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31 Jan, 2024 10:28

EU unveils new plan to get gas from Africa

The African Union says it would have liked to be consulted prior to the launch of the Italian partnership project
EU unveils new plan to get gas from Africa

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni unveiled a partnership initiative on Monday, aiming to strengthen cooperation with Africa, curb immigration through economic empowerment, and establish an energy hub for the European Union. But the African Union (AU) says its member states were not consulted before the official announcement.

Meloni’s Mattei Plan, named after Enrico Mattei, the founder of Italy’s state-owned energy firm Eni, was announced during a summit in Rome attended by several African leaders.

Italy has pledged an initial endowment of €5.5 billion ($5.95 billion) under the plan, in addition to existing projects focusing on climate adaptation and clean-energy development in Africa. This will see Rome buy and supply natural gas to the rest of the EU.

Over half of the budget will come from a climate fund set up in 2022 to finance international projects in line with the Paris Agreement, which means these are target funds. The rest will be provided as loans, guarantees, and grants.

The Italian premier listed projects ranging from Morocco to Mozambique, which she said would enable Africa to become a major energy exporter to the EU and help relieve its reliance on Russian energy amid sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to the Ukraine conflict.

However, in a speech at the Italy-Africa summit, AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat stated that African countries would prefer to have been consulted before the launch of the plan.

“Africa is prepared to discuss the aspects and modalities of [the Mattei Plan] implementation. I must stress, here, the need to match actions with words. You will understand that we cannot be satisfied with promises that are often not kept,” Mahamat said.

The head of the 55-nation union called on Italy to engage with the continent on a “new model of partnership that charts the path towards a fairer world,” declaring that “Africa does not extend its hands to partners as a beggar.”

The EU has turned to Africa in search of alternative energy sources as it struggles to transition away from Russian gas. Last year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Nigeria and proposed a joint initiative to create a market for gas supplies from Africa’s largest economy.

Vsevolod Sviridov, an expert at the Center for African Studies at Russia’s HSE University, believes that the EU will not be able to extract much gas from Africa. This is because gas exporters on the continent, including Nigeria, face their own challenges, such as meeting domestic consumption demands, Sviridov wrote in a feature published by RT.

According to the HSE Center for African Studies, gas exports from Africa to the EU totalled 72 billion cubic meters in 2022, a decrease of about 2 billion cubic meters from the previous year.