Given the significance of its reserves in combustible fossil fuels and its geographic proximity, Africa is establishing itself as a key partner for a Europe looking to diversify its suppliers and reduce its dependence on Russia and the Persian Gulf.
The explosion in petrol prices and the increasing tension in the Near East in recent years have redefined Africa’s status as an energy partner for Europe. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2007, at the end of 2006 Africa accounted for 12.1% of global petroleum production and possessed 9.7% of established global reserves – a little less than half of Saudi Arabia’s reserves.
According to the same source, Africa’s production of natural gas last year represented 6.3% of the world’s total and this share is set to grow because its established reserves located primarily in Nigeria (2.9%), Algeria (2.5%), Egypt (1.1%) and Libya (0.7%) will make up 7.8% of the world’s reserves. But from Europe’s perspective, the importance of Africa is even greater. In 2005, around 20% of EU-25 imports came from Africa – with the figure reaching 14% for natural gas mainly coming from Libya, Nigeria and Algeria. Africa, and in particular the Gulf of Guinea, holds two main attractions for Europe – geographical proximity and a means of diversifying energy supplies to be less reliant on its two main sources, Russia and the Persian Gulf. These factors have been taken into account by Europe’s military and help explain why NATO manoeuvres took place for the first time in sub-Saharan in Cape Verde Africa in June 2006. This operation involved a simulation of military intervention in an imaginary sovereign state rich in natural resources.