At the City Councils September, Energy and Climate Change Portfolio meeting, Councillors and officials received an insightful presentation by Warwick Blyth the Executive Director of the South Africa Oil and Gas Alliance. He elaborated on the upstream oil and gas services on the sub-continent and offshore and its potential for local economic development. Beyond the polemics of fracking the Karoo, what intrigued my interest were the happenings in the East-African Rift Valley. According to Mr Blyth, millions of barrels of oil have been discovered around Lake Albert in Uganda and in Northwest Kenya. What additional exploration in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Lake Tanganyika, Western Tanzania, Lake Malawi and North-eastern Zambia will reveal is anyone’s guess. According to Mr Blythe and media reports, the potential of oil has caused a border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania. Malawi one of the poorest countries and the USA’s new best friend in Africa is considering oil exploration in the Lake Malawi area. On the East coast, the citizens of the Spice Islands {Zanzibar} off the coast of Tanzania have begun protesting for independence. That the islanders are ethnically and culturally diverse from the mainland should not be disregarded. While Africa’s conflicts may start out as a scramble for resources, inevitability the issue of ethnicity and tribalism exacerbates war. Recently the largest offshore gas field ever found has been discovered around the Rovuma Basin, which is located off the borders of Southern Tanzania and Northern Mozambique. In terms of offshore gas, the potential that Mozambique, Tanzania, Somalia, and Madagascar hold is massive. What is certain, if history is to provide any clue, is that conflict is coming to the rift valley and towards the east coast of Tanzania. The leading African oil producers in 2011 were Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea. For decades, conflict and repression continue to plague these states which have historically been governed by some type of dictatorship. For example, Southern Sudan an oil rich wasteland that has recently achieved independence after a ferocious war with Northern Sudan has embarked on its own internal civil conflict. Comparable to the Middle–East, the possibility of oil or gas has provided the impetus for war in Africa. How additional exploration for oil will impact on Africa’s fresh water lakes is not mainstream consideration as yet. Considering that these lakes sustain millions of households, the impacts on these natural resources are potentially continental eco-changing catastrophes. Capetonians should comprehend that, when Sub-Saharan Africa erupts into conflict, refugees move south. This implies that locals should expect an influx of foreigners from these oil affected regions. This will create fresh opportunities for xenophobic violence within our borders. Are we prepared for this inevitability? How is South Africans going to ensure that the conflict north of our borders does not hamper Africa’s progress and the oil benefits all of Africa’s citizens?

Yagyah Adams-Cape Muslim Congress

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