The Kenyan government says preliminary findings by an Australian oil exploration company show the East African country may have commercially viable oil deposits along its coast.
Four years ago, the government-run National Oil Corporation of Kenya formed a partnership with the Australian oil exploration giant, Woodside Energy, to assess whether the country had any exploitable deposits.
Kenyan officials say the research has yielded some encouraging results.
The exploration manager for the Kenyan oil company, Albert Maende, says seismic surveys conducted by Woodside scientists have detected signs of oil deposits around the coastal town of Mombasa and off the coast in the Indian Ocean.
"The data shows us there are certain locations [where] we should go ahead and drill," he said. "But we are in the process of determining the exact locations. It takes time to evaluate the data. You can imagine 8,000 kilometers of data taken over several lines. So, interpreting it takes time." If the tests prove conclusive, Kenyan officials say they would begin drilling at four sites by 2006. If they strike oil, Kenya could join a growing list of African countries, including Sudan, Chad and Cameroon, which have shown signs of having sizable high-grade crude deposits.
With the prospect of finding oil, Kenyan officials say they can now hope to make the country less dependent on income from the volatile tourist market and put it on the path to new riches.