24 October 2006
Zambia has discovered its first-ever reserves of oil and gas near its border with Angola, and is inviting foreign companies to conduct exploratory drilling to investigate the potential of this new resource, the country’s government announced on Monday.
An impoverished country to the north of Zimbabwe, Zambia currently relies on its reserves of copper as a source of foreign currency. This new find opens up the possibility of it enjoying a similar economic boom to neighbouring Angola, which has become Africa’s second-largest oil producer after Nigeria, with a GDP growth rate of around 19%.
The Mail & Guardian website reports that samples taken at a dozen sites in the northwestern provinces of Zambezi and Chavuma have confirmed gas and oil residues. The discoveries were announced in a statement from the office of President Levy Mwanawasa, who visited the area on Sunday.
“The microbial analysis showed that 12 sites were positive for oil and six for gas,” the website quoted Mwanawasa as saying.
“These results confirm the presence of oil and gas in the sub-surface of the two districts of Chavuma and Zambezi.
“It is hoped the country will see more exploration and extraction activities for oil and gas in different parts that would strengthen the country’s economy,” Mwanawasa said.
He said exploration companies will determine the oil and gas reserves from the two districts before expanding the exercise to other parts of the country.
The possibility of oil and gas reserves was first explored in 2004, after prolonged fires in the region prompted the Zambian government to launch an investigation.
The size of the reserves is still unknown, but it is hoped that they can become a significant source of revenue in a country where about two-thirds of the population live on less than a dollar a day.