Somaliland has requested that Ethiopia reroute its nascent oil and gas exports via a proposed new pipeline, challenging Djibouti’s long-held plans. File Image: IOL

JOHANNESBURG  – Somaliland, which unilaterally declared independence from war-ravaged Somalia in 1991, a move not recognised by a single country – has requested that Ethiopia reroute its nascent oil and gas exports via a proposed new pipeline, challenging Djibouti’s long-held plans for a conduit.

The move follows a bid by Ethiopia to begin exploiting an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and test-drilling for oil in its restive east, the Horn Diplomat media house has reported.

Somaliland is attempting to leverage its strategic location near the Red Sea to attract major foreign infrastructure projects as it battles on with its statehood attempts.

“Why not send natural gas and crude oil from the Ogaden basin to Somaliland’s coast at Berbera?” Somaliland Minister of Energy and Minerals Jama Mohamoud Igel said in an interview, referring to the region’s main port. Such a pipeline would be more “cost-effective” at only 400 kilometres, rather than the 700 kilometes to Djibouti, he said.

Somaliland’s offer puts it directly in competition with Djibouti, a tiny former French colony that’s taken advantage of its strategic shipping location to host the US and China’s only official permanent military facilities on the continent.

The United Arab Emirates already has a military facility in Berbera in Somaliland and a port is currently being built by DP World Ltd which the Dubai state-controlled harbour operator says will help boost trade flows to the UAE.

Canadian, Chinese, Norwegian and British companies have expressed interest in exploring three offshore blocks on the approach to the Bab El Mandeb, where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden.

Chinese and British companies are also in talks over two further onshore blocks at Somaliland’s border with Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said gas exports to Djibouti will begin in 2021, two years later than initially planned, and bolster what’s already Africa’s fastest-growing economy.

African News Agency (ANA)