Africa amid Europe’s quest for energy security
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Africa amid Europe’s quest for energy security





 




One possible way Europe can wean itself off Russian gas is to fast-track the inter-continental pipeline project. Whilst the move will undoubtedly prove costly and painful for the EU, equally there are challenges on the African side – such as weak governance characterised by political and security issues. Still, if carefully worked out, a reliable source and secure route to transport gas from Africa to Europe is possible.

By ETEOBONG ITA

From ancient Nubia to the Indus valley, including ancient and early Imperial China, Maya, Greece, Rome and others, each of these civilisations were underpinned by a “unique spirit’ or nature that set them apart. This spirit is known as Zeitgeist – coined from the German words Zeit, meaning “time”, and Geist, meaning “spirit” or “ghost”. Considering the status quo; alongside humanity’s awakening and subsequent preoccupation with environmental degradation, climate change, fascism, plutocracy, kleptocracy, authoritarianism, totalitarianism and decadence, arguably today's zeitgeist is symptomatic of struggles with the reality of our powerlessness.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese philosopher, military tactician and writer who lived in the Eastern Zhou period of ancient China. Tzu put forward that the Art of War is vital to a State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin, and oppportunities multiply as they are seized. Today, to gain advantage in negotiations and to win trials, solicitors and executives apply lessons from “The Art of War”. Even in business-schools, lecturers assign the book – the Art of War – as reading material to their students. To win competitions, some sports coaches have been known to draw from aspects of the book, which was also a subject of self-help to dating. Imagine that!

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

The global energy industry is in crisis. Europe is rethinking its strategy on energy security vis-à-vis gas and oil supply. This has come at a crucial time when some nations were recalibrating to gradually transition from fossil fuels. It is now unclear if that transition will be accelerated.

Backed by uncertainties over gas supplies from Russia, in Europe the price of natural gas has attained record levels. In 2020, Russia exported 198 billion cubic metres of natural gas (figure 1). While other parts of the world received 91 billion cubic metres of the listed sum; Italy acquired 20; Turkey 16; the Netherlands 11; China 4; Germany’s allocation was 56 – by far Moscow’s largest European Union (EU) customer. So, can Europe wean itself off Russian gas?

Si vis pacem, para bellum is the Latin expression “if you want peace, prepare for war”. It comes from “Epitoma Rei Militaris”, a book by the Roman military expert Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, in a move to divest from Russian energy dependence the EU leadership is looking to Africa. Barring being sent down a slippery slope – Africa could muster capacity to bridge the gap in Europe's quest for energy.

One possible way Europe can wean itself off Russian gas is to fast-track the inter-continental pipeline project. Whilst the move will undoubtedly prove costly and painful for the EU, equally there are challenges on the African side – such as weak governance characterised by political and security issues. Still, if carefully worked out, a reliable source and secure route to transport gas from Africa to Europe is possible.

Incidentally, the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) is an existing natural gas pipeline from the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Escravos region to Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana (figure 2). Though analysts subscribe that the trans-Sahara gas pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria is a more direct route and therefore cost-effective, the project met with inertia because the route crosses restive territories. Thus, an extension of the WAGP along West Africa's Atlantic coast through Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco is an option. From Morocco the gas can be piped to Europe.

As at December 2021, Nigeria had 206 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas reserves – the highest in Africa, followed by Algeria and Mozambique with 159 trillion cubic feet and 100 trillion cubic feet respectively. According to a source, the Nigerian government was exploring for oil when it discovered the 206 TCF of gas. If in earnest the government looks for gas, the assumption is an additional 600 TCF could be realised. Plans are on the way to increase the nation’s gas reserves from 206 TCF to 600 TCF.

The slippery slope

How often have we seen international agreements, conventions, treaties and cooperatives promise much but delivered little? Laced with otiose terms and conditions, many of the ostensible arrangements are not worth the paper they are written on. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed NATO for the war in Ukraine and said he would resist calls to condemn Russia. The war could have been avoided if the warnings that NATO’s eastward expansion would lead to greater instability across the region had been heeded, Ramaphosa said. Though some are insisting we take an adversarial stance against Russia, we are insisting there should be dialogue, Ramaphosa added.

On 2nd March 2022, 17 African countries (figure 3) abstained from the United Nations (UN) General Assembly vote. Besides Belarus, North Korea, Russia, and Syria, Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. The resolution condemning Russia's military operations in Ukraine – was voted on by 141 of the UN’s 193 member states with 35 members abstaining – passed at the Assembly's emergency session. As a result, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violates the UN Charter. The vote shows a discord among African countries i.e. though some condemned Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, others remained silent. Alongside, reactions on social media platforms have been mixed.

For decades Africa has been beleaguered by the proliferation of small arms, low, medium and high-level conflicts. Worldwide, besides eroding civil liberties, fear is the new currency. From country to country the truth has been flogged like a slave and driven away. Whilst the elaborate structures of networks, pundits and the purveyors of death remain unshaken, it can no longer be business as usual. Assuming there is no justification for the conflict, are some lives worth more than others? Africa must shine its eyes. Negotiations must be fair, transparent and convey a real sense of stakeholder status. These are exceedingly precarious times, hence Africa’s leadership must ensure resource allocations reflect national development priorities that respond to societal demands.

•Ita is an independent journalist and environment consultant.

 



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