By Ben Payton
Geography puts Africa in a prime position to increase energy exports to Europe, but what needs to be done to capitalise on the opportunities?
In the grim weeks since Vladimir Putin launched his war against Ukraine, Europe has finally woken up to the reality that it needs to kick its addiction to Russian fossil fuels – and fast.
Europe is still feeding Putin’s economy – and, indirectly, his war machine – with hundreds of millions of euros every day in exchange for oil and gas. These payments are clearly undermining the effect of the EU’s own sanctions against Russia. And the Kremlin’s threat to cut off gas to countries that refuse to pay in roubles raises the prospects of Europe’s cities being plunged into darkness and its industries grinding to a halt.
As a result, delegations from European capitals have been scouring the world for new sources of energy supplies – both to quench their immediate need for gas from anywhere but Russia, and to realise their ultimate vision of an economy built on green power.
At present, only two African countries supply substantial quantities of gas to Europe. Algeria provided around 8% of EU gas imports last year, while Nigeria accounted for another 2%. But with European officials scrambling to line up energy deals, the crisis provides a clear opportunity to increase exports.
NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, says that “there has been a big, big mindset change” since the start of the war. “We’ve been invited to Berlin, to Paris, to Brussels. We have had various communications and various bilateral discussions with energy ministers from at least nine European countries, where we’ve had really fruitful conversations. This has never happened in the past.”