- Sep 11, 2000Malawi tries to lure
AFP, Blantyre | Monday
THE tiny and impoverished nation of Malawi is hoping to cash in
on rising world oil prices by enticing petroleum giants to explore
the nation's landmark lake - problem is, it isn't sure if there is any
oil at the bottom of Lake Malawi.
North Carolina's Duke University determined in 1981 that rocks on
the lakebed had thick sediments of hydrocarbons which are
potential hosts for oil. Since then, Malawi has been hard-pressed
to find someone to do any drilling.
"All we are trying to do is to sell the idea to the international world
that we have potential for oil exploration," said Charles Kamphiyo,
director of Malawi's geological survey.
"We are not saying come here and drill for oil. There is a lot of
exploration work to be done, especially to drill a few holes to
enable us to know what is down there."
Lake Malawi covers one-third of the country's surface area,
winding 560km between Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and
Mozambique, though it is only 80km wide.
The lake's sheer depth has turned away some potential drillers.
At its deepest point, the lake bottom is 722m deep.
Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell was granted a license to explore
for oil in 1981. But when the company failed to find any deposits
onshore or in shallow waters, they shelved further exploration
plans, Kamphiyo said.
Another oil company, Hunt's International, received a license to
explore the lower Shire valley, but that effort never gained much
steam and the company quietly pulled out a short time later.
Mobil began negotiating for an exploration license, but they lost
interest by early 1989, before the agreement was put in force.
Since 1989, no one has ventured into Lake Malawi.
"The only way to determine if there are hydrocarbons under Lake
Malawi's bed is to sink an exploratory drill hole to penetrate the
strata," Kamphiyo said.
Malawi has to import all of its oil needs, a bill that's increasingly
stiff for a nation where 60% of its 11 million people live in poverty.
"We will keep on promoting the lake for oil exploration,"
Malawi plans anti-HIV
Southern Africa is hard hit by the Aids crisis
Malawi's Law Commission is to review the
country's penal code to make the deliberate
spreading of HIV a criminal offence.
Malawi is one of countries hardest hit by Aids
in Southern Africa, with at least 14% of
Malawi's population of just over 10m people
infected with the HIV virus, according to the
National Aids Control Programme.
The new law would criminalise unprotected sex
by people who know they have the virus, and
what is described as "reckless sexual
The proposed law has been welcomed by
women's groups although they caution that
proving such offences could be a legal
The Executive Director
of the Gender Support
Mussa, said that in
Malawi the new law
could affect many
husbands who contract
the virus through
and then infect their
President Bakili Muluzi
has described the
spread of Aids as a
crisis and called for stringent measures to
He recently ordered commercial sex workers
and their clients to be arrested on sight as one
way of slowing down the rate of infection.
He says Malawi's health system cannot cope
with the Aids crisis and Malawians should discourage the kind of behaviour that helps the
spread of the disease.
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