Natural gas: a solution for Europe or development for Africa?

In the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Union launched a desperate search for alternatives to coal, oil and gas. in the program document RepowerThe European Commission proposes “making Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels before 2030”. To do this, it plans first of all to work with “international partners to find alternative energy supplies”, such as Gas that settles in the ground of some African countries.

African governments were quick to welcome This shift in European politics. prewar, Algeria was already the third supplier of natural gas to Europe Via gas pipelines to Spain and Italy. Another important part of the gas arrives by sea from the Gulf of Guinea (Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea). In this case, it is transported as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

In recent months, European officials have visited Algeria, Dakar, Abuja, Brazzaville and Luanda to explore possibilities for increasing gas imports. The European Commission has signed a tripartite agreement to ensure access to Israeli gas through Egypt. In addition to European companies’ investments in liquefied natural gas projects. Some examples are those of BP in Senegal and Mauritania; from ENI in Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Angola, Republic of the Congo and Equinor and Shell in Mozambique and Tanzania.

African Gas for African Development

But natural gas is not only exported, it is increasingly used within African countries. Many consider it a file The main source of transformation to ensure development. Gas cylinders can replace more polluting energy sources such as firewood or general coal, which are widely used in African homes and have adverse effects on family health.

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The primary use, on a continent with very low levels of electricity, is to generate electricity. This practice is already becoming a reality in countries such as Ghana, which while it exports most of its oil to international markets, is using Gas to power your electrical infrastructure . Natural gas also has the potential to supply both national and regional markets. Via gas pipelines.

Access to electricity (% of population) from African countries.
The authors, with data from the World BankAnd the Author introduced

Currently, the West African gas pipeline crosses the territory of Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana, and another pipeline joins South Africa with Mozambique. There are also projects along the same lines: such as the one that will supply gas to Uganda from Tanzania and the African Renaissance Gas Pipeline, which will be the second between Mozambique and South Africa. Finally, Nigeria will be the origin of both Trans-Saharan gas pipeline Algeria will arrive as one that will continue Nigeria with Morocco. The importance of these two lines lies in the possibility of linking them to European gas networks.

But are these two projects of extraversion and integration compatible? Can Europe’s supply of African gas be increased, while at the same time providing energy to African homes and the productive sector? How does it unite with the just energy transition that so many in Africa and Europe have called for?

There are those who believe that all of these goals are convergent. The basic argument is that increased European interest will necessitate the necessary investments to extract and evaluate this energy source. Moreover, it is claimed that gas exports to Europe will provide additional resources for African countries to invest in development. However, there are reasons not to be optimistic.

natural gas risks

  • Africa’s energy needs are much greater than Europe’s. To the extent that the production and availability of gas can be increased at a given time, its export will always lead to a decrease in non-renewable resources. This can be converted to a file Mortgage For the medium and long-term strategy in electrification and industrialization aspirations in Africa.

  • The infrastructure required to export gas is not the same as that required to operate electricity grids or supply gas cylinders to families on the continent. The former tend to generate the so-called pocket economies. Well-known stories of failure in development processes based on the extraction and sale of natural resources can be reproduced.

  • From another perspective, environmental groups on the continent remind us that gas is a fossil fuel Contributes to climate change. Therefore, any investment in gas reduces the resources that must be devoted to promoting renewable energies. The European interest can also be transientwhile the European Union maintains the goal of significantly reducing its dependence on fossil fuels by 2030. Creating more gas infrastructure may become new white elephants development.

  • Like other natural resources from the ground, gas tends to generate harmful political effects In countries with weak social contracts between rulers and the ruled. Specifically, the income generated from the sale of gas can be used to enhance the power and assets of those who occupy the state, rather than to fund public services and economic development.

It is true that the strength of the social contract and state institutions differ greatly from one African country to another. But foreign partners do not distinguish between democratic governments to some extent. It remains ironic that the European quest for energy independence from an authoritarian ruler, such as Vladimir Putin, can end up bolstering others.

future dilemmas

In a time as tense as today, it will be difficult for African and European leaders to heed any of these reasons to scrap plans to supply Europe with more African gas. Fortunately, this will not prevent progress on the second and third strategies proposed in the REPowerUE document: saving energy and accelerating the major shift towards renewable energies.

Africa can play too A major role in the production of these clean energies Either for domestic consumption or for export. But this will not be entirely excluded from dilemmas in the future either. Then we will see how African rulers balance the interests of international investors with the needs of their citizens.

Alicia Campos SerranoProfessor of African Studies and Anthropology of International Relations, Autonomous University of Madrid s ANGELES SANCHEZ DIESDepartment of Economic Structure and Development Economics. Coordinator of the Study Group on Global Economic Transformations (GETEM), Autonomous University of Madrid

This article was originally published on Conversation. Read the A native.

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