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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 from the Namibian government has currently been given for two to three exploration wells and for seismological studies to determine whether oil and gas deposits are present. According to the Namibian Ministry of Environment, the necessary environmental impact assessments were undertaken for this, and it was on this basis that the “clearance certificate” was issued.

The results of the environmental impact assessments, their interpretation and implementation are critically accompanied and subject to controversial discussions among the Namibian public, civil society and experts. 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, however, the boreholes and seismological studies indicate that oil and gas deposits are present, and if they occur in sufficient quantities for extraction to be worthwhile, a new process would have to 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 in quantities worthy of extraction.

KfW and other German development cooperation institutions are in discussion with the Namibian Ministry of Environment and the highly qualified Namibian environmental organisations (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 organisations 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. However, we will continue to monitor the situation in line with the IUCN resolution of September 2021 and the statement of the UNESCO World Heritage Commission of July 2021, which call on the governments of Botswana and Namibia to fully guarantee the rights of the affected population groups and to subject all steps towards commercial oil and gas extraction to the necessary environmental and social impact assessments in a transparent manner and in accordance with international standards. Within the framework of our mandate as the German Federal Government's implementing organisation we will then take further action 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.