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Congo to join OPEC
January 28, 2018, 5:01 pm

Congo, the fourth largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, aims to join the 13-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) so that it could have a role in defining policies, prices and other decision-making matters related to oil, said a statement from the government in Brazzaville, the country's capital.

Resources from the country’s oil sector account for about two-thirds of GDP – that is 75 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of export earnings. Congo’s oil sector was badly hurt by the global dip in prices and a slowdown in its own output since 2014, but it has been rejuvenated by new projects scheduled to boost output by a quarter to 350,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year.

With the launch of the new Moho Nord oil field, Congo is projected to achieve its forecast annual production of 117 million barrels and further strengthen the former French colony's move to become the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Italy’s ENI and France’s Total are among the main oil operators in the country.

“The Republic of Congo has decided to accede to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),” the government stated in a communique issued to media on 15 January. “This imminent accession expresses the will of the President of Congo His Excellency Denis Sassou Nguesso to place our country in the rank of the world’s leaders,” the statement, signed by president's director of cabinet Florent Ntsiba, added.

He said Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had expressed support for the idea during a visit to Brazzaville on 8 January. But sticking to newly mandated strict OPEC quotas could prove tough for a central African country that is in major financial trouble and which depends almost exclusively on oil for its foreign exchange and government revenues.

The economy has been badly hit by low oil prices and poor fiscal management, causing total government revenue to fall by nearly a third since 2015 and public or publicly-guaranteed debt to rise to around 110 percent of GDP.

At the end of December, the government said it planned to cut spending next year by 8.6 percent to 1.38 trillion CFA francs (US$2.5 billion), following a steep 45 percent cut to the 2017 budget this month, as it seeks to negotiate an IMF bailout.

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