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Exploration drilling for oil in the KAZA area in Namibia

German development cooperation (FC) supports the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area as well as other state and municipal protected areas in Namibia as part of bilateral and regional development cooperation activities on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

According to our knowledge, the company ReconAfrica has been granted fundamental exploration licences for three areas (two in north-east Namibia and one in north-west Botswana). The areas in Namibia are located on the edge of the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area, 60–100 km from the Okavango River.

A specific permission has currently only been given for exploratory wells and not for extraction. The company received permission from the Namibian government for two to three exploration wells to determine whether oil and gas deposits are present. According to the Namibian Ministry of Environment, the necessary Environmental Impact Assessments were conducted for the exploratory drilling, and it was on this basis that the “clearance certificate” was issued.

The Environmental Impact Assessment for the next step of seismic testing planned as part of the exploration is currently underway. The deadline for interested members of the public, residents and stakeholders to submit questions and comments has been extended due to considerable public interest.

There is currently no approval for "fracking" (neither in the context of the test drilling nor for possible future extraction). Statements to the contrary on the part of ReconAfrica are misleading or misunderstandable.

Based on existing experience, 95% of exploration licences are unsuccessful. Even Namibian geologists, who are well acquainted with the conditions in the exploration areas, are very sceptical about the company’s chances of success. If the boreholes indicate that oil and gas deposits are present, and if they occur in sufficient quantities for extraction to be worthwhile, a new process would be initiated with further approval processes and additional Environmental Impact Assessments. At present, it is not at all certain whether oil or gas can be found in the region.

KfW and other German development cooperation institutions are in discussion with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and the highly qualified Namibian environmental organizations (e.g. Namibia Chamber of Environment, Namibia Nature Foundation, Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations-NACSO) and exchange views with them regularly on the possible environmental and social impacts of the planned oil drilling.

Due to the high status of nature conservation in the Namibian constitution, the great relevance of nature-based tourism and the good environmental legislation, we currently assume that the Namibian government and the Namibian public and professionals will follow the developments very closely and ensure that the exploration investigations in the Kavango region will be carried out in compliance with and in consideration of all applicable laws and regulations. This includes, in particular, careful consideration of all economic, environmental and social aspects. The critical Namibian environmental organizations have initiated intensive discussions with the Namibian government and ReconAfrica in this regard.

As things stand, we do not see the measures of German development cooperation in the field of environmental protection and natural resources in Namibia and the KAZA region endangered by the exploratory drilling. We will continue to monitor the situation and, if necessary, take further action within the framework of our mandate as the German Federal Government's implementing organisation with regard to the design and the process of our financing contributions to KAZA. However, we also wish to point out that KfW has no direct influence on the granting of licences or state permits by the national authorities.

Various statements that referred to KfW created an impression among the public in Germany and internationally that immediately ending our involvement in the KAZA programme could directly lead to the cancellation of the exploration drilling. This is a highly unrealistic expectation. It is more likely that ending our involvement in this manner would immediately put the overall financing of the KAZA programme at risk. This would weaken the progressive forces in the region working towards sustainable conservation and would inevitably negatively impact the protection of biodiversity and the livelihoods of the people affected in a cross-border area the size of Spain. This is all taking place in the context of an ongoing global pandemic, which is already a source of extreme stress for conservation efforts in southern Africa.