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Europe Turns to Africa to Meet Energy Needs Amid Russia-Ukraine Crisis

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Europe energy needs

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

With the never-ending Russia-Ukraine crisis, Europe now turns to Africa for its energy needs. Notwithstanding the distance, European Union members have set their eyes on African oil and gas producing countries that could be potential alternative suppliers.

In the latest research developments, Italy becomes one more EU member closely coordinating with Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Nigeria and Mozambique.

During the first Russia-Africa summit, a number of African countries were soliciting Russia’s assistance in exploring their oil and gas reserves in Africa. Some agreements were signed with Russian companies such as Bashneft, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Rosneft et cetera.

Long before the start of the February 24 “special military operations” in Ukraine, many African leaders illogically failed to understand that Russia has always wanted to claim a global leading position in oil and gas supply. Experts have said that Africa’s supply would affect the aggregate global supply and consequently its prices.

According to official reports, the Russian Ministry of Natural Recourses and Environmental says that Bashneft and Gazprom Neft have expressed intention of joint development projects with Angola.

“The sides welcome Rosneft’s intention to develop cooperation with Angolan national oil company Sonangol in the area of studying potential joint development of oil and gas fields in Angola and Russia,” the protocol says.

As a direct result of the “special military operation” launched on February 24, Russia has come under a raft of unprecedented stringent sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada, the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a host of other countries.

This has to be analysed and its geopolitical and business implications. The fact is that bilateral business relations and geopolitical impact are changing, to some degree. The crisis has absolutely posed challenges, but at the same time opened possibilities and prospects for establishing new partnership cooperation between state institutions as well as between foreign countries and Africa.

Eurasia Review research shows that Angola is Africa’s second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria. It has 1.7 billion tonnes of proven oil reserves and a resource portfolio of up to 3.5 billion tonnes, with liquid hydrocarbons predominating. Angola mainly develops fields under production-sharing agreements; Sonangol has a stake in the majority of them.

Media reports have said that Italy and a number of other EU members scramble to break away from Russian gas over the Ukraine war. This April, many of them turned to Africa. Angola and Italy have already signed a declaration of intent to develop new natural gas ventures and to increase exports to Italy, said a statement from the Italian Foreign Ministry.

“We have reached another important agreement with Angola to increase gas supplies. Italy’s commitment to differentiate energy supply sources is confirmed,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in the statement at the end of a two-and-half-hour long visit to Luanda.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi wants to add Angola and the Congo Republic to a portfolio of suppliers to substitute Russia, which provides about 45 per cent of Italian gas.

“We do not want to depend on Russian gas any longer, because economic dependence must not become political subjection. Diversification is possible and can be implemented in a relatively short amount of time — quicker than we imagined just a month ago,” he said in an interview with the Corriere Della Sera daily published this April.

The deal was described as “an important agreement that gives impetus to the partnership between Italy and Angola in the fields of renewables, biofuels, LNG and training in technology and environment.”

The Italy delegation headed to neighbouring Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, to meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso. A similar declaration is to be signed in the Republic of Congo.

The foray follows the signing of agreements with Algeria and Egypt in recent weeks. Algeria is currently Italy’s second-largest supplier, providing around 30 per cent of its consumption. ENI said the deal with Algeria’s Sonatrach would boost deliveries of gas through the Transmed undersea pipeline by “up to nine billion cubic meters per year” by 2023-24.

Transmed only had a spare pipeline capacity of 7.8 billion cubic meters per year in 2021 — though it has said it is ready to expand. Italy has also been in talks with Azerbaijan over the expansion of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

Many experts have scholarly written about the implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and what that means especially for Africa. For example, Research Fellow Danielle Resnick from the Brookings wrote that the crisis casts a long shadow across Africa. Despite the geographical distance, there are implications for pan-African solidarity and adherence to multilateralism is increasingly uncertain.

She further stressed that a few countries are sensing long-term growth opportunities from the crisis. Specifically, Africa’s natural gas could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. The African countries mentioned earlier in this article with dreams of re-outlining serious business on the global landscape, Tanzania has revamped negotiations with energy companies in the hopes of attracting $30 billion in foreign investment to revive construction of offshore liquefied natural gas projects in 2023.

From Nigeria to Niger to Algeria, the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline has specific importance as it can help to increase exports of natural gas to European markets. On February 16, the three countries signed an agreement to develop the pipeline, estimated to cost $13 billion. Europe is likely to be a key financer, bolstered by the EU’s controversial decision in early February to label investments in natural gas as green energy.

Now there are a few key questions: Can Africa really become the preferred gas and oil supplier to Europe? Will Russia invest in exploring and producing Africa’s oil and gas? Do African leaders understand that Russia wants to be the global leader and helping them explore oil and gas is illogical?

As European Union has already indicated during the last EU-AU summit, it looks at Africa from different perspectives and more importantly pushes for its economic footprints on the continent. Fresh from that EU-AU summit, there are agreements on several investment projects.

EU is committing approx. €300 billion ($340 billion) for financing new investment initiatives — similar to China’s Belt and Road initiative — an investment program the bloc claims would create links, not dependencies. EU and SADC, for instance, have been worrying about facilitating and coordinating the implementation of the regional agenda in Southern Africa.

As Research Fellow Danielle Resnick from the Brookings explicitly pointed out there would be tensions between the United States together Europe on one side and Russia, on the other, over Ukraine. Nevertheless, African leaders have to analyze this within the geopolitical context and take into account various scenarios for the near future.

The proximity of the European market gives the especially Maghreb, the North African country strategic significance to become a potential gas supplier. She cited Algeria, as the world’s sixth-largest gas exporter and the continent’s largest gas producer. It has already stated its intention to double exploration and production in the next five years, according to the International Energy Agency.

Algeria increased its export volumes to Europe from €40 billion in 2020 to 53 billion euros in 2021, and it is expected to export €46 billion or more in 2022, as demand in Europe is expected to continue to rise.

African countries can capitalize on current trends to attract much-needed investment in order to develop the infrastructure necessary to accelerate production for regional consumption and exportation while also reducing costs. According to Abdur-Rasheed Tunde Omidiya, President of the African Economic Commission, “the time to act on the Trans-African Gas plan is NOW.”

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100 million People Displaced in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Others—UNHCR

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Nigerian Refugees in Chad

By Adedapo Adesanya

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has disclosed that the Ukraine war and other conflicts have forced about 100 million people to flee to safety.

According to UNHCROpens in a new window report, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

So far in 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year and forced around 6 million to leave the nation.

Speaking on this, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filippo Grandi said, “One hundred million is a stark figure — sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set.

“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

By calculation, the 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide represents one per cent of the global population and is equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world.

The number includes refugees and asylum seekers as well as the 53.2 million people displaced inside their borders by conflict.

Speaking further, Mr Grandi added, “The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Compassion is alive, and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure.”

He then called for peace and stability to ensure that the number doesn’t grow any further in the coming years.

“To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”

Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) informed that a record 59.1 million people were displaced within their homelands last year, four million more than in 2020.

Conflict and violence triggered 14.4 million internal displacements in 2021, a nearly 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

Meanwhile, weather-related events such as floods, storms and cyclones resulted in some 23.7 million internal displacements in 2021, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Russia Reaffirms Readiness to Support Mali

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Mali Sahel transitional President

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

After withdrawing from the Joint Military Force of the G5-Sahel group which the United Nations described as “unfortunate” and “regrettable” middle of May, Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, made a snapshot visit, for the second time under the new military administration to Moscow, intended to review various aspects of strategic partnership deals with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“We paid special attention to the practical aspects of organizing deliveries from Russia of wheat, mineral fertilizers and petroleum products that are so much needed by the people of Mali today in conditions of illegitimate Western sanctions,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with Diop in Moscow.

The sound pace of military and military-technical contacts between the two countries was noted during the talks, according to Lavrov, and thanked his Malian counterpart for support for Russia’s resolutions at the latest session of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov made to explicit reference to the meeting of the UN Security Council the Western countries that consistently tried to “put their blame at Russia’s door” and to shirk responsibility for the food crisis.

“It goes without saying that we discussed the situation in Ukraine and around it, including the meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to world food security issues, where the Western countries tried to put their own blame at somebody else’s door. They argued that the crisis, which by and large is a result of their own efforts, allegedly stems from the crisis in Ukraine. Of course, they blamed it entirely on Russia,” Lavrov said.

Russia reaffirms its readiness to render Mali support in raising the fighting efficiency of its armed forces. “We reaffirmed Russia’s readiness as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to further contribute to normalizing the situation in Mali, render Bamako comprehensive support on a bilateral basis, in particular, in the sphere of raising the combat efficiency of the Malian armed forces, training troops and law-enforcement personnel,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

France’s decision together with Western allies to end the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane and the European special forces mission Takuba does not contribute to restoring security in Mali and the entire Sahel region. Reports say France has approximately 5,100 troops in the region under Operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

With the final exit and the vacuum created by France, Russia now sees Mali as an excellent conduit to penetrate into the Sahel by pushing the much-criticized Wagner Group that organizes private military for countries in conflict. It is aggressively targeting the Sahel region, an elongated landlocked territory located between north Africa (Maghreb) and West Africa region, and also stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“There is an obvious danger of the emergence of enclaves of power vacuum where militants of various outlawed armed gangs will feel free at hand and they have already prepared for such acts. This threatens the country’s territorial integrity and we repeatedly told our French counterparts about that,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

On March 2 at the United Nations General Assembly, African representatives and their votes were considered very interesting, and have geopolitical implications for study and analysis. Some 17 African countries abstained from the vote at the UN General Assembly to deplore the Russian invasion of Ukraine while some other 28 countries in the continent voted in favour. Mali was among those that abstained from vote. Eritrea was the only African country that voted against the resolution. It opposes all forms of unilateral sanction as illegal and counterproductive.

“All our initiatives were supported by Mali. We agreed to enhance coordination on the UN platform and in other international organizations. We are determined to work for this in earnest, including in the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations,” Lavrov assured.

During his first official visit in November 2021 to Moscow, Abdoulaye Diop and Sergei Lavrov, in fact, focused on increasing bilateral cooperation in economic sectors. But particularly significant was Russia’s military assistance to strengthen the position of the new military government and to fight rising terrorism in the Sahel region.

As developments explicitly show, Mali already stands in isolation there as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the United Nations, and the bilateral and multilateral partners endorse and support the implementation of sanctions and other strict measures to ensure a peaceful return to constitutional and democratic government in Mali.

Mali, a landlocked West African state with an impoverished population, faces increasing isolation from the international community over the political power grab. Even as the African Union (AU), the continental organization, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the regional bloc, both suspended the membership of Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, the ruling military officials are still holding onto political power by delaying the proposed elections in February 2022.

The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and foreign organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) have requested a quick transition to a civilian government. They further urged that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in the Republic of Mali in West Africa.

Moscow is still planning to hold the second Russia-African summit. The “special military operation” approved by both the Federation Council and the State Duma (legislative chambers) to “demilitarize and denazify” the former Soviet republic of Ukraine has pushed the United States and Canada, European Union members and many other external countries to impose sanctions against Russia.

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AfDB Board Okays $1.5bn to Avert Food Crisis in Africa

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food crisis africa

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Groups (AfDB) on Friday approved a $1.5 billion facility to help African countries avert a looming food crisis.

With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries.

The Abidjan-based bank, among other institutions, has disclosed that African farmers urgently need high-quality seeds and inputs before the planting season begins in May to immediately boost food supplies.

The Abidjan based bank’s $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility is an unprecedented comprehensive initiative to support smallholder farmers in filling the food shortfall. It will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds.

Also, it will increase access to agricultural fertilizers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food, which is about a $12 billion increase in food production in just two years.

The President of AfDB Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, said: “Food aid cannot feed Africa. Africa does not need bowls in hand. Africa needs seeds in the ground, and mechanical harvesters to harvest bountiful food produced locally. Africa will feed itself with pride for there is no dignity in begging for food.”

Also, the Vice President of AfDB for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Ms Beth Dunford, said, “The Africa Emergency Food Production Facility builds on lessons learned from the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Response to COVID-19  programme. That programme has provided a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the pandemic’s impact.”

The facility has benefited from stakeholder consultations, including those with fertilizer producers and separately with African Union agriculture and finance ministers earlier this month.

The ministers agreed to implement reforms to address the systemic hurdles that prevent modern input markets from performing effectively.

The bank’s $1.5 billion strategies will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat; 18 million tons of maize; 6 million tons of rice; and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.

The plan is to provide 20 million farmers with certified seeds, fertilizer, and extension services. It will also support market growth and post-harvest management.

Also, the bank will provide fertilizer to smallholder farmers across Africa over the next four farming seasons, using its convening influence with major fertilizer manufacturers, loan guarantees, and other financial instruments.

The facility will also create a platform to advocate for critical policy reforms to solve the structural issues that impede farmers from receiving modern inputs. This includes strengthening national institutions overseeing input markets.

It has a structure for working with multilateral development partners. This will ensure rapid alignment and implementation, enhanced reach, and effective impact and will increase technical preparedness and responsiveness.

In addition, it includes short, medium, and long-term measures to address both the urgent food crisis and the long-term sustainability and resilience of Africa’s food systems.

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