Hub Class Visits Cameroon Gas Plant

Rodeo staff spoke to the hub visitors. See more photos.
Country: Africa
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See a slideshow of the Francophone Summer School on Facebook.

Last summer, the Logbaba natural gas plant in Cameroon received a special party of visitors.  This delegation did not include high dignitaries or petroleum engineers but journalists and members of civil society from 11 different Francophone African countries.  Why had they come?

Welcomed by Logbaba's parent company, Rodeo, first at the company headquarters in Douala and then at the gas plant, these visitors had come to see a natural resource extraction project up close and to meet the people behind the project. They learned about Rodeo, a subsidiary of British company Victoria Oil and Gas, which received its 25-year license in 2009.  

According to Rodeo's Managing Director Mr. Jonathan Scott-Barrett, the natural gas operating platform at Logbaba is the first such project in Central Africa and one of the few onshore gas projects in the world.  Logbaba has pure methane with little residue.   From the plant, 13 kilometers of underground pipeline cross the city to bring gas to its mainly industrial customers.

The project also represents hopes of transforming the country’s natural gas resource into benefits for the population.

Each of the 28 visitors came from a country that exploits natural resources—gas, oil, gold, diamonds—but often without any real benefit.  Too often, the populations of those countries share the paradox of being rich in resources yet living in poverty. 

This was what drove the Catholic University of Central Africa (CUCA) and Revenue Watch in 2011 to create the Francophone Africa Extractive Industries Knowledge Hub. The hub is a place for learning, sharing experiences and capacity building. These visitors were the second group of participants attending the summer school organized by the hub.

The 2012 session took place from August 6 to 17, on the CUCA campus in Yaoundé. Heralding from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, the participants attended classes for two weeks on topics such as contracts, taxation, revenue management, revenue collection and environmental impacts.  Public administration officials, employees of mining companies, transparency activists and researchers of various nationalities and expertise, including geologists, lawyers, economists and political scientists, led the classes.

The visit to Logbaba, where they also met with the local community, gave participants the opportunity to see the industry in action after learning about them in class, making the link between theory and practice. Participants asked questions about the impact of such a project on the neighboring communities.

The session was made possible by financial support from the French Development Corporation.  During remarks at the closing ceremony of the session, the representative of the Ambassador of France to Cameroon, Joël Lebret, encouraged the participants, saying "a well-informed civil society, as we know, is a more active civil society and is more relevant in public debate. In doing so, it will be able to ensure optimal use of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources. '   

The diverse backgrounds among participants and their enthusiasm enriched the discussions, but the learning did not stop at the end of the formal session. To encourage ongoing learning, the hub offers each participant six months of mentoring by experts in the fields of sovereign wealth funds, contract analysis and other subjects. Participants have returned to their respective countries with plans for using the training in their daily activities.

Emma Tarrant Tayou is RWI Africa Regional Associate.

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