Oil : Somaliland is the new Middle East in east Africa – Minister

 – HARGEISA, Somaliland — It’s a warm Thursday in late October in the capital of this breakaway region of Somalia.

In observance of the Muslim day of prayer, government offices are closed on Friday, and many ease into the weekend by shutting down early on Thursday. Many officials are abroad, or away from their desks at vague “meetings.” Even the Ethiopian Liaison Office, the closest thing Somaliland has to an embassy, takes only the first 50 visa seekers and then closes its doors until Sunday.

Those Somaliland ministries represent the government of a place that calls itself a sovereign nation, and operates as such, but has not been recognized by any other country in the world.
Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 and has been largely forgotten since, but now it might find itself at the center of an international scramble for the next oil hotspot. That has people including former BP PLC (LON:BP) chief executive officer Tony Hayward, who was disgraced for his response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, zeroing in on Hargeisa.
With higher officials already away for the weekend, many low-level bureaucrats head to open-air cafes to enjoy cups of sugary coffee served with Somali camel milk, before heading home. That they are able to do this safely in the open is a testament to Hargeisa’s security situation compared to that of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Minister Hussein Abdi Dualeh

But while the rest of Hargeisa takes off work, in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals the atmosphere is different. Minister Hussein Abdi Dualeh and his staff work well into the afternoon, in part because their work is so important to the 4 million inhabitants of Somaliland. A major oil discovery would transform the local economy and shift geopolitics in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, during IBTimes’ visit in Hargeisa, a local journalist hovered about the ministry, just in case a major story broke. The geography of Somaliland, at the mouth of the Red Sea, favors oil export. Even the deepest part of the country is only a few hundred kilometers from a coastline that sits along one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

Dualeh himself was already an old hand in the energy business, before becoming the oil minister for a rebel republic. He began his career as a salesman for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, just out of high school. After earning an engineering degree at the University of Oklahoma, his career shifted to California, where he worked with Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) and then the California Metropolitan Transport Authority, gaining experience in both the upstream and downstream sides of the oil business. “I’m also a Californian,” Dualeh says with a smile.

Now, back in his native Somaliland, Dualeh thinks he is sitting on a fortune: Given its geology, he says, the region could hold several oil fields with reserves in the billions of barrels. In 1991, with Somalia on the verge of civil war, a World Bank/UNDP study noted that the northern part of the country was likely to contain significant hydrocarbon prospects. But as the central government dissolved in a spiral of violence, prospects for exploration vanished.

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Source Medeshi