EAST African countries have the potential to reach development level of Qatar, the world's richest country per capita, if its massive oil and gas resources will be prudently managed, an oil and gas industry expert said.
Mr Robert McBean, Executive Chairman of the Board of Wentworth Resources Limited, said at a meeting in Dar es Salaam recently that the oil and gas bonanza in East Africa could propel the region to high levels of development.
He said Qatar, a sovereign Arab emirate, share a similar past with East African countries before the discovery of oil. Wentworth Resources Limited is an energy company, engaged in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in Tanzania and Mozambique.
Qatar has the world's third largest natural gas and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels which has fueled Qatar to become world's richest country per capita.
The Arab country achieved the highest human development index in the Arab World and 36th highest globally and it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank.
In a presentation at the 3rd East Africa Oil and Gas summit held in Dar es Salaam last week, Mr McBean said Qatar in 1995 and East Africa today both had massive natural gas resources, they lacked investment capital and skilled human capital and had virtually no infrastructure.
"What Qatar government did right...it invested heavily in construction of infrastructure including roads, ports and domestic power.
"It also entered into joint venture agreements to attract foreign investors and capital and provided legal and investment environment that reduced early financial risks," he said.
He said despite the potential for propelling the region to higher development level, the oil and natural gas resources were not a 'get rich quick scheme,' as its success depended upon long term investments in infrastructure and the people.
Recent discoveries of oil and gas reserves in East Africa -- specifically in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya -- could potentially transform those economies.
If well managed, these resources could be pivotal in meeting the huge infrastructure deficit that characterises the region and, indeed, the continent.
Furthermore, the resources could form the basis of agricultural transformation and also investments in key aspects of human capital such as education and health.
The resources, therefore, present a great opportunity to sustain high rates of growth in the region and accelerate job creation.
International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that Africa holds nearly 74 trillion m3 of technically recoverable natural gas reserves, nearly 10 per cent of the world's total, and it is believed that the majority of African natural resources are still undiscovered.