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Sahel Energy Advisory

Morocco and Western Sahara in the Spotlight

With the hunt for oil picking up momentum in Morocco—considered an investor’s haven compared to other Sahelian countries—we are closely watching controversial exploration licenses issued for the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Morocco has issued exploration licenses for blocks in Atlantic waters off Western Sahara, and we expect there to be significant reverberations over this. The exploration licenses went to French oil giant Total SA and US explorer Kosmos. But this offshore territory is undefined and geopolitically loaded with booby traps.

What both the juniors and supermajors are looking at is analog geology that suggests the massive pre-salt finds offshore Brazil could be similar off the African coast. A theory already proven in emerging powerhouses like Angola and Ghana. However, both onshore and offshore exploration will be problematic in areas where basins run into Western Sahara. Algeria is lining up the rest of the region against Morocco and its occupation of this territory claimed by Sahrawi people.

Most recently, earlier this month, Morocco, Total and Kosmos formally pledged that their exploration efforts off the coast of Western Sahara would comply with international rules and that the local population would benefit from any discoveries.

On 9 February, Total renewed its exploration licenses in Western Sahara, despite the independence movement’s claims that…

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