There is no doubt that the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities creates significant potential for a country to transform its economy. For some countries oil has been a blessing, but for others, it has weakened state institutions, collapsed the traditional sectors of
agriculture and manufacturing, caused violent conflicts and increased poverty levels. With the discovery of oil in 2012, Kenya is about to join the league of oil-producing countries.
However, what is not certain is whether Kenya will join the elite on the continent who have managed to use their natural resources to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. The issues confronting resource rich countries are quite complex and require a systematic, comprehensive and inclusive approach in designing the frameworks that address those complex issues. The frameworks include the appropriate policies, legislation, regulations and institutions for the sector.
The development of these frameworks comes with its attendant problems particularly for frontier countries like Kenya with no previous experience in oil production. There is therefore a temptation to adopt frameworks from other countries despite the contextual differences
between countries. The Government of Kenya has a responsibility to adopt frameworks that are consistent with the prevailing social, economic, political and cultural circumstances in the country so as to facilitate the development of the oil and gas industry.
As Kenya begins the journey of becoming an oil producing country, civil society organisations and citizens alike have expressed worry at the haste with which the country is developing its frameworks for the sector. There is also unease about the low level of public consultations, the potential for vested interest to be rooted in the frameworks, and the potential for oil to divide the people. Concerns have also been raised about the threat that oil poses to the environment, livelihoods of communities and security.