Energy companies claim to have discovered natural gas in northern Zimbabwe, near the country's northern border with Mozambique and Zambia.
The Zimbabwean government hopes the discovery, if it can be exploited, will help reduce the need for expensive imported energy.
In a statement last week, Zhemu Soda, Zimbabwe's minister of mines and mining development, described the discovery made in Cabora Bassa Basin, about 300 kilometres north of Harare, as ''one of the most significant developments in the onshore oil and gas sector in the southern African region''.
Scott Macmillan, managing director of Invictus Energy, one of the companies exploring for gas and oil, said it had successfully recovered a total of 400 carbon samples from two zones. This is the first Triassic-period (252 million years ago) discovery in sub-Saharan Africa.
Australia-based Invictus has about 360 000 hectares in the Cabora Bassa Basin to prospect for oil and gas. The equipment and data that Invictus and other companies are using to explore the area was left by the oil giant Mobil before it left the country in the 1990s.
The areas being explored are known as Mukuya 1 and Mukuya 2. Mukuya 1 unfortunately had a well collapse before explorers could confirm the presence of gas there.
''The finding opens up a significant resource potential which we have always believed was in Mukuyu,'' Macmillan said. ''It's a bright and exciting future ahead of us.''
Not everyone is happy with the $20-million gas and oil exploration project. Farai Maguwu, founding director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, fears the new project, if successful in capturing resources, could displace local people, destroy the environment and contaminate underground water.
He has a solution: renewable energy.
''There is business sense in investment in renewable energy,'' Maguwu said. ''They can supply cheap electricity which is clean and easy to install in rural areas and in urban areas. Today there is no difference. Actually, those in rural areas have got more energy sufficiency than those in urban areas because they have already turned to renewable energy.''
Zimbabwe has for years been facing energy shortages as the country largely depends on thermal and hydro equipment that cannot meet domestic needs.
With the discovery of gas in the Cabora Bassa Basin, Zimbabwe's government hopes that situation will change.