Think Africa

by Thembi Mutch

Mikindani, Tanzania:
In the small village of Mikindani on the south-eastern coast of Tanzania, World Bank-funded roads sit alongside shattered coral from dynamite fishing and poor sewerage facilities.

John, 15, points to the four ships in the distance. “They’re all here because of the oil and gas”, he says. “Sometimes the wazungu [foreign staff] come in on helicopters. They’re not allowed to meet us; there’s a ten-mile exclusion zone around their compounds in case they get kidnapped.”

Like millions of teenagers mired in poverty across East Africa, John harbours dreams of change; to escape from the under-developed, politically-marginalised area he calls home, and for a better life for himself and his family.

Others offering commentary are suspicious and resentful. An elder of the village tells Think Africa Press, “Unemployment is a massive problem, only 8-10% of us work, and we are desperate…our problem is the government is over 650 km away in Dar es Salaam – they have abandoned us, they have no interest. We are the forgotten child.”

He continues: “When the jobs come with the gas, then they give the jobs to outsiders, either from other areas of the mainland, or to Zambians, to Kenyans. Not to us. The gas here they will export to other areas, and here we will still be left without the basics.” For many of the inhabitants of Mikindani, word of oil and gas brings little but concern about corruption.

A blessing for whom?
After fifty years of exploration, many big players in the natural resource industry are now committed to East Africa. Drilling in the region, involving some 18 companies, is taking place in nearly 30 offshore coastal areas in southern Kenya, southern Tanzania, and northern Mozambique. With only 500 oil wells drilled so far (compared to West and North Africa’s 35,000), the estimated volume of the gas reserves remaining is around 100 trillion cubic feet.

Understandably, East African media is buzzing with excited articles, some predicting industrialisation and imminent wealth.  Read more…