Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Thursday that an Australian company had discovered oil deposits on Zimbabwe's border with Mozambique.
Economists, however, said It was far too early for the fuel-challenged country to start popping champagne corks.
Mnangagwa said at an emergency press briefing that he had "important news for Zimbabwe."
"The government of Zimbabwe has over the last few months worked with Invictus Energy Limited to undertake oil and gas,” he said. “Invictus is utilizing data which was generated by Mobil Oil in the early 1990s, when extensive oil and gas geo work was undertaken in the great Muzarabani area. We have since been advised by Invictus that the findings are positive and point to gas and oil deposits."
Invictus Energy is based in Perth, Australia. On its website, it describes itself as "an independent oil and gas exploration company focused on high-impact energy resources in sub-Saharan Africa."
Zimbabwe's Energy Minister Winston Chitando said the oil and gas deposits are in a 200-square-kilometer area and are Africa's largest oil reserves discovered to date. He said that with proper funding, drilling and exploration would start by mid-2020.
The news came at a time when Zimbabwe is facing shortages of fuel, among other essentials.
Independent economist John Robertson offered a note of caution about the energy discovery.
"The drilling can take some years, because they go very deep and they have not got the equipment yet,” he said. He also noted that the reported deposits lie in a “very difficult area” to work in and that a lot of money would have to be raised to set up rigs there. “The people from whom they raise that money are the ones that need to be cautious. It is easy to promise that there will be good results, but sometimes very difficult to generate good results."
Invictus Energy officials at Mnangagwa's press briefing did not talk to reporters. The president said the company would give an update to its shareholders on Friday.