UNCTAD´s 8th African Oil & Gas Trade and Finance Conference -- the continent´s largest annual energy event -- opened yesterday in Marrakech, Morocco.
Oil and gas are by far Africa´s largest export, three-and-a-half times as important as all non-fuel commodity exports combined. They account for some 10% of total imports on the continent, and for many countries exporting agricultural products, fuel import costs absorb more than a third of their export revenue. But the widespread presence of oil and gas in Africa -- several countries have recently joined the ranks of oil and gas exporters -- has not improved the continent´s energy supply; most Africans still have no access to electricity. In a larger context, there is little evidence that past oil exports have contributed to national welfare. Indeed, an IMF study on Nigeria concluded that 35 years of oil exports had not helped raise living standards. By any measure, the oil and gas industry is crucial to Africa, and good management of the resources and of the export and import flows can make an essential contribution to the Millennium Development Goals. The conference is thus intended to help spread best practices throughout the continent.
The conference is being organized jointly by UNCTAD, ITE Group Plc and the national hosts, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mining (ONHYM).
In addition to the main conference programme, focusing on the interface between energy and finance issues, technical and corporate sessions will run concurrently. The event also includes a large exhibition that provides companies with an opportunity to exhibit their products and services to industry leaders, policy makers and national and international participants.
At the closing ceremony, to take place Friday, 30 April, the Director-General of ONHYM will hand over the torch to the CEO of the state oil company of Mozambique, the host of the next conference.
At yesterday´s opening ceremony, Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou welcomed energy and trade ministers from Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The heads of the national oil companies and refineries of most of these and other countries are also taking part, as are bankers and representatives of the national and international oil and gas community. In total, over 700 participants from around 50 countries worldwide are expected.
Previous conferences have taken place in Luanda, Angola (2003); Yaoundé, Cameroon (2002); Accra, Ghana (2000); Windhoek, Namibia (1999); Abidjan, Côte d´Ivoire (1998); and Harare, Zimbabwe (1997 and 1996). Preparations for the first meeting began in 1994 as part of UNCTAD´s programme on oil marketing, risk management and finance in Africa. This was in response to the need expressed by African countries for a forum in which public and private entities could discuss the management of oil exports and imports, developments in the oil and finance markets and the emerging opportunities in deregulated oil markets. The first conference was made possible through the support of the Dutch Ministry of Cooperation. Subsequent conferences were sponsored by African and international banks, oil companies and energy sector service providers.