenty. Workers will have to be accommodated and fed. Transportation is another opportunity. I do not have enough space to list them all here.

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