OPINION: The bloody attack this month by Islamist militants on the village of Kitaya, close to Tanzania’s oil and gas logistics hub at Mtwara, set alarm bells ringing in international board rooms, fearing for their investments in the region.
Shell and Equinor plan to spend $30 billion developing liquefied natural gas in nearby Lindi, while smaller players Wentworth Resources, Maurel & Prom and Orca Exploration are working transition zone assets in Mnazi Bay and Songo Songo.
In Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, Total, Eni, ExxonMobil, and several Asian players are eyeing final investment decisions that could unlock another $50 billion of investment and tap into 150 trillion cubic feet of proven deepwater gas reserves.
Several security personnel were killed amid reports of 20 civilian fatalities in the Kitaya incident, the second such cross-border attack by Mozambique-based insurgents into Tanzania.
Terrorists demonstrated an ability to traverse the Rovuma river at will, hitting both sides simultaneously and causing Mozambican Marine units to flee defensive positions.
Atrocities are usually blamed on Mozambique’s homegrown Ansar al Sunna group, tenuously linked to Somalia’s Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated network that is also active in Tanzania.
But the likely source behind this latest outrage is Islamic State Central Africa Province (IS-CAP), an Al Qaeda rival that has been moving into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Mozambique.
Disparate groups have started exploiting disaffection and making common cause with smuggler networks, potentially inviting finance and coordination by IS-CAP in Somalia, which the United Nations says acts as the hub.
Total stepped up to the plate by signing a security pact with Maputo but with lukewarm engagement by the European Union and Southern African Development Community.
Investors face a growing realisation that Africa's corrupt and fragile states are just as receptive to extremist subversion as the Sahel's "ungoverned spaces" and oil and gas assets are vulnerable. Robust co-ordinated measures by sovereign nations are required.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)