Africa, EU develop energy cooperation actions

On Sept. 8, the African Union Commission and the European Commission jointly established an Africa-EU energy partnership that could attract more than €1 billion in EU funds.

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, Sept. 22 -- On Sept. 8 the African Union Commission and the European Commission jointly established an Africa-EU energy partnership that could attract more than €1 billion in EU funds for concrete energy investments in Africa.

At a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Elham Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim, EC Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, and EC Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs signed a joint statement on the Africa-EU partnership. It represented the first concrete application approved by the eight strategic partnerships in the EU-Africa joint strategy and the first 2008-10 action plan adopted at the partnership's December 2007 Lisbon summit.

At the Addis Ababa meeting, the AUC and EC defined a strategy to address key challenges covering energy security, access to renewable energy sources, and climate change issues.

They also underlined the need for a roadmap to implement energy priorities, among which is the need to bolster African institutions and establish the legal, fiscal, and regulatory environments best able to promote private investments in energy and establish national transparency plans and guidelines for energy companies. Also strengthened will be cooperation in improving energy efficiency, launching a renewables energy program, and promoting regional electricity market integration in Africa.

Trans-Saharan gasline
Developing energy interconnections between Africa and Europe, including identifying energy projects of common regional interest, was a high priority. This included revival of the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline project, which could become a key strategic structure and attract investments from EU companies. Piebalgs followed up with a visit to Nigeria Sept. 9 to discuss it further.

The proposed 4,300 km gasline, to cost more than €7 billion, would link Nigeria to Algeria. Its planned 20 billion cu m/year capacity, carrying Nigerian gas to the EU in 2015 via either Spain or Italy, could increase to 30 billion cu m/year in 2030. In time it could remedy the EU gas shortfall and simultaneously supply gas to north-central Nigeria, southern Algeria, and the Sahel countries of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali.

And, because Nigeria currently flares the world's largest volumes of gas, the Trans-Saharan gasline would enable it to cease flaring and transport part of its gas, another AUC-EC priority. The AUC and EC will participate in the "Global gas flaring-reduction partnership" of oil and gas-producing countries and seek ways to implement small-scale associated gas utilization projects.

The two senior ministers with whom Pieblags met—failing a meeting with Nigeria President Yar'Adua, who was ill—were committed to the project. The ministers also discussed the unrest in the Niger Delta, and the commissioner offered the EU's help in developing the Delta region to reduce turmoil in that area.

To "make swift progress in implementing the AOC-EC partnership," a number of arrangements will be put into place. These include a high-level Africa-EU "Energy Dialogue" meeting every 2 years, the first of which is scheduled for second-half 2009; an Africa-EU energy partnership forum involving civil society, research institutes, and private companies on both continents, also to be held every 2 years; and an informal joint experts group on energy to meet at least once/year to coordinate the various activities.

The first meeting will be organized in October.

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