AS the voice for the African energy sector, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) condemns the recent attack on Africa’s energy and economic progress made by the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth. This week, the organisation announced a legal challenge to the British government over the financing of the TotalEnergies operated Mozambique Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project. With the case expected to be heard in the High Court, the blocking of $1.15bn intended for the project will be detrimental for the country, its people, and their future.
The impacts of the Mozambique LNG project cannot be overstated. From creating tens of thousands of jobs for the local community to improving energy access across the region, the project has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and drive sustainable socio-economic growth for decades to come. For a country with only 30 percent of its population with access to electricity, and increasing demand within the wider region – particularly in countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa both of which are experiencing their own electricity crises – the project represents a turning point for southern Africa.
Developed coincidingly with ENI and ExxonMobil’s $4.7bn Coral Floating LNG project and the $30bn Rovuma LNG project, the Mozambique LNG project will be critical for the country regarding its Covid-19 recovery strategy. Like many other African countries, Mozambique suffered significant economic impacts from the pandemic, and without the LNG project, the country may never fully recover. For this reason and many more, the AEC maintains its strong foothold on the project, emphasising its importance for Africa in the face of Covid and climate change.
Now, with Friends of the Earth threatening to disrupt the project, Africa has been left to suffer the consequences. The UK has pledged $1.15bn in direct loans and guarantees towards the $20bn LNG project, ‘an eye-watering amount of taxpayer money right in the middle of a climate emergency,’ as stated by Will Rundle, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth. Despite the significant benefits brought about by the project, this organisation remains committed to ensuring Africa remains underdeveloped and energy poor.
The anti-energy poverty eradication agenda demonstrated by Friends of the Earth poses a significant threat to the African continent. While addressing climate change remains important, directly restricting natural gas developments is not the way to do it. Energy developments and climate change mitigation need to work hand in hand to ensure a sustainable future. Thus, the AEC maintains a strong position on the role that gas plays in Africa and condemns the lawsuit as ill-advised and a direct attack on the continent’s progress to eradicate energy poverty.
The AEC does not negate the significant impacts posed by climate change. Increasing global temperatures represent one of the greatest threats to humanity, which is why natural gas should be utilised. The resource represents both the cleanest fossil fuel and one of the most available. Through carbon capture technology, reduced flaring, and LNG developments, natural gas serves as the best solution for not only the world’s climate crisis, but its energy crisis. Isn’t it alarming that at a time when the west has had its chance to develop, on the back of African oil and gas, these same nations are calling for Africa to surrender its own development all in the name of climate change?
‘Mozambique is simply doing what every other western nation has done for years, capitalizing on its own natural resources for the good of its people and its economic development. Disrupting projects such as the Mozambique LNG plant is both unfair and unjust. African stakeholders should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding natural resource exploitation and addressing climate change. Therefore, the AEC will continue to support Mozambique, its energy progress, and its people,’ stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the AEC.
Projects such as Mozambique’s LNG development represent a turning for Africa. For African countries, natural gas represents additional opportunities for monetisation. Revenue from its production, transportation, processing and utilisation can be used to build infrastructure, fund government social programmes and support job-training initiatives. In terms of infrastructural development, Mozambique stands to benefit from nearly $50bn in revenue generated from this project. By reinjecting this capital back into the local economy, Mozambique can significantly improve standards of living, education, and access to basic services. Regarding socio-economic opportunities, with tens of thousands of jobs expected to be created – both direct and indirect – host communities stand a better chance at an economic future. Additionally, as a feedstock, gas can be used to grow a local petrochemical industry, which in turn, could create even more jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for Africans. Accordingly, Mozambican gas will incite an industrial revolution in the country, creating a myriad of economic benefits for the population.
The Mozambican government has reiterated that gas produced at this facility will be first and foremost utilised for domestic consumption. This opens up the opportunity for new power generation opportunities that will enhance regional electricity access and supply. What Friends of the Earth fails to understand is that not all fossil fuels are the same. Natural gas emits the least amount of carbon dioxide into the air when it is burned, and thus, represents a cleaner source of fuel for many nations globally.
‘This lawsuit does not solve any climate problems. The lawsuit, from a western organisation, goes against Africa’s efforts to solve energy poverty and in all actuality, does not help solve any climate change challenges. For people living in a developed world, with access to all amenities, to tell poor people that they have no right to get out of poverty and seek a better life is wrong. At the AEC, we want to help educate organisations such as Friends of the Earth and engage in an inclusive conversation on natural gas. We invite Friends of the Earth to work with us on energy poverty and hope they respond to a meeting request tomorrow,’ concluded Ayuk.