How Africa Now Benefits from EU's Dependence on Russian Gas: What Must Be Done Before It's Too Late

How Africa Now Benefits from EU's Dependence on Russian Gas: What Must Be Done Before It's Too Late

  • The European Union is turning to Africa for its gas as it actively seeks end its dependence on Russia for gas
  • However, the EU's switch to Africa for gas is a temporary phase as the Russian gas war may may accelerate the transition toward renewable energy
  • Thus, Africa must not be comfortable making windfall profits from gas supply to Europe but also invest in developing alternative energy sources

“If Africa ever thought that this war was in Europe and faraway and not going to touch us, well you know, we are very wrong in so many ways…,” Steven Gruzd said at a webinar on the future of energy and the role the Russian war in Ukraine may play.

Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), said the Russian war has had tremendous impacts on Africa in terms of fuel prices, imports of iron, and steel, and fertilisers.

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Russia Gas War/Africa Benefits/EU's Dependence on Russian Gas
Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria substantially increased their gas exports to EU countries amid the Russia-Ukraine war. Photo credits: Thierry Monasse/STA/Bloomberg, Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg
Source: Getty Images
“And therefore we (Africa) have a stake in this conflict,” Gruzd submitted.

The webinar was tagged: “The Future of Energy: Can the war support the transition towards fossil fuel alternatives?”

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As Gruzd noted, a previous report by indicates that thousands of miles away from Ukraine, the Russian war is taking a toll on millions of Africans from various angles, such as food shortage due to import restrictions, an astronomical rise in prices of food and energy crisis.

At the webinar, Dr Olena Pavlenko, Deputy Head of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), asserted that EU is highly dependent on import gas; it’s more than 80% dependent on the import of gas generally and 30-40% dependent on the import of gas, specifically from Russia.

But this situation opens opportunities far beyond the European continent since dependence on the Russian gas war may accelerate the transition toward renewable energy both in the EU and Africa.

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Russia-EU gas war: The role of Africa

According to Dr Pavlenko, the EU’s reduction of its dependence on Russian gas has seen more gas export to European countries from Africa.

She said countries like Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria have substantially increased their gas exports to EU countries and now also supply gas to Poland, France and other countries through LNG and pipelines.

The deputy head of the EITI submitted that Africa’s role will increase, and there will be a need for more investments in gas production.

In summary, Dr Pavlenko said:

  • Gas prices will remain high
  • Africa’s role will increase; there will be more investments in gas production
  • By developing future gas policy, it is important to keep the rule of diversification (of sources of energy supply)

Also speaking at the webinar, Professor Mark Swilling, Director of the Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) at Stellenbosch University (SU), highlighted how Europe is turning to South Africa for coal.

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Prof Swilling noted there was a substantial increase in coal export to the EU between January and May 2022.

According to Swilling, there was a 40% increase in the export of coal to Europe during the stated period.

“If you look at the graphs of the increase in exports to Europe, it’s absolutely stunning. Countries like Spain, Poland and Germany are importing coal from South Africa from 0; they didn’t import anything (before),” he said.

Swilling added that France, Italy, The Netherlands, and Denmark are also making increased demand for coal, which has also led to price increases.

According to the director of CST, coal export is generating more revenue for South Africa and South African mining, but it’s also pushing up the energy prices.

Russia-EU gas war: Important lessons for Africa

The Russian gas war has made the EU shift its attention to Africa for gas and coal, as Dr Pavlenko and Prof Swilling noted.

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However, the continent needs to make more investments in gas production and ensure its windfall profits from gas and coal export are effectively utilised, especially to develop independent alternative energy sources.

According to Dr Pavlenko, the EU’s turn to gas from Africa or elsewhere is just a temporary phase. Europe’s main goal is not just to reduce dependence on Russia for gas or find alternatives, it is to end or significantly reduce the consumption of gas.

That is, Europe is not only switching to another supplier of gas (Africa) but looking at making gas consumption irrelevant.

Similarly, Professor Swilling said though Germany has increased coal import and opened up coal mining to get through the winter, it has also come up with the Easter Package, which is an “absolutely remarkable acceleration of renewable energy.”

“The aim (of Germany) is to be 100% renewable by 2035 and be net zero by 2045,” he said.

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The foregoing implies that Africa as a continent must not be comfortable making windfall profits from gas and coal supply to Europe but also invest in developing alternative energy sources, just like the EU.

In summary, as the EU is actively looking to develop other energy sources, so must Africa also take steps to develop “energy independence and just transitions.”

How to speed up green transition: Africa, Europe and others should stop dealing with Russia

Following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has used its advantage on gas production supply to create a global energy crisis in a bid to blackmail other countries to support its cause.

This underscores the connection between a country’s energy consumption/dependency and national security/independence.

As SAIIA puts it, “the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the vulnerability of national security in energy-dependent countries”; in both Europe and Africa.

According to Dr Pavlenko, the development of renewables and other energy sources will be accelerated if all countries (in Africa, Europe and elsewhere) can stop dealing with Russia, which has proven to be an unreliable partner.

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“If all countries decide to get rid of Russia as an unreliable player, unreliable partner, I think, again, it might lead to more focus on alternatives to fossil fuel because coal, this is something which we definitely have to think about how to phase out.”
“Gas and nuclear are usually often considered as transition fuel and so if we decide that we will not work with Russia as one of the producers of such fossil fuels, probably it might lead to more decisions and cooperations on how to develop alternative sources of power generation,” she said.

Simply put, abandoning Russian gas will accelerate the "transition towards fossil fuel alternatives".

As earlier stated, Dr Pavlenko said in developing future gas policies, it is important for countries to keep the rule of diversification.

That is, countries must stay independent and not rely on one energy source, especially if it’s from foreign countries and not locally produced.

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“For national security, it is important to develop diversification of sources of (energy) supply,” the deputy head of EITI said.

In searching for alternative energy sources, Pavlenko said it is very important for countries to be very accurate with developing partnerships with different companies.

“At every stage, be sure that you are still independent, you can make independent decisions, and you can at any time switch to any other alternative sources if you feel any pressure on your national security or on the security of your people,” she said.

In summary, the positive effect of the Russian (gas) war is that it will make many countries accelerate the green transition and look for other energy sources such as renewables and hydrogen development.

Dr Pavelenko, in her final submission, noted that other sources of power generation will be supported by governments and international financial institutions to start different investment projects.

Russia has only 1% of investments in Africa, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy

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Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rallied African countries to support his country in the ongoing war with Russia.

Zelenskyy said Russia was attempting to buy Africa's loyalty and freedom with oil, adding that President Putin is not a reliable partner in solving Africa’s problems.

"Russia is not investing in African countries. That means Russia does not believe in you. All they are doing is making political investments. They have just 1% of investments in Africa, yet they are 30 times the size of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.


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