The tense, but eventually successful, haggling of a natural gas supply deal between Tanzania and Nigeria’s Dangote Cement is a pointer to what awaits East Africa as the region sets off the delicate journey of exploiting its new found vast reserves of oil and gas.
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli on December 10 announced that an agreement had been reached to supply natural gas to Dangote’s $500-million cement factory in the East African nation’s southeastern town of Mtwara, ending tensions after price negotiations with the state-owned Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) stalled.
“They (Dangote Cement) will now buy natural gas directly from the state-run TPDC instead of going through middlemen,” Magufuli said after a meeting with the company’s chairman, and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.
Magufuli blamed unspecified middlemen for “interference”, saying Dangote Cement had sought “at-the-well prices” and that the issue had now been resolved to supply the company with the commodity at a “reasonable” tariff.
The Tanzania-Dangote price haggle offers a sneak-peek of the tough oil and gas supply contract negotiations that authorities in East Africa are certain to face in the exploitation of newly struck reserves.
East Africa has caught the attention of the global energy industry following the discovery of huge reserves of oil in Uganda and Kenya and natural gas in Tanzania. An estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil were discovered in Uganda’s Albertine basin near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Kenya it is estimated that the recoverable reserves total 750 million barrels of crude.
Tanzania said in February 2016 that it had discovered an additional 2.17 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of potential natural gas deposits, increasing its total estimated recoverable natural gas reserves to more than 57tcf.
The exploitation of these vast reserves will however require caution to ensure the region avoids the pitfalls of the unpopular oil curse. The nature of contracts reached with buyers has a direct impact on the country’s development.
Supply contract negotiations are not an easy task because one has to juggle maximizing revenue for government and investor protection from high cost of doing business. Given the lengthy life and complex nature of supply contracts, a miscalculation has monumental effects on either of the negotiating parties and it is vital that keen attention is paid during the entire process to attain a balance.
“One of the key concerns is that African governments that are major producers of fossil fuels (and other minerals) do not receive sufficiently large rents or revenues from the production of these extractive products. This is attributable to a number of reasons, including contracts and regimes that are not designed to extract maximum rents,” the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union (AU) say in a joint study titled Oil and Gas in Africa.
Oil and gas supply contracts are particularly complex because they are not fully driven by demand-supply factors; at times they are driven by geopolitical factors. Newcomers in the game must tread carefully or risk being short-changed by the more experienced industry insiders who are privy to sale strategies.
The middle-men have a nose for quick cash and will not miss a chance to ride on the inexperience of new players in the industry to profiteer through deal-cutting. The middle-men, in most cases, fan graft in order to thrive, leaving in their wake massive damage.
Benchmarking with peers and best practice is the way to beat such odds because it helps build on contract experience. The World Bank-backed Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) can help address such challenges by laying bare all the deals.
“Accountability and transparency in the management of public resources is critical in ensuring positive development results impact – and perhaps nowhere more so than when significant natural resource wealth such as oil and gas are present,” the AfDB and AU say in the report.
Under the EITI, mining firms are required to publish payments made to governments and to make public revenues received available for audit and monitoring. The EITI monitors and reconciles company payments and government revenues. Each signatory country owns the process, which is overseen by participants from the government, companies and national civil society.