The New Times (Kigali)

East Africa: Affordable Energy Key to EAC Integration

As the Rwanda Capital Markets Authority (RCMA) anticipates more companies from the EAC partner states to float shares on the Rwanda Stock Exchange this year to boost the youngest stock market in the region.

Stakeholders in the energy sector have disclosed that the economic bloc may still lag behind due to insufficient and unreliable energy resources to achieve meaningful development.

According to the Tanzania's Prime Minister, Hon. Mizengo Pinda, the regional bloc cannot achieve full integration without sufficient and reliable energy accessible at an affordable price.

"In this regard, the East African Community Partner States, have agreed to cooperate in joint exploration and development of the energy resources found within the Community," remarked Pinda.

In his opening remarks of the 6th East African Petroleum Conference & Exhibition (EAPCE) that is on-going in Arusha, the Premier added that the region had witnessed steady growth in petroleum exploration activities since 2003 when the Petroleum Conference & Exhibition was initiated for the first time.

Hon. Pinda informed the delegates that at the time, Uganda for example, had only two wells and now it has 64 wells and more are lined up.

He said by then, Songo Songo and Mnazi Bay in Tanzania were the only discoveries in the region, but now several gas discoveries have been made and possibilities for more discoveries exist.

The Prime Minister reiterated that the number of companies interested in carrying out petroleum prospecting has also grown tremendously since 2003 and the region continues to license more.

In 2003 the region had only 13 companies interested in undertaking exploration, today there are more than 56 and negotiations with more are ongoing.

He disclosed that the existence of vast reserves of methane gas in Lake Kivu in Rwanda have boosted the profile of East Africa as a promising and attractive destination for the petroleum prospecting. He added that all the blocks in Burundi had been licensed and collection of seismic data had commenced.

In Rwanda surveys indicate the existence of a sedimentary basin in western part of the country and around Lake Kivu.

He affirmed to the delegates that the highest levels of leadership of the East African Community were fully committed to develop an enabling environment for business and investments in all sectors.

The Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers and Uganda's State Minister responsible for EAC Affairs, Hon. Shem Bageine, noted that the conference was taking place at a time when the integration process for the EAC Partner States had gained momentum and its benefits had begun to manifest. He said the conference provides a good opportunity to showcase the initiatives going on in the Partner States in the sector.

Tanzania's Deputy Minister of Energy and Minerals, Hon. George Simbachawene, said the East African Region was previously considered to be gas prone, but it was learnt during the 1st EAPC, only Tanzania had commercial gas discoveries in the Songo Songo and Mnazi Bay Gas fields.

To-date there are oil discoveries in Uganda and Kenya and more gas discoveries in offshore and onshore Tanzania.

The Deputy Minister reiterated that the East African Region was emerging as a new zone for investment and therefore the need to develop the discovered potential in a sustainable manner for development of the region and the people of East Africa.

The Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community in charge Productive and Social Sectors, Hon Jesca Eriyo, noted that Poverty had for a long time been a major setback to growth and development, not only in East Africa, but in Africa.

"However, as we continue to explore and develop the energy resources within our region, millions of people in our emerging economies across East Africa can finally have their expectations for better living standards realized," affirmed the EAC official.

"I urge you all to use this event as an opportunity to ask questions, start discussions, share and exchange knowledge, network over coffee and sign up for one-to-one meetings with the organizing committee as well as EAC delegates that are here today, in recognition of the need to open up markets while capitalizing on business opportunities", she said.

EAC has been holding the East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition biennially since 2003 to promote exploration, development and production of oil and gas.

The main objective of the Conference and Exhibition is to promote investment in the oil and gas sectors by demonstrating to the world the potential that lies within the region and sharing information on the status of development of the sector in each Partner State.

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