Investing In Africa's Oil Bonanza

By Aaron Levitt | July 24, 2011 AAA

When it comes to emerging markets and oil production, most investors have turned to Brazil's vast offshore salt fields as the world's next huge find. It's true that these deepwater sites are full to the brim of hydrocarbons and represent a great boon to Brazil's economy. Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE:PBR) has become a market darling as investors have sought to cash in on the fields. Equally rich, but less known, is the emerging oil story in Africa. As worldwide oil consumption continues to grow, these abundant reserves have the potential to be a game changer for the continent. With an estimated $7.3 trillion worth of oil in East Africa alone, investors should take notice.
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Long-Term Potential
Africa is a region where most investors never tread. Years of corruption, in-fighting and violence have tainted perceptions of the continent. However, while some places do experience strife, Africa as a whole has become more politically stable. The regions rich abundance of natural resources is leading to its revival. These resource dollars are beginning to see their way back into African infrastructure and telecommunications, thus increasing growth even further. While it's mineral resources have powered its past and present, its new found oil reserves will power its future.

Africa's proven oil reserves have increase by 116%, steadily growing since 1989. These reserves have grown from nearly 59 billion barrels to 127.5 billion barrels, today. Overall, the region is host to 13% of the world's oil reserves. Deepwater fields off the coast of West Africa are home to some of the largest and most prolific oil and gas fields discovered over the past two decades. Some energy analysts have also postulated that these sites could dwarf Brazil's offshore potential. In addition, exploration is taking place in a number of other countries that aim to increase their output or become first time producers. Countries such as South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania are working on new wells to begin oil production. Kenya has seen a "land grab" in recent years, as E&P firms have looked towards the politically stable nation and the oil rich Somalian Plate. The International Energy Agency, estimates that by 2035, 20% of the world's total oil production will come from sources that had yet to be found, including those in Africa.

Africa's oil future lies with exporting its harvest. China's hunger for commodities has it already attracted to the region. In 2009 Africa's oil exports to China represented 60% of total Sino-Africa trade. Currently, a variety of nations including, Angola, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Equatorial Guinea are net oil exporters.

Playing the Boom
For retail investors, Africa represents the final frontier. Funds like the SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East & Africa (NYSE:GAF) and iShares MSCI South Africa Index (NYSE:EZA) can provide access to the continent and its future prosperity. For those who want to bet directly on Africa's energy resurgence, here are a few picks.

Ghana's reserve estimates are about 5 billion barrels of crude oil. A few foreign companies hold significant acreage in this region including U.S. producers Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) and Hess (NYSE:HES). However, for a pure play on Ghana's growth, newly listed Kosmos Energy (NYSE:KOS) fits the bill. The company's Jubilee offshore field promises to be a monster.

Despite terrorism and fears of violence, Nigeria's massive oil reserves are too good to pass up. Majors Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and France's Total (NYSE:TOT) have all taken the plunge into the nations fields. Investors may also be interested in English firm Afren PLC (OTCBB:AFRNF). The company has purchased a variety of smaller fields off of the Nigerian coast that were discovered by major international oil companies, but deemed too small for the majors to profit from.

The Bottom Line
Africa is quickly moving to become the next oil and gas superstar nation. These huge finds have the ability to transform Africa's fortunes and its status in the investing world. For investors, adding some of Africa's energy to a portfolio can be a great long term play. The previous stocks, along with Tullow Oil (OTCBB:TUWOY) are great ways to add that exposure. (For additional reading, see Evaluating Country Risk For International Investing.)

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