Somalia is set to launch its first offshore licensing round, inviting international oil and gas companies to apply for exploration acreage.

The East African country will open the process in August, for close in March, with seven licence blocks which are described by the government as “among the most prospective areas for hydrocarbon explorations and production in Somalia.”

Significant oil and gas discoveries have been made to the south in the past decade both onshore and offshore in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

In the past the likes of Shell, ExxonMobil, Eni and Chevron had interests in Somalia before the civil war.

The licensing round follows the introduction of a new petroleum law which set out terms for revenue sharing and the signing of a ‘road map’ with Shell and Exxon back in March.

The licensing will be a ‘virtual’ process due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

Somalia’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources Abdirashid Mohamed Ahmed, in a statement, described an ‘enormous’ opportunity for international exploration and development majors.

“Somalia is committed to attracting investment and promoting partnership and business in all segments of the oil and gas industry value chain,” he said.

“This event is the starting point to allow the Somali Government to better showcase the vision that our country has for our petroleum and gas industry to potential foreign investors.”