Published: Thursday 30 April 1998

africa: Many officials in this tiny west African country, are having a hard time coming to terms with Equatorial guinea's fantastic oil windfall.

Last year, offshore petroleum production which had begun there only recently by Mobil Oil Corp, earned this poverty-stricken country an estimated us $100 million, doubling the gross domestic product overnight. Mobil's production currently at about 80,000 barrels a day from single deep-water field code-named Safiro, is projected to grow steadily. Mobil and other companies are already scrambling for the rights to explore for more deposits on deep-water "blocks" nearby.

According to Cristobal Manana Ela of the mining ministry, "Safiro does not even represent one-tenth of the potential production of Equatorial Guinea." As he surveys charts of the unexploited blocks that will soon be put up for bidding, he says "what we are about to see in my country is an economic explosion." Industry experts say that over the next 20 years, Western oil companies will invest between us $40 billion and us $60 billion in the Gulf of Guinea alone.

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