Furthermore, Europe imports 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia. Seemingly, Russia is funding its war in Ukraine by using its oil and gas export revenues. That’s why Europe is desperate to minimize its dependence on Russian-exported energy.
With all its untapped reserves, Africa stands as a potential alternative. It has the potential to become a dominant player in the global oil and gas marketplace. Countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon, Angola, and Senegal have trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves. But will that be enough?
The U.S. stopped importing Russian energy to hurt the Russian economy. Shell also announced its withdrawal from the Russian oil and gas market. It’s stopping buying Russian hydrocarbons, shutting service stations in Russia, and ending its involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Still, it’s not as easy for European countries to follow suit.
Italy receives 45% out of its 90% natural gas imports from Russia. However, Italy is exploring its options with African nations like the Republic of the Congo to launch a natural gas project by 2023. Poland imports 67% of its oil from Russia, while Ireland gets only 5%. In other words, some European nations can’t stop importing energy from Russia overnight. So, what’s the plan?
Despite the dire need, it’s not easy for Europe to break free from Russian energy dominance.
Challenges in Africa
The situation isn’t any better in Africa. Most of Africa’s nations have to invest more in exploring untapped fields if they were to meet domestic demands, let alone export energy to Europe.
Not only that.
African gas is already flowing to Europe through Algeria and Libya. Algeria is pumping natural gas to Spain through Morocco. The EU is already extending pipelines to France and the rest of Europe. Libya is already exporting 8% of Italy’s natural gas needs. Still, Algerian and Libyan gas could hardly make up for Russian gas.
So, Africa is sitting on huge untapped natural gas fields that could serve domestic and international needs. The biggest challenge is streaming gas from Nigeria to Algeria through Niger, especially when the pipelines must go through different territories with lots of conflicts.
Apart from infrastructure difficulties, African nations need to work out internal conflicts to reach self-sufficiency, let alone play an effective role in the world’s energy security. You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first.
What Are the Odds?
If Europe went ahead and cuts energy ties with Russia, oil prices will skyrocket. The whole world will feel it, not only in European nations. So, it goes back to square one, diplomacy. At this point, diplomacy has failed to resolve. Still, it shouldn’t be abandoned completely.
It won’t be easy for Africa to replace Russia in Europe, at least, in a few years. Furthermore, oil-rich Arabian countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are in long-term contracts with no foreseeable plans to negotiate with Europe.
How this will play out? Only time can tell.
Europe relies heavily on Russian oil, and Russian energy exports play a significant role in funding the war. Africa could balance the situation by supplying the world with the much-needed energy, but infrastructure problems are another complex obstacle to overcome. So, it’s a catch-22.
Wind and solar power may take too long to replace fossil fuels, but clean energy is the world’s best bet against an impending climate crisis. It goes beyond wars and competition for natural resources, it has to do with the continuity of the human race.