Guineans "not yet prepared" to explore natural resources

Guinea-Bissau President José Mário Vaz said that Guineans are not yet prepared to exploit their natural resources, stressing that if the matter is improperly handled, it will only benefit a handful of people.

"The exploitation of natural resources is a topic that is very dear to me. I've talked about it several times. I don't think that exploiting our natural resources is a good idea right now. I think the country is not yet prepared to start exploiting its natural resources," said José Mário Vaz.

The Guinean head of state spoke during a joint interview with several media outlets on June 23, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of his inauguration.

"It is a great responsibility and it requires an extraordinary level of preparation, especially in terms of defense and security forces. I don't think that the Guinean population are prepared to exploit their own natural resources, because if this situation is not properly handled, it will only benefit a handful of people," he added.

According to the Guinean President, Guineans need "better training" so that the exploitation of resources "serves the interest of the country and the people."

Guinea-Bissau has bauxite, phosphate. There are good prospects for hydrocarbon exploration, but the Guinean President terminated the agreement with Senegal in 2014, proposing the reopening of negotiations for the establishment of new sharing structures.

When asked about the negotiations, the President said that the topic "will receive a lot of attention in the near future" but refused to elaborate because it is a "delicate matter."

"This is not the place to talk about it. We have a secretary general who will defend the interests of both countries," he pointed out.

Former Guinean Prime Minister Artur Silva was recently appointed by the President and Secretary-General of the Agency for Management and Cooperation between Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, based in Dakar.

The Management and Cooperation Agreement between Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, which José Mário Vaz terminated in December 2014, had been signed in October 1993 and included the creation of a joint exploitation area comprising some 25,000 square kilometers along the continental shelf.

Guinea-Bissau allocated 46% of its maritime territory to the JAA, while Senegal allocated 54%.

The area is considered to be rich in fishery resources, the exploitation of which is equally divided between the two states, and hydrocarbons (oil and gas) - with Senegal getting 85% and Guinea-Bissau 15%.

A source from the joint area's management agency told Lusa that there may be an agreement "by the end of the year" to establish a new sharing arrangement, which will then allow "several companies" - namely Chinese, Swiss, American, Canadian and Romanian - to commence drilling operations.

According to sources accompanying the technical aspects of the negotiation process, the 14 oil drilling holes in the area (13 in shallow water and one in deep water) offer "good prospects."