Can Lusophone African countries solve Europe's energy crisis?

With the war in Ukraine, Western countries are trying to diversify their dependence on gas from Russia and even turning to African gas-producing countries as a viable alternative. Image: Giovana Fleck/Global Voices

When Russia first invaded Ukraine, many questioned how the campaign would impact the global economy, especially the energy sector. Analysts anticipated a rise in food prices, such as wheat, and also a possible gas shortage for several European countries. For this reason, Western countries are trying to diversify their dependence on gas from Russia and even turning to African gas-producing countries as a viable alternative.

On 12 May, analyst Marisa Lourenço, from Control Risks, which monitors Portuguese-speaking economies, told Lusa that Angola was the African country with the greatest potential to meet Europe's energy needs:

Angola tem o maior potencial para satisfazer as necessidades energéticas da União Europeia a curto prazo; é um dos poucos países da região que já exporta gás para mercados internacionais, incluindo Brasil, Japão, China e Coreia do Sul.

A capacidade de aumentar a produção de gás, juntamente com a bem estabelecida cadeia de abastecimento, faz deste país [Angola] o vencedor imediato da mudança geopolítica provocada pela guerra na Ucrânia, com a Guiné Equatorial, República Democrática do Congo, Mauritânia e Senegal bem posicionados para beneficiar nos próximos dois a três anos.

Angola não só tem uma infra-estrutura de exportação que lhe confere uma vantagem sobre os seus pares regionais, permitindo à União Europeia aceder às cadeias de abastecimento, como as grandes companhias petrolíferas não têm de investir tanto capital para aceder às reservas e são capazes de aumentar a produção.

Angola has the greatest potential to meet the European Union's energy needs in the short term; it is one of the few countries in the region that already exports gas to international markets, including Brazil, Japan, China and South Korea.

The capacity to increase gas production, together with the well-established supply chain, makes this country [Angola] the immediate winner of the geopolitical shift brought about by the war in Ukraine, with Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania and Senegal well positioned to benefit in the next two to three years.

Not only does Angola have an export infrastructure that gives it an advantage over its regional peers, enabling the European Union to access supply chains, but the big oil companies do not have to invest as much capital to access reserves and are able to increase production.

One of the selling points is that Angola has its own resource management company, Sonangol. For the analyst, it is this infrastructure that can attract highly qualified foreign workers, and many European countries are already looking at Angola as a partner.

It should also be noted that opportunities for Angola may arise from the historical ties with Portugal. Angola has also strengthened relations with Germany and France since João Lourenço came to power in 2017. The Angolan President has visited several European countries in recent months.

In April of this year, it was reported that Italy wanted more Angolan gas in order to reduce its dependence on Russia. To that end, Italy and Angola have signed an energy cooperation agreement aimed, among other objectives, at increasing gas exports from Angola and reducing the European country's dependence on Russian supplies.

On May 18, 2022, Africa's main Oil Producers and Exporters met in Luanda, the Angolan capital. They sought solutions to increase investment in the oil sector and the energy transition.

It is expected that Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique, two other Portuguese-speaking African countries, will be two of the world's biggest gas producers by the end of this decade. however, some officials note that the tumultuous political situation in Mozambique may hinder this expected progress.

Moçambique, tal como a Nigéria, não poderá agarrar a oportunidade, a primeira devido à situação de segurança volátil e a segunda devido ao desenvolvimento limitado do sector do gás e a um quadro regulamentar confuso.

A insurreição militar na província de Cabo Delgado em Moçambique está a atrasar o progresso do país, de um pequeno produtor que vende a maior parte da sua produção para a África do Sul a um exportador global, com exportações que deverão começar em 2026, “mas esta data ainda está sujeita ao ambiente volátil de segurança.”

Mozambique, like Nigeria, will not be able to seize the opportunity, the former because of the volatile security situation and the latter because of limited development of the gas sector and a confusing regulatory framework.

The military insurgency in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province is slowing the country's progress from a small producer selling most of its output to South Africa to a global exporter, with exports due to start in 2026, “but this date is still subject to the volatile security environment.”

In March this year, Italy's Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, visited Mozambique and confirmed that investments by Eni in natural gas exploration in Cabo Delgado would continue, which he believed would be an asset for the economies of Mozambique and Italy. It is understood that Eni plans this year to start gas exploration in Area 4 of the Rovuma basin, in a project that consists of underwater wells and a floating platform with a production of 3.4 million tonnes per year.

In the case of Equatorial Guinea, the analysis states that the country should benefit from its links with Spain, which is its largest trading partner:

O que significa que terá a oportunidade de reanimar campos de gás adormecidos para servir outros mercados na União Europeia nos próximos dois a três anos.

A Guiné Equatorial, tal como Angola, tem a infra-estrutura de exportação pronta, com carregamentos não só para Espanha mas também para o Chile e os Estados Unidos, mas uma burocracia ineficiente dificulta a atractividade do mercado, embora o aumento da procura e a oportunidade para as grandes companhias petrolíferas se afastarem da Rússia possa motivar melhorias no ambiente empresarial.

This means that [the country] will have the opportunity to revive dormant gas fields to serve other markets in the European Union in the next two to three years.

Equatorial Guinea, like Angola, has an export infrastructure ready, with shipments not only to Spain but also to Chile and the United States, but an inefficient bureaucracy hampers the attractiveness of the market, although the increase in demand and the opportunity for the big oil companies to move away from Russia could drive improvements in the business environment.

Beyond the Lusophone countries in Africa, there are other potential gas lines. For example, in April this year, the EU's third-largest economy, Italy, secured an agreement with Algeria for more natural gas imports. The North African country already supplies gas to Europe via three pipelines, one of which goes to Italy. The other two pipelines are connected to Spain.

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