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Africa must work together to boost oil cash

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By JULIUS BARIGABA
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The secretary general of the African Petroleum Producers Organisation Mahaman Laouan Gaya spoke with Julius Barigaba about the continent’s oil potential and why all countries with proven reserves need to join the group.

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What is the mandate of your organisation?

APPO has been in operation since January 1987. It is a platform for African oil-producing countries to share knowledge and skills.

It has 18 member countries that account for about 99 per cent of Africa’s oil production, and at least 13 per cent globally.

APPO promotes joint initiatives across the value chain, including infrastructure and policies, to enable member countries to obtain better profits from oil.

Why are some African oil-producing countries not members?

This issue has been discussed extensively. We are seeking reforms to make APPO more appealing.

The framework for consultations and decisions of the new body have been reviewed, enlarged and improved.

As soon as it takes off, I am sure that there will be a rush for all African countries to join.

Africa needs unity and synergy in all sectors of its economy to boost growth.

Unlike the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) whose member countries come from Latin America, Africa and Asia, those of APPO come from one continent, making it easier to collaborate.

Out of our 54 countries, some 50 are oil producers or are exploring for it, both of which show promising prospects.

A country with proven reserves in hydrocarbons (not necessarily in the production phase) can join APPO.

Some countries give blanket concessions instead of production-sharing agreements. Are you helping member countries with contract models?

Sometime ago, I worked in an African country as an international energy expert with the United Nations Development Programme.

I realised that the country did not have modern oil legislation and yet foreign companies were exploring for oil.

APPO has helped this country to develop petroleum laws and start a training programme for executives in the oil sector.

African countries need proper legal and contractual oil frameworks, and we are helping them with it.

For example, we have developed the Guide for the Promotion of Local Content in the Oil and Gas Industry in Africa.

We are aiming to see countries achieve a 30 per cent ownership of activities across the value chain by 2030.

Uganda discovered oil in 2006, but is yet to produce its first barrel. What is the problem here?

Two things. First, the price of oil. As prices rise, countries want to go into quick production. When they decline, countries tend to slow down on production.

Then there is also the issue of countries dealing with multinational oil companies from Western countries that are not in a hurry to produce oil because they have reserves elsewhere.

Until they have exhausted these reserves, they will take their time. That is domination. This could be solved through co-operation.

Can Africa develop through its oil resources?

In recent decades, Africa has been at the heart of all kinds of debates, touching on the risk of its growing population and its immense potential, to its incomparable natural wealth, which has the potential to bring in more than $30 billion in revenue per year over the next two decades.

Some estimates put the oil reserves of African countries at 100 billion barrels.

Africa is rich in fossil energy resources like oil, gas, coal and uranium, as well as renewable energy sources like hydraulic, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.

Additionally, Africa is inhabited by nearly one billion peoples, 60 per cent of whom are young, while Europe, America and Asia are increasingly ageing.

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If Africa cannot get off the ground with all these resources, I am not sure that oil will be the one resource that will overcome the challenges of underdevelopment. The causes of Africa’s stagnation are more elsewhere than they are in oil.

So what needs to be done?

While the prospect of huge revenues from our natural resources may seem enticing, it also raises the issue of governance in this sector.

Often, the decline in oil prices has recessive effects in almost all African hydrocarbon-exporting countries, resulting into falling currencies, a sharp drop in tax revenues, slowing investments and project diversification, adjustment of the budget to a price twice as high, and more modest expansionary effects in other net importing countries.

Only a few countries have seized the opportunity to support their growth in a slightly more diversified economy; added to this, is the lack of basic infrastructure, the shortage of skilled labour, poor governance and corruption.

If African oil-producing countries have suffered and are still suffering from the fall in prices, it is because they have always had an unhealthy dependence on oil production, their savings are small or they have failed to diversify.

Oil producing countries need to diversify their economies to increase their resilience, otherwise they will struggle to raise revenues.

The trouble is that when the oil prices rise again, the politicians shelve or postpone their economic diversification speeches, until the next crisis.

Three African oil producing countries have joined OPEC since 2016. What’s behind this?

A number of African delegations attended the meeting of the Council of Ministers and the Opec International Seminar in Vienna in June.

In addition to the seven African member countries of Opec, namely Algeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Nigeria and Congo-Brazzaville, five others — Egypt, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan and Chad — were present as observers.

Today, almost all African countries are in the research and/or hydrocarbon exploitation phase.

The oil- producing countries have a total production of close to 10 million barrels a day, and the entire continent has abundant potential.

Thus, a greater presence of African countries could consolidate Opec’s policy and position on the world oil scene. They could influence the price of a barrel of oil favourably.

What is the role of APPO vis-à-vis Opec?

We do not compete with Opec, to determine the price of oil. Our mandate is to promote co-operation among our members.

The global energy and oil geopolitics is constantly changing, and we need to reframe our organisation in this new context to generate real benefits for Africa, and to ensure sustainable development.

Africa’s oil potential is one of the largest in the world and with a better framework for co-operation and integration, Africa can align with the oil powers of today, to have a say in the global oil and energy spectrum.

APPO is the ideal vehicle to drive this change. Also, oil is a highly sensitive sector that calls for co-ordinated and a strategic approach.

In isolation, each African country cannot fight international oil capital. We need a framework for economic and strategic intelligence. This is the role our organisation intends to play.

What is the future of Africa’s oil industry?

North America, the Middle East and the North Sea, once pioneers of oil production, are today either in the phase of depletion or exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons — the so-called gas and oil shale.

In Africa, however, only four countries began modest exploitation in the 1960s.

Today, some 20 countries are oil producers and about 30 others are prospecting and doing research.

Offshore and onshore basins, both off East Africa, the African part of the Indian Ocean, West Africa, and the hinterland countries are little explored and have good prospects.

They are mainly located in Tunisia, Morocco, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Niger, Mali, Madagascar, and Comoros.

Africa has proven oil and gas reserves in abundance.

The continent has more than 13 per cent of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves, but Western statistics tend to underestimate and devalue the potential of the continent. And better, over the past 15 years, one-third of the world’s oil discoveries have been in Africa.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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