West Africa emerges as major oil producing province

While it may not rival the Middle East in geo-economic and geo-political importance anytime soon, West Africa is slowly emerging as a major oil producing province.

The latest West African nation set to join the list of oil producers is Chad, which according to World Bank officials, is on track to produce its first barrel of oil from that country's southern Doba oilfield by the middle of next year.

However, the World Bank said with transportation and shipping expected to take another three to four months, it will be late next year before Chad oil hits international markets.

The World Bank partly financed the development of the Doba oilfield, and has also helped to pay for a £2.2 billion pipeline designed to carry oil from landlocked Chad to the port of Kribi in neighbouring Cameroon.

The project, backed mainly by US oil giants ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco and Malaysia's Petronas, cost a total of $US3.7 billion (£2.3bn).

Chad's Doba oil reserves are thought to contain about 25 years worth of supply at an output rate of 225,000 barrels a day.

Chad, one of the world's poorest nations, is expected to make about $US2 billion from the project over its lifetime. Cameroon's share of the profits is expected to reach $US500 million.