Russia's Probable Investment in Nigerian Gas Will Be Boon for Africa But What Will It Mean For EU?
The massive project that was launched in 2017 is expected to lead gas from Nigeria to Morocco through an underwater pipeline. 13 West African states are expected to benefit from the initiative.
At the beginning of May, Nigeria's Minister of State for Petroleum Resources said Russia was interested in investing in the trans-African pipeline that would provide the continent with gas
The ambitious project, a tiny part of which has already been constructed, is set to transport gas from Nigeria, Africa's largest energy hub, to Morocco through an underwater pipeline.
That pipeline, launched in 2017, will also provide 13 more countries -- all of which are located in western Africa -- with Nigerian petrol.
The project's feasibility study was estimated at $90 million. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has agreed to fund about $14 million of it, and this is why Nigeria is still looking for investors.
"Russia wants to be part of the economic development this pipeline will bring," said Amine Ayoub, a Morocco-based economist. "For Moscow, it is a long-term security investment," he added.
But Russia's interest in the pipeline has been causing concern in the West. With the eruption of hostilities in Ukraine in February and the decision by some western countries to punish Moscow by refusing to buy Russian gas, Europe has been trying to find alternatives to Russian energy supplies.
The Nigeria-Morocco pipeline could possibly present that solution in the long-term but Russia's funding of the project could mean Moscow would have a say in where the energy flows, and this is something the West would like to avoid.
Boon for Africa?
In Nigeria, however, officials are not bothered with western concerns. The country has enjoyed stable and friendly relations with Russia for years, and the two have inked a number of military and trade deals. Morocco, says Ayoub, is also eyeing Moscow's involvement positively.
"The ties between Russia and Morocco date back to the 18th century, and this project will only boost those ties. In addition, it will turn Morocco into a regional power when it comes to economic development and security," the economist explained.
However, for Rabat it is not only about prestige: it is also about energy. Between 60 and 80 percent of Morocco's gas supplies have traditionally come from neighbouring Algeria. But following the escalation of tensions between the two, as a result of disagreements revolving around Western Sahara over which Morocco claims ownership, those supplies are now in doubt. And Rabat is looking to Russia as a country that can bring Morocco's dependency on Algiers to an end.
Furthermore, over the years, Morocco has been trying to convince the West to recognise Western Sahara as purely Moroccan territory. Although former US President Donald Trump did that in 2020, the international community didn't rush to follow suit. Quite the opposite in fact: the region was branded disputed territory between Rabat and the Polisario front, a political and military group linked to Algeria. And Europe has even annulled several trade deals
with Morocco, raising eyebrows in Rabat.
Now, officials in the Moroccan capital believe it is time for a payback.
"Morocco is now changing its stance towards its old [European] partners because of their behaviour about Western Sahara," said the analyst.
"And the pipeline, when it is completed, will be a power tool for Morocco in the region," he added.