Top 5 Upstream Markets to Watch in Africa in 2023

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Cementing Africa’s upstream revival, 2023 will see the launch of several multi-well drilling campaigns across the southern and western parts of the continent.

According to investment research firm Hawilti, at least 26 drilling campaigns and rigs are scheduled to be active in Africa this year.


Australian oil and gas company Invictus Energy launched exploration activities in Zimbabwe last September with the drilling of the Mukuyu-1 well located in the Muzarabani prospect. While the junior explorer recently announced that it will halt drilling of the prospect, Invictus Energy plans to drill a second well later this year, with the first well confirming the presence of multiple gas zones. Zimbabwe’s Cabora Bassa Basin is home to a working conventional hydrocarbon system and Invictus Energy has already identified five prospects in the area that could hold up to 1.2 billion barrels of oil.

South Africa

Last October, Canada’s Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas began drilling the Gazania-1 well located in Block 2B offshore South Africa, with a view to uncovering over 300 million barrels of light oil. The well is being drilled near the 50-million-barrel AJ-1 discovery, with activities expected to continue into 2023. South Africa’s Orange Basin – which spans 130,000 square kilometers and also extends into Namibia – remains highly prospective for oil and gas reserves, with the Gazania prospect alone estimated to hold potential resources of approximately 350 million barrels.


Leading frontier exploration of the Kavango Basin in Namibia, Canada’s ReconAfrica has engaged a leading airborne geophysical survey provider to conduct an eFTG survey over an area of nearly 2,200 km², with a contract in place with the government since June 2022. According to a press release issued by the company, “After recently making significant progress in the scheduling and permitting of the acquisition of this data, [ReconAfrica] is advised that it will be completed by late-January 2023.”

Subsequently, the company plans to start drilling of the Wisdom Farm 5-1 in late-February, with the drilling rig already on site. ReconAfrica’s initial work program has confirmed the presence of an active petroleum system within the sedimentary basin, which is estimated to hold more than 30 billion barrels of crude oil.


London-listed Savannah Energy is spearheading a large-scale, multi-well drilling campaign in Chad this year, following its $626-million acquisition of producing assets of ExxonMobil and Petronas in the country. The Africa-focused, British independent energy firm has been concentrating on well optimization and workover activities this year and plans to drill approximately 12 wells per year from now through 2030. Currently producing around 93,000 barrels per day, Chad holds sizable untapped hydrocarbon potential, with approximately 1.5 billion barrels of proven reserves and vast areas located within the oil-rich Central Africa Rift System. 


As Africa’s second-largest oil producer, Nigeria is maintaining its upstream momentum primarily through shallow-water exploration,including General Hydrocarbons’ drilling campaign on OML 120 and Chevron Nigeria JV’s two-year campaign offshore Escravos starting mid-2023. That said, French major TotalEnergies will also be conducting deep-water drilling through its planned infill drilling campaign on OML 130. Nigeria is seeking to grow its hydrocarbon reserves base and reverse declining production on the back of heightened exploration and new oil and gas discoveries.

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Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich is a Publications Editor at Energy Capital & Power, where she writes about the intersection of energy, policy and global finance in sub-Saharan Africa's fastest-growing economies. Grace produces our Africa Energy Series investment reports in Angola and Equatorial Guinea (2019), as well as co-authored African Energy Chamber: Road to Recovery (2021).

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