The potential of SA’s upstream petroleum resources has been spotlighted since 2019 by global oil giant Total’s discovery of two vast deposits of gas concentrate in the Outeniqua Basin off the coast of Mossel Bay. A bill introduced in parliament in July might allow the country to take full advantage of these and other untapped reserves.

The government earmarked this underdeveloped sector as a potential economic game-changer many years ago, but did virtually nothing to cultivate it. In 2014 the cabinet’s Operation Phakisa (Sesotho for “hurry up”) estimated that SA’s territorial waters sat atop 9-billion barrels of oil (40 years’ worth of national consumption) and 11-billion barrels of natural gas (375 years’ worth of consumption). ..

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