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Comoros oil boom dream hinges on seismic survey3 minutes read

Though the survey is yet to begin, the political oppositions are blunt in their verdict of how the president would treat any discovery.

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Comoros oil boom dream hinges on seismic survey

For years, the Comoros islands off the eastern coast of Africa have dreamt of an oil or gas strike -now the first planned seismic survey could reveal if the country’s hopes are about to come true.

The possibility of a lucrative resources boom has gripped Comoros for seven years after then-president, Ikililou Dhoinine awarded a batch of offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

Optimistic residents imagined a future where public coffers overflowed with petrodollars that funded a rapid economic transformation of a country facing deep economic issues.

But any economic miracle has yet to materialise, with only uncertain clues pointing to possible oil or gas deposits 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) below sea level -far beyond the financial means of small-scale exploration companies.

The arrival last year of Tullow Oil changed the game, as the British company boosts a strong record striking deposits in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya.

It has joined up with partner Discover Exploration to explore three underwater blocks covering 16,000 square kilometres (6,200 square miles).

“We are gearing up for a modern 3D seismic survey,” Alexander Mollinger, chief operating officer for Discovery Exploration in Comoros, told AFP.

“This will be Comoros’ first ever 3D seismic survey and represents a significant investment. It is the final exploration activity prior to deciding whether to drill an exploration well.”

‘Significant potential’-

With the survey scheduled for later this year, the prospectors have reason to be confident -the three blocks border on Mozambican waters where US giants Anadarko and Chevron, and Italian firm ENI have hit the largest gas deposits found in the past 20 years.

“There have been no oil or gas discoveries anywhere in the Comoros,” said Mollinger.

“There is no certainty of any commercial accumulations of oil or gas, but we believe based on technical work that these blocks have significant potential.”

Any discovery could transform the politically-unstable country, which is made up of three islands with a population of 800,000 and a per capita annual income of about $800.

The weak economy relies on exports of vanilla, clove and perfume essence, as well as foreign aid and remittance money sent home by overseas workers.

President Azali Assoumani, who was re-elected in March in a vote count rejected by the opposition, has put oil revenue at the centre of his development plans, vowing to make Comoros an “emerging economy” by 2030.

“The first indicators give a lot of hope,” he said during the election campaign. “If we have a united country, this oil can be a springboard for the country’s economy.”

However, he added “oil is not an easy exercise… If we do not have people who can exploit it for the benefit of the population, it is useless.”

Personal wealth?

Such promises to share the wealth have not convinced all everyone in Comoros, and Assoumani is regularly accused of corruption and a dictatorial style.

Foreign diplomats posted to Moroni express concern over how any discovery would be handled.

“If the project progresses, it could get the country out of poverty -in theory,” one told AFP. “But the requirements are huge for Comoros. A gas processing unit costs billions of dollars, and you have to have a credible financial system.”

Though the survey is yet to begin, the political oppositions are blunt in their verdict of how the president would treat any discovery.

“He sees the oil as his personal wealth, not for the country,” said opposition leader Mohamed Ali Soilihi, warning that countries like Venezuela “are full of oil, but the people do not see the benefits”.

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Heavy rains threaten Uganda’s coffee crop quality

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Uganda’s coffee crop quality could see a decline in the coming months as heavy rains across the country have reduced the amount of sunshine necessary for bean drying.

Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee followed by Ethiopia and grows mostly robusta variety.

The country has been pounded by unusually heavy rains that started in August resulting in deaths, displacement and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

Western Uganda, including the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains , some of the biggest coffee growing areas, has received some of the most intense rains.

Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the state-run regulator, forecasts Uganda’s bean exports will climb 16 percent to 5.1 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags in the current crop year ending September.

The country’s coffee output has surged in recent years, the fruition of a government programme that has been distributing free seedlings to farmers to expand acreage and replace aging trees.

Authorities say their target is to help boost annual production to 20 million bags by 2025.

The beans have traditionally been Uganda’s biggest commodity export but were recently overtaken by gold which now annually earns the country over $1 billion.

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Business rescue team rule out mid-June return for SAA flights

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South African Airways business rescue practitioners have rejected an “unvetted” statement released by the state-owned airline indicating plans to resume domestic flights from mid-June.

The national carrier had on Tuesday, announced that its planes will be back in the skies between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

But Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the business rescue administrators, say the airline had breached communications protocol by issuing a statement which “created an unfair expectation on our relevant stakeholders, including SAA’s customers, as well as employees who are on unpaid absence as a result of the travel ban which led to the halting of the company’s operations, compounding its financial distress.”

SAA’s media statement had gone out without the approval of the practitioners as demanded by the business rescue procedure.

With the government of South Africa announcing that the country will enter into lockdown alert level 3 from June 1, domestic air travel will be permitted but only for business purposes.

The business rescue practitioners said SAA planes will remain grounded until a better understanding of what the level 3 regulations entail.

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Tanzania, France sign water supply loan agreement

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Tanzania has signed a loan agreement with France to finance water supply projects that will benefit about 770,000 people in the country’s Morogoro municipality.

The French government will extend the loan worth about $76 million to Tanzania through its French Development Agency (AFD), according to Dotto James, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning who signed the agreement on behalf of Tanzania.

“Upon completion, the water supply in the Morogoro municipality will increase from the current 37,000 cubic meters a day to 108,000 cubic meters a day,” James told a press conference following a signing ceremony in Morogoro.

AFD Country Representative for Tanzania, Stephanie Mouen says the project will improve the well-being of the people in the municipality and it will also improve the environment.

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