The respective ministries of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have taken steps towards establishing a formal agreement which would see oil produced at exploration blocks in the DRC’s Albertine Graben transported via the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) – a 1,443km-long heated pipeline connecting Uganda’s Kingfisher and Tilenga oilfields with international markets via the Tanga Port in Tanzania
A bilateral meeting took place in Kampala between Uganda’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu and the DRC’s Minister of Hydrocarbons, Didier Budimbu Ntubuanga, centered on the strengthening of regional relations and advancing access to regional infrastructures. The meeting laid the foundation for a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed between the countries – following the preparation of reports by technical teams of both countries – kickstarting a new era of energy security and regional trade on the back of the EACOP.
While the construction of the EACOP continues to be faced with interference by international environmental groups, the bilateral meeting and upcoming MoU are a testament to the role the pipeline will play in East Africa. Representing a future major oil producer, the pipeline will enable Uganda to export oil from oilfields located in the Albertine Rift Basin, located on the country’s western border, shared with the DRC. With an MoU, the pipeline will also enable the DRC to export oil. The Albertine Graben – also known as the Lake Albert Basin – lies on the western border of Uganda and the eastern border of the DRC, and despite its significant potential, much of the rift area remains underexplored. Now, with the DRC opening up 30 oil and gas blocks for exploration in 2022, new discoveries are on the horizon as players move to replicate success seen across the border in Uganda.
The EACOP steps into this picture, offering a solution to getting high-demand crude to international markets. In addition to benefits created through revenue generation from exports, the pipeline and associated upstream buzz is expected to open opportunities for job creation, infrastructure development, market access and other crucial economic prospects. The pipeline will also enable East African consumers to tap into regional energy supplies, thereby tackling security across the energy-poor region.
Currently, the EACOP is on track to commence production in 2025, with both the governments of Uganda and Tanzania confident that they will be able to secure the funding required. While international lenders have recently pulled out of the development, caving into pressure from environmental activities, China is expected to step in as the primary financier, leveraging the country’s already strong presence in both the region and the pipeline’s development to see the EACOP’s completion. As the construction gains momentum and the DRC begins opening up its oil-rich Albertine Graben prospect, East Africa is on the precipice of widespread economic growth on the back of oil and gas monetisation and intra-African infrastructure development.
“The Chamber has and will continue to maintain its unwavering support for the development of the EACOP. The pipeline will bring the economic development opportunities that East Africa so desperately needs. The region has significant quantities of untapped oil and gas, and it would be a crime to leave them in the ground. With over 600 mn people currently without access to electricity and over 900 mn without access to clean cooking solution, Africa needs its oil and gas to develop, industrialise and grow,” said NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the AEC.