On Interests in Oil, Mineral and Agricultural Industries: "We Need More Korean Companies to Come to Sudan," Energy-Mining Min. Al-Jaz
Mr. Jong-myoung Limb, editor of DIPLOMACY, interviews Dr. Awad Ahmed Al-Jaz (right), Minister of Energy and Mining of Sudan at the minister's office in Khartoum on Nov. 24, 2005.
Question: Dr. Awad Ahmad Al-Jaz, Minister of Energy & Mining of Sudan, how do you foresee the relation between Korea and Sudan, especially in terms of the business field? Answer: There is a long history of relations between the two countries. Many Korean products are here in Sudan. Many Koreans are involved in business with Sudan, but we feel the volume of involvement is not enough. We need more involvement of Koreans here. The Chinese are actively involved in Sudan. They have been involved in the oil, electricity generation, and hydrothermal industries. We have many Asians involved in Sudan like Malaysians, Indians, Pakistanis, Taiwanese, Thai, Japanese and other Southeast Asians. So, we look forward to Koreans. We have got your products, but we don't have your people. So, we need more Korean companies to be involved here. Hopefully, your presence now will encourage other businessmen, companies, and government officials to come and see Sudan. We know that you maybe heard about Sudan and Sudanese in the media. Especially, Western media have a lot of negative impact on our country. We feel that this is not what constitutes our situation or our society. This is why we went to the East so we could get more Eastern countries here. We feel that the traditions and the behavior are quite similar. We don't have any problem of interference in the internal affairs. This is why we try to invite as many Eastern countries as we could to get involved in Sudan. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is full of resources. We have oil, gas, minerals, agricultural land, and plenty of water. Sudan ranges from desert climate to cold climate which is suitable for any kind of cereal or grain to eat. We are the biggest animal gum producer and exporter. In fact, we have the largest animal gum in the area. We share our borders with 10 countries and our land and natural resources are huge. If we create any kind of business in Sudan, it will also help our neighboring countries being part of this region. This is why we feel that this is a strategic location. Sudan has huge amounts of natural resources to attract investors to come and share with us. So, we look forward to get Korea more involved. We have lots of Korean products but we need to create a kind of business and industry with Korea. Hopefully, Sudan will be a base for your products to go to our neighboring countries very easily.
Q: Are there any Korean companies doing business in the oil industry of Sudan, like oil exploration? A: Some of them already came in and they tried to compete. Unfortunately, they couldn't bring a good offer in the competition. We used to make it an open competition so everybody would get the information and bring his offer. We make it open and competitive. If it is a good offer, they get the chance. Still, the chance is there. Many foreign investors and businessmen are in Sudan like Indian, Pakistani, Russian, British, French, German and Italians. All the European countries are here, but we want the East. We feel that we can operate and cooperate with Eastern traditions more easily. So, this is a chance for Korea to step in. We have still two free blocks left for exploration of oil. If any Korean company is interested, these are open invitations for them to come in. But tell them if they are interested to come as quickly as possible, since a lot of companies are trying to get the chance here. Also, there is a chance to compete in buying the crude or refined products. If they are interested, let them come. I will leave their names in the short list of the companies who compete to buy the crude oil and the products. Also the chance is there, if the Koreans also want to be involved in some consortium. Some companies offer their shares to invite more people to be involved. So they can come and find chances with already existing companies in the blocks. Anyway, let them come and see which is better for mutual benefit. It will be beneficial for companies as well as for us. Let us find a chance on where we can meet to find the best for both sides.
Q: Would you tell me about oil production and the prospect of the oil industry of Sudan? A: We started the oil industry six years ago. Now, we are heading to have 500,000 barrels a day and we are working on different locations in the land looking for oil production. The end of this year, we will have four pipelines for crude transport and two pipelines for products. We have three seaports. One is for products and two is for crude. We call the two crude, “Bashair I & II.” Al-Khair Seaport is for products. We have Khartoum Refinery, with a capacity of 100,000 barrels a day. Now, we signed a new agreement with Petronas from Malaysia to build 150,000 barrels a day on the Red Sea coast refinery. And we have upgraded our refinery which is called Al Ubaid. The refinery started at 10,000 barrels a day, now, it is 15,000~18,000 barrels a day. We have a center for oil formation, a training center for Sudanese or a technical center for technical people. We have a center for analyzing the data to tell people where to go and drill their wells. We have a number of companies of different nationalities. We have Chinese, Malaysian, Pakistani, Indian, Russian, British, German and French. Most Arab countries companies are here. They are working on different locations in the east, north, south, west and middle. Many companies from these nationalities are working in consortium form. A number of companies are working in certain locations. Now, we have two areas free, waiting for investors to come in. At the beginning of the coming months, we are going to find one of the blocks. We are noticing that in Sudan now, big numbers of rigs are working and looking for oil. Maybe, Sudan compared to any location in the world, is the most active area. We have a number of companies bidding and coming to look for a chance in Sudan.
Q: These days, oil prices have been going up for the last several years. What do you feel about oil pricing in the future? A: It seems that the oil prices will go up. The consumption is very high. Oil is a depleting resource. Luckily, we have enough in Sudan. We just started and will make use of these prices. We are not looking for something to hurt the consumer. We are looking for the fair price for both producer and consumer. We came at a good price. Hopefully, Sudan will be one of the biggest oil producers of the future.
Q: How do you foresee the promotion between Korea and Sudan economically? A: Korean products, especially cars, are spreading in Sudan. The products are being used by the Sudanese. We are looking for our side of the industry. We need more Korean companies to come if they are interested in the oil industry, the mineral industry, the agricultural side or any kind of industry. Sudan is a good place because the country is full of resources and is the biggest country in Africa. We share borders with 10 countries. If any industry or business is created here, it will also serve other markets, not only the Sudanese market. Sudan is a way for these land locked countries, to come through Sudan to hit the water. Sudan is a way to do that. This is a very strategic location for our country. We build a bridge between the African countries and the Arab countries. This is a good place for those who look to invest or create any kind of business.
Q: Tell me about your background in brief. A: I did my masters and PhD in Business Administration in California in the United States. After I came back to Sudan, I worked in one of the training centers. For some time, I worked in a university. I have been deputy of one of the commercial banks. I have been the general manager of one of the commercial banks also. I joined the government after the Salvation Revolution. I have been the Minister of Trade and Minister of Cabinet Affairs. Now, I am Minister of Energy and Mining.