NJ Nyuk. File: Supplied by SVW Communications

Johannesburg - A landmark peace deal signed in South Sudan more than a year ago after civil war has opened the doors to setting up key structures again, allowing one of the world's newest countries to exploit its oil reserves to achieve economic stability, a leading executive has said.

In a column on Monday, African Energy Chamber executive chairman NJ Ayuk, who is also chief executive of  pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, applauded the move by South Sudan's ministry of petroleum to support companies operating in the country and push them to increase oil production and reopen oil fields shut down during the civil conflict which broke out in 2013.

"A target of returning to a pre-war daily production of 350 thousand barrels of oil per day was set for 2020. Ambitious as it may be, it has set the government's tone regarding its oil industry -- 'We want investment now!'," Ayuk said.

"It’s working! Slowly but surely, old oil fields have been brought online and the national daily production rate, although far from its ultimate goal, standing today at 180 thousand barrels per day, is consistently increasing, step by step."

"The South Sudanese leadership is conscious that oil is their only door, at the moment, for economic stability," he added.

He noted that in order to attract foreign investment, the South Sudanese government had decided to review and improve the laws overseeing the oil industry and had sought outside expertise to help. 

"Local content and empowering women must be key to this process," said Ayuk.

He said the entry in South Sudan of pan African company Oranto Petroleum -- which signed a production sharing agreement in 2017 -- marked a sign of change in the young nation’s renewed oil industry. 

Oil conferences this month in Cape Town and South Sudan's capital Juba offered a good opportunity for investors to tap into the under-explored oil region, Ayuk said, pointing to estimates that at least 70 percent of South Sudanese oil is still to be found.

Over 300 million barrels of recoverable oil were found in the Adar oilfield, in a block operated by the Dar Petroleum Operating Company consortium led by the China National Petroleum Corporation.

"Further reserves could be on the way as other wells are currently under evaluation in the same area. Oil should start flowing from this field within 12 months," Ayuk said.

He applauded South Sudan for coming out of a devastating war and turning itself around, taking advantage of its natural resources and creating the conditions to attract foreign investment.

"If the youngest and one of the most impoverished nations in the world can do it, so can the rest of Africa. The time is now," he said.

African News Agency (ANA)