Petrolgas Report (PGR) talks to Lamin Camara, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Republic of The Gambia at the subSaharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (SAIPEC 2020).
Ayobami Adedinni brings the excerpt;
One of the major points advocated at this conference is collaboration within the subregion. How do you think your country can benefit from this initiative?
We can benefit immensely from this. As you know, we have other countries who have been in this industry before us and it’s important to learn from them to know how they did it and also to learn the lessons from some of the thing they did and avoid the mistakes.
For us, it’s very important that we have these conversations. We are doing that already.
We’ve sent teams for study tours to Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and others just to make sure we leverage the knowhow that is available in the industry and make sure we implement that in The Gambia.
Speaking about Human Capacity, how developed is The Gambia’s oil and gas industry?
We’re in the Embryonic stage. We’ve been in the Downstream for decades but now we are working on the Upstream.
We’ve drilled two wells so far which were not successful but it gave us a lot of information that there is potential to find oil in the country.
We plan to do two more wells this year with the hope that we’ll hit the target this time.
What challenges does The Gambia faces and what are the success stories?
One of these is political groups influencing decisions because of the lucrative nature of the industry.
You know we were under a dictatorship for 22 years until 2016.
So due to this, when there was change of government in 2017, we made sure to follow transparent processes in the licensing of oil blocks despite the same interest groups coming again but this time we got it right and landed with a well known IOC.
We’re also working with Petronas.
This shows that with transparency, we can get the best out of the lot.
Green energy has been a dominant discussion in the industry. How prepared is The Gambia for this considering the fact that you’re still drilling wells?
In 2017, we developed a Road map for energy transformation and we discovered we had only two per cent of renewable penetration and we set a target of 40 per cent by 2021.
As I speak with you, we are on about 20 megawatts and also have 150 Mw project targeted for 2023.
We are also working on a Wind farm where we can generate energy from.
We also import energy (hydropower) from Guinea.
Our aspiration is to get clean energy for our country because it is good for the environment and also less costly to maintain.
We are working on all these to achieve the sustainable goals set for 2030.
Regulatory environment is a challenge to investors especially in Africa, how has The Gambia been able to tackle this?
We don’t work in isolation. As I said earlier, before you work outside, you must start within.
What we did was to bring all the institutions together and created Petroleum Negotiation Committee that includes all the interest groups to make sure all questions by investors are dealt with there.
We work together and give support to make sure challenges are solved.
Specifically, we had Withholding Tax which was quite expensive.
We worked with the Ministry of finance to make sure that it is reviewed downward to encourage investments in the sector.
They are part of the process to see the reality and progress.
Can you share with us some of the plans for the sector?
The first thing we did was to ensure we separate the policy and regulatory institutions.
As we speak, the ministry gives the policy and regulations through the Commissioner for petroleum.
What we are working on is to have an autonomous commission to regulate the Upstream. The Bill is currently at the National Assembly.
So, we want to ensure regulatory independence.
Also, we are thinking ahead. In Senegal, there’s discovery of oil and gas.
We want to see how we can use gas to power our generators. Gas is very integral to our plans.
The third one is the Local content. We don’t want to take too long like Nigeria did.
Nor do we want to be like Ghana that focused more on getting our indigenous people when the capacities are there.
We want to be very accommodating and very innovative.
For us, we’re looking at Value addition.
As long as there’s value addition and the economy is doing well and our people are benefiting, that is the Local content we want.
We learn from the lessons of Nigeria and Ghana to come with a better and innovative approach.
Final word for investors…
Investors are welcome. We have a transparent process and the laws to protect them and their investments in collaboration with the people of The Gambia.