This is not a test, but: How many have heard of a country named
Eritrea? Do you know where it is? Okay, you’re much smarter than I
thought. Yes, it is a country in Africa and to be precise, in the Horn
of Africa. As is mostly the case in Africa, news from poverty-ridden
Eritrea is negative – an autocratic government, no press freedom, no
civil rights, no investor protection, no anything. So why you may ask
am I highlighting this country?
Well, guess what, it has oil. For decades the country was mired in
fighting, first among themselves and then with every neighboring
country. The East African news website amoraview.com published a very
well-written article detailing the trials and tribulations of Eritrea
with one memorable paragraph: “A lifetime dictator, Eritrea’s first
and only president managed to establish the world’s nastiest tyranny.
Soon after assuming power, the long time rebel leader started by
assassinating fellow handicapped fighters, who merely asked for better
life. The fledgling state of Eritrea, with its dross economy went to
war with all its neighbors, gaining nothing but increasing isolation
and crisis. No one can expect any good from a country with no
democracy and a president who has rescinded the constitution.”
But after decades of being shunned by world powers, someone ran to the
top of a sand dune and yelled, “We got oil!” And the next thing you
know, the European Union, in all its pomposity, started mending
fences. Countries like Britain and Germany among others beat a path to
the Eritrean front door and soon the Italian Vice Minister of Foreign
Affairs had signed an agreement on behalf of the EU restoring
Companies such as Soma Oil and Gas arrived with a pot of money and
began the exploration. Just as an aside, one of the major stockholders
of that company is Lord Howard of Lympne CH, QC. He once went by the
name of Michael Howard, the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK
who, had they won the election, would have been the second Jewish
Prime Minister of Britain, the first being Benjamin Disraeli. Yes, I’m
full of useless info.
Other companies now involved in exploring and extracting oil are
Tullow Oil (TLW), Italy’s Eni (ENI) oil company, and the joint
Chinese-Eritrean venture Defba Oil Share Company.
The African Development Bank has high hopes that the country will open
its economy to more foreign investment and revamp its government. But
when Djibouti Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf recently said that
they have excellent relations with all their neighbors except, yes,
Eritrea, you know there is an issue.
Let’s hope that, as has happened in other countries, the Eritrean
people soon begin to say enough is enough and demand better treatment
so that prosperity can then be shared by all. Do you think oil
companies will help in this regard? I’m not holding my breath.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of
the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
Source: DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine