Zambia Attracts African, Saudi Firms for Oil Hunt Partnerships

ZCCM Investment Holdings Plc, the company 88 percent owned by the Zambian government, has received interest from African and Saudi Arabian companies in partnerships to explore for oil and gas in the country.

The company, which owns stakes in Glencore International Plc’s and Vedanta Resources Plc’s local copper operations, has four oil and gas exploration blocks in the North-Western province that borders Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We will work with other partners so that we can benefit from their experiences in these areas, particularly for oil and gas,” Chief Executive Officer Mukela Muyunda said in a Jan. 31 interview in Lusaka, the capital. He declined to identify the companies that have expressed an interest in oil and gas exploration.

Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, wants to diversify its economy away from the metal that accounts for about 75 percent of export earnings, to protect the country from price fluctuations. The landlocked southern African nation also imports all its liquid fuels and has the highest petroleum prices in the region, according to the government.

ZCCM is “seriously considering establishing an exploration subsidiary” that would have separate divisions searching for oil, gas and base metals, Muyunda said. The proposal will go to the board for approval in March, he said.

Zambia produces no oil and gas and has yet to discover any resources, although its neighbors Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and Tanzania either produce or have known reserves.

Companies including Nigeria’s Oando Energy Resources, Rapid African Energy Ltd., the South African explorer, and Isle of Man-based Petrodel Resources Ltd. own oil and gas exploration blocks in Zambia. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, followed by Angola.