[Column] James Chester: South Sudan: The emerging hub for East African petroleum sector growth
A few years ago, East Africa was primarily viewed as a venue for offshore exploration, and before its independence in 2011, South Sudan was more likely to be seen as a North African producer, as part of Sudan. But motivated governments and explorers have changed the picture.
Today, Kenya is a small-scale oil producer and Uganda has approved a massive oil development in its Lake Albert region and a refinery and export pipeline. Tanzania will export Uganda’s oil and will build its own LNG facilities to monetize its huge gas reserves. Somalia has embarked on a licensing round, as has the DRC.
South Sudan has its own unique place at the center of a wider Nile Basin-East Africa hydrocarbons-rich area that perfectly positions the country as the hub for petroleum industry services and exploration.
Measurable change has happened
In 2017, when Energy Capital & Power (then Africa Oil & Power) produced its first conference in Juba, the country was re-emerging from a fresh bout of conflict in 2016, visas were only available if you had contacts in-country to invite and process you, two out of the three joint operating companies (JOC) were not producing oil, and Juba did not have a functioning power grid. The country had only one intercity paved road, going to Uganda.
This year, as we plan the fifth edition of the South Sudan Oil & Power event series – taking place on 13-14 September 2022 at the Radisson Blu, Juba – the city and the country can show great progress. Juba now has its own power station and grid and more projects are in place in regional cities. Peace has largely held since the revitalized peace agreement of 2018 and the formation of the revitalized transitional government of 2020. All three JOCs are producing oil (albeit not without challenges still to overcome).
An e-visa system is in place – my last visa was processed in two hours – and Juba is now served regularly by Turkish Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and many others. New paved roads are already linking South Sudan’s cities.
There is no reason not to check out Juba and the country’s progress.
The energy industry, as the engine of the economy, has made huge steps forward since that first conference in 2017. Last week I met with Hon. Minister of Petroleum Puot Kang Chol and sat down with the Hon. Undersecretary Awow Daniel Chuang, and heard about the latest developments.