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Around 45 percent of the European Union’s gas comes from Russia. In the next few months, EU officials expect to unveil a plan to phase out those and other fossil fuel imports over the next four years in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
Such a momentous economic shift begs an obvious question, of course: Who will replace that lost energy? The answer that is increasingly on the tip of many experts’ tongues is not so obvious: Africa, a continent that possesses some of the world’s largest natural gas reserves.
“It seems that Africa now is the most reliable alternative for these countries in Europe,” University of Cape Town oil and gas researcher Kennedy Chege said in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine. “It essentially opens up a great opportunity for African countries to move in and get deals done quickly.”
Many observers have concerns, of course. At a moment when European politicians want to reduce their carbon footprint, they are contemplating massive investments to revamp crumbling facilities that will produce greenhouse gases.
Furthermore, Africa lacks the necessary infrastructure, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, to move natural gas to Europe, Al Jazeera noted. Armed conflicts are raging throughout the continent, undermining the stability necessary for investors and engineers who want to build pipelines and other facilities.
But Vincent Obisie-Orlu, a researcher at Good Governance Africa, a nonprofit, told the Washington Post that an energy alliance between the north and south sides of the Mediterranean could funnel much-needed cash to eventually reduce carbon consumption and develop new renewable energy resources.
European financing could help Africa produce solar farms, hydroelectric dams that make less of an impact on the environment and state-of-the-art pipelines as well as take energy-saving conservation measures, argued the Institute for Security Studies, a South African think tank. When European demand for energy was low, it could be used to power desalination plants to address the region’s water troubles, too.
Officials who oversee the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation are already discussing how they might open the sector to private investment to boost production to meet European demand. “We would like to be reliable partners to solve the energy problem in Europe and we can only achieve this by working together,” Nigerian minister of state for petroleum resources Timipre Sylva told Euractiv.
Perhaps peaceful trade and exchange can still bring nations together in the globalized world despite the doubts that Putin has raised.