Senegal: a petro-scandal revealed

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Elimane Kane

2018-19 Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity

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The management of petroleum contracts in Senegal is starting to yield its secrets: an investigation by BBC Africa Eye/Panorama has uncovered questionable financial arrangements between BP, a British multinational oil firm; a London-based Australian-Romanian businessman, Frank Timis; and Aliou Sall, the brother of the Senegalese president.

Ever since the discovery of significant on- and off-shore oil and gas reserves in the West African country, there have been calls for transparent and inclusive regulatory policies giving Senegalese citizens the ultimate control over the governance of this booming sector. However, the challenges in persuading the government to achieve that aim would appear to be every bit as sizeable as the recent (and potential) petroleum discoveries in the Senegal sedimentary basin.

Questions have long been asked, for example, over the awarding of a licence to the firm Petrotim that allowed it to develop the St-Louis block of the Grand Tortue Ahmeyim gas field on the Senegalese coast near the Mauritanian border. Furthermore, a contract signed in 2012 between the State of Senegal, represented by President Macky Sall, and Petrotim, represented by Frank Timis, has been the subject of denunciations and judicial reviews which have so far remained unresolved.

On 19 June 2012, President Sall signed decrees 2012-256 and 2012-597 relating to the Cayar Offshore Profond and St-Louis Offshore Profond concessions. These agreements awarded exploration and sharing contracts to Petrotim, which committed to pay exploration costs of $48 million dollars (24 billion CFA Francs) on the St-Louis block. On 23 August 2013, President Sall signed two decrees that would extend the initial research period, including decree 2013-1154 relating to the St-Louis Offshore Profond block. According to the Ministry of Energy, Petrotim’s investments totalled only about $2 million at this point.

On 3 July 2014, Petrotim transferred the entirety of its 90% stake in the contracts signed with the Senegalese national oil company Petrosen to Timis Corporation Ltd, which in turn signed a transfer agreement of 60% of its stakes to Kosmos Energy Limited. Then in 2017, Timis Corporation sold the remainder of its shares, 30%, to BP, and was thus bought out of the shareholding of the company.

Read Elimane Kane’s blog post in full on the Africa@LSE website

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Elimane Haby Kane is an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute. An expert in governance, international development and project management, he is founder and Chairman of the pan-African think-tank LEGS-Africa. He was previously program officer, and then executive director, of Forum Civil, the Senegalese section of Transparency International. He tweets at @elimaneh

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme, the International Inequalities Institute, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the Higherlife Foundation or the Econet Family Foundations. 

Image: CC-BY-2.0 Steve Jurvetson