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Nigeria-Morocco: the gas pipeline project is accelerating

LWill the giant gas pipeline project that will link Morocco to Nigeria via the Atlantic seaboard to supply Europe with gas finally see the light of day? Announced with great fanfare at the end of 2016, this megaproject reached an important milestone by receiving Wednesday 1er June a first green light from Abuja, announced the Minister of Petroleum of Nigeria. On paper, this gas pipeline must cover nearly 4,000 km and cross a dozen countries to eventually be connected to the European market, according to its promoters, who see it as a model of “south-south cooperation”.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Africa’s gas reserves have been attracting more and more attention, with the European Union seeking in particular alternatives to its gas supply from Russia. However, if the continent has many gas reserves, the lack of infrastructure remains a major obstacle.

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A project in the making since 2016

Four years ago, the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, and the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, agreed on a megaproject to transport gas along the Atlantic coast, over more than 3,000 km. An agreement between the two countries was first signed in 2016.

Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, announced that the Federal Government had given “its consent for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to enter into an agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to the construction” of this gas pipeline. The Minister clarified that this project was still “at the initial technical design stage”, which should in particular determine its cost. “That’s when we’ll talk about funding,” he said. This pipeline would be an extension of a gas pipeline that has brought gas from southern Nigeria to Benin, Ghana and Togo since 2010.

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Strong strategic issues

“This gas pipeline must pass through 15 West African countries to Morocco, and from Morocco to Spain and Europe”, recalled the minister. Bringing Nigerian gas to North Africa has long fueled many interests, with Algeria notably leading discussions in 2002 for a similar pipeline project across the Sahel region. Nigeria, a member of OPEC, has enormous gas reserves, the first in Africa and the seventh in the world.

The stakes are immense, both economic and geostrategic. Several African countries face regular power cuts, having access to the gas pipeline would allow them to produce more electricity through thermal power plants powered by natural gas. And this is not the only economic advantage since with this electricity these countries would gain in productivity with industries that would work. And the agricultural sector could do well because gas makes it possible to make essential fertilizers, the costs of which are exploding with the war in Ukraine.

The project, which has been touted as conducive to economic integration in West Africa, would also add to the network of existing gas pipelines that supply Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. But not only, since China, which has invested heavily in the Nigerian oil industry, now intends to cross this pipeline with its “Belt and Road” initiative. Russia is not to be outdone, the country having recently shown growing interest in the future gas pipeline. Moscow sees it as a way to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the West by diverting its investments to Africa.

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