Mr. Foday B. L. Mansaray Junior, Director General, Petroleum Directorate of the Republic of Sierra Leone, has since his appointment in 2020 been effectively utilising his exceptional leadership abilities and vast experience in the oil and gas sector to drive the policy direction of the Directorate for optimal exploration of the country’s petroleum resources. In this interview, he provides an insight into the efforts of the Directorate to make Sierra Leone the next possible hotspot in oil and gas production. Excerpts:

How would you describe the policy direction of the Petroleum Directorate of the Republic of Sierra Leone?

The policy direction of the Directorate is oriented toward ensuring the optimal exploration of the Nation’s petroleum resources for the benefit of its citizens. This we hope to achieve through the development of related measures that are not only sensitive to the economy, the environment, safety, and technological innovation, but can also maintain a stable balance between the interests of the operator and that of the Nation – both the current and future generations.

Our aspiration is that the measures will yield desired dividends through revenue generation, foreign exchange earnings, job creation, technology transfer, and commercial expansion, without impairing the self-regenerating and general life support capacity of the environment.

What is the role of the Oil and Gas sector in Sierra Leone’s MTNDP to drive economic development and growth?

The Medium-Term National Development Plan recognizes the Oil and Gas sector as one of those that can potentially generate rapid economic growth and drive national development.

I am of the view that given the favourable geology as reflected in the successive oil and gas discoveries made previously, it can safely be reckoned that the Nation is endowed with substantial petroleum resources that can be sustainably exploited to contribute to the Government’s vision of transforming the country from a primarily importing and consuming country to that of a producing and ultimately an exporting one.

Of course, against the background of the recognition that extractive resources are non-renewable, the immediate sectoral objective is to generate funds that can help strengthen the capacity that is required to deliver on Government’s overarching policy commitments. For instance, Government has what is referred to as the Big Five Game Changing priorities viz, Boosting Agricultural productivity and food security, Human Capital Development, Job Creation, Rejuvenating public service delivery, and Technology and Infrastructural Development. Delivery on the above policy commitments requires the necessary financing mechanism of which the Oil and Gas sector can be counted upon to help drive.

How would you describe investment opportunities in Sierra Leone’s petroleum industry?

As far as the petroleum industry is concerned, Sierra Leone could be seen as one of the potential and hopefully – in the near term – actual investment destination in the Gulf of Guinea region of West Africa. The reasons are not far-fetched: First, there is an active petroleum system in place as reflected in four successive discoveries between 2009 and 2013. It is just a matter of time for a commercial discovery to be made. Ongoing efforts have been directed toward fixing a key missing link namely, the absence of legislative framework for onshore exploration activities-now being installed through ongoing action for the passage of an amended version of the regulatory framework. A potential effect of this initiative is that onshore exploration costs are four to five-fold less expensive when compared to offshore exploration. Further, if the discoveries so far made offshore had been made in the terrestrial zone of the country, Sierra Leone could now have been on record for oil and gas production!

Second, despite occasional tensions particularly over social media, Sierra Leone has been enjoying relative peace since the end of the war to the extent that political power has changed hands from incumbent to opposition two times!

Third, the country is characterized by a generally conducive business atmosphere including a predictable regulatory framework that guarantees property rights, adequate returns on investment and corresponding remittance of profits, an investment-friendly fiscal regime, etc. 

Being relatively new to this industry, what effort is the Directorate making to hasten local content development and capacity building in the country’s oil and gas sector?

Like any right-thinking organization, the Petroleum Directorate is cognizant that fulfilment of local content requirements is one of the low hanging fruits in the oil and gas landscape given that the country is relatively at its earlier stages of its experience curve. We have been working with operators to invest in skills development and local supplier capability development to take advantage of emerging opportunities. We have for instance respectively created room for investment in training and related succession planning initiatives, procurement of locally produced and/or provided goods and services including price preferencing in favour of local providers. We are also exploring the possibility of having a logistics base in-country to service exploration drilling activities which can ensure local participation in basic services such as catering, waste management, bunkering, security, fabrication works, as well as other ancillary maritime services.

You have on several occasions said that Sierra Leone is the next hotspot in oil and gas production. Can you throw light into why you think so?

Given the renewed exploration interest as reflected in the frequency of expression of interest particularly for onshore exploration, it could be safe to say that Sierra Leone could be the next possible hotspot in oil and gas production once we launch onshore exploration activities.

Ongoing seismic activities are indicative of very positive outcomes which, if sustained, could result in outcomes that will prompt a chain of reactions in the landscape never before heard of in the Guinean Gulf. In short, I will restrict myself to saying that given the promising prospects, there is ground for optimism.

You seem to be very optimistic: Aren’t you?

May be cautiously optimistic I may say. I’ve already highlighted the promise of prospects based on survey outcomes. We will continue to intensify our efforts along this plane. We will continue to build on accomplishments so far particularly in the areas of established partnership in marketing activities, partnership in information sharing and lesson drawing as a means of adopting positive pathways and at the same time avoiding potential pitfalls that may have occasioned the experience of other jurisdictions with similar circumstances, and partnership in governance and transparency initiatives,  as a means of guaranteeing optimized outcomes to the Nation including potentially affected communities where the oil and gas projects are located, especially now that we contemplate onshore exploration activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: