Southern gas gates to Europe

Southern gas gates to Europe

By D. Rozanov

The idea of ​​building an infrastructure for the transport of Nigerian gas to Europe is not new. Thus, in the late 2000s, a similar initiative was launched under the name of the Trans-Saharan gas pipeline along the Nigeria-Niger-Algeria route, followed by export to the states of the Old World through the Mediterranean using the Algerian infrastructure. The throughput of this highway was to reach 30 billion cubic meters. m per year. This is equivalent to 7-8% of EU gas consumption. If the project is implemented, the energy supply system to Europe would be significantly changed in favor of African raw materials. But the practical stage of construction of the pipeline has not started, including due to its high cost ($ 10-15 billion), with serious military and political risks related to the situation in Africa.

The Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline is some alternative to the Trans-Sahara gas pipeline project. The throughput, cost and exact route of this facility are not yet known, although the most likely scenario indicates that the highway will be laid along the Atlantic seabed along West Africa.
The idea of ​​building infrastructure under water is a key advantage over the projected Trans-Saharan gas pipeline. The fact is that the construction under water significantly minimizes the risks of terrorist attacks and sabotage by various groups operating on the African continent.
It is especially important that the experience of building such a project in Africa is already available. This is the West African gas pipeline, which provides transportation of Nigerian raw materials to neighboring Benin, Togo and Ghana. Its construction lasted more than 20 years, but it was completed at the end of the zero years. The possibilities of its expansion up to Senegal were considered. However, the initiative proposed by the Moroccan monarch seemed to open fundamentally new perspectives.
The agreement signed between Rabat and Abuja during the visit, meanwhile only carrying out joint research on the possibility of building such a gas pipeline, this news received a wide response. It should be noted the advantage of such a highway for many countries in West Africa that will be able to get stable access to such an attractive energy carrier, which is now necessary for their developing economies. And for Nigeria, this project opens the prospect of strengthening its position in the growing markets of the African continent.

Morocco almost does not have its own natural gas reserves. However, in connection with the projected growth in domestic energy consumption, the country's leadership is aware of the need to increase imports of this energy carrier. The situation is complicated by hostile relations with neighboring Algeria because of the problem of Western Sahara. Although there are currently no military operations in the disputed territories, economic cooperation between countries is carried out on a limited scale. The only options for the kingdom - the import of liquefied gas (LNG) or a gas pipeline from Nigeria. In the case of using the Nigeria-Morocco highway to ensure the export of blue fuel to the EU, Rabat is also becoming a regional transit center, which also has a number of advantages.
The project can be extremely interesting for Spain, positioning itself recently as a "gas gate to Europe", alternative to Russian supplies, using its capabilities in the form of re-export. In view of this, some sources mentioned the possible implementation of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project. Some experts saw in this even an attempt by European politicians to ensure a decrease in dependence on Russia as an energy supplier by increasing the share of supplies from Africa.
However, in order to assess the prospects of this project and the reasons that led to its approval at such a high level, it is necessary to pay attention first of all to the quite important events taking place today in Africa.

Modern Africa is often seen as a territory that is conditionally divided into two regions: North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The countries of North Africa, which include Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, are part of the Mediterranean, the Arab East and Islamic civilization. The geographical location, as well as the historical aspects of the development of these states, largely determined that today the main direction of their foreign economic policy is Europe.
The states of sub-Saharan Africa differ significantly from their northern neighbors in cultural, linguistic, religious aspects, as well as in terms of living standards and economic development.
At the same time, sub-Saharan African countries continue to play an extremely low role in the economic policies of the states of North Africa: for example, their share today does not exceed 3-4% in the structure of the trade turnover of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Libya. Joint investment projects are also exceptional. There is also no necessary transport, energy infrastructure capable of ensuring interaction and trade between the two parts of the continent. It is no exaggeration to say that economic cooperation between the two regions is practically not being implemented. All this is a very unusual phenomenon for the modern economy and has negative consequences for both North and Black Africa.
But the global economic role of the continent has serious prerequisites for expansion. This is due to both the resource potential and the demographic situation: according to the UN, the total population on the continent by 2050 should reach 2.3 billion people instead of 1.2 billion today. Therefore, the countries of Africa face the need for accelerated economic development, namely, the construction of infrastructure, job creation, the solution of problems related to food security, the expansion of trade and investment ties. All this opens up new prospects and creates opportunities for expanding economic cooperation with the region.

Algeria is widely discussing the idea of ​​completing the construction of the Trans-Saharan highway, which will connect the Nigerian city of Lagos on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea to the Mediterranean coast, which should seriously stimulate trade and economic ties between the continent and the EU. The road that crosses the continent from north to south still does not exist. Periodically, there are talks about the construction of the said Trans-Saharan gas pipeline.
In Egypt, in 2015, the project to expand the Suez Canal has been completed in order to increase its capacity, which is largely due to the intensification of trade and economic ties between Europe and Turkey, on the one hand, and the countries of East Africa, on the other hand, in subsequent years . In addition, the possibility of creating a shipping line along the Nile River, which will become a logistics route from the Mediterranean to Ethiopia and Uganda, is being considered. Cairo actively promotes the idea of ​​a customs union between COMESA member states (the common market of East and South Africa), which will significantly stimulate trade and economic relations between the countries of the continent.
Serious initiatives are also being undertaken by Morocco. In 2017, the kingdom regained its membership in the organization "African Union", the exit from which Rabat carried out in 1981 due to disagreements with a number of countries of the continent because of the ownership of Western Sahara. Although the problem of the disputed status of these territories has not yet been fully resolved, most African States welcomed Morocco's initiatives to restore membership in the organization. In addition, Rabat in 2016 restored diplomatic relations with some African countries, and King Mohammed VI made several visits to the countries of the continent, which were accompanied by the signing of various cooperation agreements, including the one mentioned at the beginning of the article about the intention to build a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco. Prospects for cooperation between the kingdom and African countries are also in the production and trade of agricultural fertilizers, education, fisheries, cooperation in the development of the banking sector.

 

 

29.06.2018

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