Institutional Design in Low-Capacity Oil Hotspot

This paper focuses on low-capacity countries courted by investors seeking access to petroleum resources during the exploration boom. In emerging oil hotspots, there has been growing interest in promoting national participation, largely by securing stakes in projects for national oil companies (NOCs). Some of these countries are new producers or remain in the exploration phase without having made any significant commercial discoveries, while others are established producers on a relatively modest scale and are now attracting renewed interest. The key question that emerges in all cases is how to organize and manage the petroleum sector in order to maximize the public benefit derived from oil and gas resources. In particular, what role should the NOC and other governing bodies have? This paper addresses the relationship among institutional structure and the goals of economic development and political accountability. It also examines the argument that oil producers are most likely to succeed when they separate commercial, policymaking and regulatory functions across distinct public bodies and restrict NOCs from performing any regulatory duties. Following on existing literature, this paper argues that the capacity level of a country at the time it seeks to establish an institutional structure has a major impact on which sorts of arrangements are most likely to succeed.

The report is available to download at the link below.

The Cost of an Emerging National Oil Company


  • The fall in oil prices since mid-2014 has profoundly changed the prospects for national oil companies (NOCs). If, as seems likely, prices remain low for a number of years, investors will be far more cautious, international oil companies will see reduced cash flows, and many exploration projects will be put on hold or cancelled. NOCs, and the oil and gas industry as a whole, must reconsider their strategies.
  • This will have an impact on the ambitious plans that some emerging producers had nurtured for national participation in the petroleum sector, forcing them to refocus on an affordable strategy for developing upstream capabilities.
  • Governments of emerging and prospective producer countries, and their NOCs, need to understand the cost of various NOC roles, and how these can be financed at different stages of developing the resource base. This will enable them to formulate clear and appropriate strategies for the future.
  • The current environment offers an opportunity for governments to refocus their efforts on defining a mandate that supports their national vision and priorities. This requires an evaluation of the resource base, national capabilities (including those of the NOC) and possible revenue streams, so that the NOC can be tasked with a role it can execute and the state can afford.
  • Governments must approve clear revenue streams for NOCs.
  • NOCs should focus on costs, as well as on strong accounting and reporting standards.
  • Governments and NOCs should be strategic about capacity-building, so that efforts and scarce resources are dedicated to building the right skills and using them on the job.

The report is available to download at the link below.

Africa’s New Oil and Gas Producers Must Prepare for More Disappointment in the Post-Coronavirus Era


The crash in oil and gas prices, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and the slump in economic activity, has dealt a blow to the plans and public finances of major oil and gas producing countries. But a group of countries in sub-Saharan Africa once designated as “prospective producers” are facing a different challenge. For new producers in the pandemic era, some licensing rounds are likely to be cancelled, and production is being pushed back once more. Debt is becoming an even greater issue. Yet some investors – like Total in Uganda – still show signs of interest. To clarify this mixed picture, we have reviewed our analysis of the experience of the 12 sub-Saharan African countries that made their first major discoveries during the period from 2001 to 2014.

A link to the original article is available below.