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South African energy company Renergen, which currently produces compressed natural gas, has opened bids for a share of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Free State province, the first of its kind for South Africa. Bidders must submit their interest in the project by August 27, with a formal auction date to be announced shortly thereafter.

The company’s Virginia Gas Project, which comprises exploration and production rights of 187,000 hectares of gas fields, is expected to start producing LNG in the third quarter of 2021.

The natural gas in these fields contains almost no higher alkanes (such as and butane), so it is relatively easy to liquify. It also contains rich helium concentrations, amounting to roughly half of the United States’ reserves – and the US is the world leader in helium production. Renergen plans to start producing helium in 2023.

 

Renewable Energy

Should the LNG project prove successful, it will make a huge difference in diversifying South Africa’s energy portfolio, which is dominated by coal for domestic use and for export. Renergen will partner with Total South Africa to distribute the LNG through Total’s filling stations, mainly for use by logistics companies’ trucks – the LNG will replace diesel.

The source of the Virginia Gas Project’s natural gas is primarily microbial, so it’s a sustainable resource. Producing a carbon-negative fuel is critical if South Africa is to move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

 

Cassava, also called manioc, is one of the DRC’s staple crops. The leaves and the tuberous root are used in a variety of dishes. (Junior D. Kannah/AFP)
Cassava, also called manioc, is one of the DRC’s staple crops. The leaves and the tuberous root are used in a variety of dishes. (Junior D. Kannah/AFP)

Researchers at the University of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have successfully formulated a new type of fertilizer that they claim can enrich soil for 400 years and help to increase agricultural output.

Professor Adrian Mwango, who supervised the research, says the fertilizer contains charcoal and organic matter. The fertilizer was tested in a banana plantation, and the researchers will continue to monitor its efficacy.

 

More than 65 percent of the population are employed in the agricultural sector

 

If this fertilizer were to prove even half as effective as claimed, it would make a significant difference to millions of citizens’ livelihoods. More than 65 percent of the country’s population are employed in the agricultural sector, according to 2019 World Bank data. It would also improve self-sufficiency in the DRC, which has seen sudden spikes in the price of foodstuffs during the COVID-19 pandemic as supply lines have faltered and cross-border trade has been disrupted.

 

President Filipe Nyusi (via AFP)
President Filipe Nyusi (via AFP)

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has finalized a US$400 million bid to assist in the financing of the Mozambique Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Area 1 Project off the coast of Cabo Delgado province in the north of the country. AfDB joins a cohort of international financial backers on the project, estimated to cost US$20 billion. French multinational company Total has secured a senior debt financing facility worth US$14.9 billion, making it the main investor in the project.

 

The successful financing of the project signals trust in the government of Filipe Nyusi

 

The Mozambique LNG Area 1 Project is the single largest foreign direct investment project on the African continent, involving Export Credit Agencies from the United States, South Africa, Italy, Thailand, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Japan, according to a statement Total released last week. Set to be operational by 2024, the plant is expected to generate up to 13.1 million tons of liquified natural gas per year. It’s hoped that the wealth generated by the plant will improve economic fortunes for the people of Cabo Delgado, where poverty is severe.

The successful financing of the project signals renewed trust in the government of Filipe Nyusi, whose administration has been embroiled in a major scandal over loans Swiss bank Credit Suisse helped to arrange for development in Mozambique, which involved kickbacks worth millions of dollars. It also indicates that persistent violence committed in the region by Islamist insurgents has not discouraged major international investors.

 

oil in south sudan
Women receive sorghum, beans, salt, and oil for their families at the Bentiu camp for internally displaced people in South Sudan in February 2018. The camps—known as Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites—were set up by the United Nations in 2013, when civilians fled their villages to escape ethnic violence. Given the danger of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the crowded camps, calls have increased for residents to return home.

The spread of COVID-19 in South Sudan continues to have an unprecedented impact on the health, economy, and social lives of citizens. It has placed added pressure on already limited services and exacerbated issues that the young country, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, has been struggling to address.

This was voiced in community meetings in Melut County organized by the Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA)—an association of young men and women from Upper Nile State who strive to play a more active role in development—in collaboration with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA).

Melut County, which is located on the eastern bank of the White Nile, incorporates six payams (administrative divisions), including Melut and Palouch, where community meetings were held to promote awareness of COVID-19 prevention and to discuss greater local participation in the management of the state’s natural resources.

 

“The gap between the community and oil companies seems to be widening”

 

“There is minimal contribution from oil companies regarding provision of services aimed at preventing COVID-19,” a local chief said in one of these meeting. “The gap between the community and oil companies seems to be widening.”

He also said there was a lack of cooperation between state authorities and members of parliament, and that this was hindering the implementation of the petroleum laws, which allow for oil revenue to be used for developmental activities. He urged oil companies to support efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and enhance community resilience.

The two main laws governing the oil industry in South Sudan are the Petroleum Act of 2012 and the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) of 2013. A revenue-sharing arrangement enshrined in the PRMA states that 2 percent and 3 percent of net petroleum revenue should be allocated to oil-producing states and communities, respectively. It is unclear, however, how these allocations are implemented.

Representatives of women’s groups say that during several rounds of talks they had tried to engage state authorities on the implementation of these allocations, but to no effect. Some in the local communities are optimistic, however, that the national government will act differently. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining is currently carrying out an environmental audit.

At the meeting in Palouch, a representative of local chiefs noted that some chiefs were not familiar with the petroleum laws, but relied on local members of parliament and the youth to use the right channels of reporting complaints up to the national level in Juba.

A youth representative in Palouch said, “As youth, we are working very hard to voice community demands and concerns to the relevant authorities. We are contemplating having a meeting with state authorities.”

Local leaders urged government to work closely with them to ensure effective implementation of the petroleum legislation, including the activation of a Community Development Committee Coordination Forum. A youth leader in Melut said young people needed to be able to play an active oversight role in monitoring of oil revenue allocated for local development projects, and added that governors, commissioners, and state ministers seemed reluctant to do so.

 

There is also widespread dissatisfaction over the negative impacts of the oil industry

 

South Sudan, which has significant reserves of crude oil, is recovering from a five-year civil war that cut its oil output by about half. In 2011, at the height of its oil production, the country pumped more than 350,000 barrels per day. Plans are under way to rehabilitate damaged oil infrastructure and explore new blocks to boost production.

There is also widespread dissatisfaction over the negative impacts of the oil industry on the environment, society and governance in the oil-producing states, which a member of UNYDA said could be traced back to the pre-independence Khartoum regime. Khartoum’s policies on the sector were opaque and disregarded local involvement in the management of oil revenue, which made it difficult for communities to demand transparency and accountability.

In the meetings, members of UNYDA emphasized they were working hard to increase awareness around COVID-19 preventive measures and to reduce social vulnerability in collaboration with the NPA under the Oil for Development project. They said they hoped to reach the ear of the relevant authorities through local organizations and community leaders. Because UNYDA has limited resources, they called on oil companies to increase their corporate social responsibility efforts and to support UNYDA in mitigating the effects of the pandemic in Upper Nile.

 

Patrick Godi is a writer and magazine editor based in Juba, South Sudan.

 

A gas flare burns at the Batan flow station, operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)
A gas flare burns at the Batan flow station, operated by Chevron under a joint-venture arrangement with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP)

Nigeria’s Niger Delta has some of the world’s richest oil reserves and largest petroleum exportation terminals. Oil has generated spectacular wealth for some, but has also drastically impoverished people of the region who live and work in one of the most polluted places on the planet.

Young men in particular find themselves in an untenable position of economic exclusion and persistent militant violence, conditions that feed a cycle of poverty and violence.

 

Limited Prospects

Modesta Tochi Alozie, as part of her research at the University of Sheffield’s Urban Institute, explored this relationship and how it directly impacts the lives of young men. Broadly speaking, Nigerian men are expected to obtain a steady paying job, marry, and provide for the household. However, more than half of all Nigerians aged fifteen to thirty-five are unemployed, and for those living in the Niger Delta, the paradox of being poor in a region that produces the majority of Nigeria’s wealth helps to sustain a resentment that has developed into a full-on insurgency.

Starting in 2003, militias began attacking oil pipelines and kidnapping employees for ransom, sometimes even launching assaults against Nigerian military forces protecting drill sites. A Post-Amnesty Program launched in 2009 provided monthly payments of US$400 in exchange for disarmament, which helped to reduce the violence somewhat, but also incentivized more young Nigerian men to become militants and entrenched the power of militia leaders.

The prospects for those who avoid the violent route remain rather dim. Some relocate to cities in search of a better life, and others become activists campaigning for tighter regulation, for companies to be held to account for livelihoods lost due to oil spills, and for restoration of polluted land. This environmental injustice is rarely addressed by Nigeria, the United Nations, or oil industry watchdogs.

 

Ra’s Lanuf Oil Refinery in northern Libya. (AFP)
Ra’s Lanuf Oil Refinery in northern Libya. (AFP)

Hopes of the Libyan economy clawing its way back from the brink of collapse were dashed this past weekend when Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said the LNA would maintain a blockade of Libyan ports and oil fields. This reimposition of the embargo against oil exports after it was briefly lifted is to force discussion about a fair distribution of oil revenue. The LNA is also demanding an audit of the central bank in Tripoli, the seat of the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Libya’s economy is heavily dependent on oil, which, in 2018, accounted for US$24.2 billion, or just under 87 percent, of all exports. When Haftar first instituted the blockade in January 2020, production dropped from 1.2 million to about 100,000 barrels of oil per day.

Libyans carry placards as they gather in front of the National Oil Corporation to protest against a blockade launched by groups allied to military strongman Khalifa Haftar last month of eastern Libya's main oil terminals, In the Libyan capital Tripoli on February 12, 2020. Libya has lost almost one billion dollars in revenues since the blockade of its most vital oil export facilities led to a slump in production. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)
Libyans protest against an oil blockade imposed by groups allied to Khalifa Haftar in front of the National Oil Corporation headquarters in Tripoli on February 12. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

The state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC), based in Tripoli, claimed on July 5 that Russian private military contractors of the Wagner Group had occupied Sharara oil field, a claim Russia denies. The NOC has also accused the United Arab Emirates, which supports Haftar, of instructing the LNA to reimpose the blockade, a charge that neither the LNA nor UAE has responded to yet.

 

Sergey Pesterev.jpeg
Sahara Desert, Morocco (Sergey Pesterev via Unsplash)

In his 2005 book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, author Jared Diamond examines various factors that led to instances of societal collapse in the past, and argues that our modern society faces many of these same challenges but on a larger scale. Today, let alone the collapse of societies, there is even a risk to the survival of our species.

Diamond was one of the first to propose that climate change and environmental degradation could lead civilizations to collapse. According to him, our current society is unsustainable and unless we make profound changes in behavior. History he showed us is full of examples of civilizational collapse because of limited resources and exploding populations.

Africa is the focus of world population growth this century. The African population is expected to increase from about 1.3 billion in 2020 to 4.5 billion by 2100, the biggest change in human history in just a few generations. If economic development and industrialization continue to be based on fossil fuel, it would probably mean the end of the planet.

Climate change and the environmental consequences will have increasing impact on the continent in the next few years. As we saw with the recent locust invasion in East Africa, Africa will see a number of environmental challenges, ranging from desertification to natural disasters, and new pandemics similar to Ebola could arrive very soon. This, coupled with a population explosion humankind, could make Africa the first “failed continent” in human history.

Any country would struggle to provide subsidized shelter, education, jobs, healthcare, and pensions for such a fast-growing population. Nor will it be possible to manage the brutal urbanization that will inevitably follow the provision of the required infrastructure, transportation, and telecommunications.

Looking to emulate “First World” societies, the youth in Africa will want improved living standards, and if they cannot get them at home, they will go in search of it, making the current migration surge to Western countries look like a picnic.

 

Political and Economic Challenges

Fast population growth also has implications for democracy. Many African dictators have been in power for decades. Neither party systems nor civil society organizations seem to be able to take the lead in a democratic transition. Compounding the problems of inefficient institutions, endemic corruption, and a lack of capacity and know-how are weak states, climate change, and resource scarcity. It’s a recipe for collapse. And COVID-19 has become a threat multiplier.

Besides the health crisis, the biggest challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for Africa will be the economic and political ones. A report by the African Union warns that Africa could lose about 20 million jobs in 2020 due to the pandemic. This report was, however, done at the beginning of the spread of the disease in Africa, when there were relatively few cases. Another study, “Tackling COVID-19 in Africa” by McKinsey & Company—also compiled at the beginning of the pandemic on the continent—predicted that Africa’s economies could experience a loss of between US$90 billion and US$200 billion in 2020. But if the pandemic were to continue into 2021, as is starting to appear likely, things will get much worse.

For post-pandemic recovery, there would therefore be a strong need to increase the welfare state in all African countries, with Keynesian policies of government support. But this risks a mounting debt crisis for many African states. Africa already has some of the poorest and most indebted countries in the world, including Eritrea with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 127 percent and Mozambique with a ratio of 124 percent.

Competition among the major world powers has led to China in particular seeking to gain influence on the African continent by using debt-trap diplomacy. It extends large loans for infrastructure projects through its Belt and Road Initiative, but uses these investments to demand greater influence and access to commodities.

At social and political level, much unrest and instability are anticipated as the economic crisis unfolds this year and even more so next year. Furthermore, political heavy-handedness and anti-democratic enforcement measures will risk provoking more popular unrest. Since refugees, migrants, and displaced people across Africa are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission, governments should help to control the refugee camps and avoid border closures that could put vulnerable people at greater risk. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the health infrastructure in Africa is inadequate to deal with such crises.

 

An Opportunity for Change

Yet not all is lost. The future always brings challenges and threats, but also possibilities and opportunities.

Africa could still do a lot with good leadership and cooperation. And the post-COVID-19 era could provide the opportunity for change. The most important step for Africa in the near future is to move rapidly toward an integrated market by implementing the African Free Trade Zone, and at the same time to have the support of Europe.

 The Mediterranean could again become the bridge between Europe and Africa, with the possibility to make societies on either side flourish again. Instead of being the cemetery for migrants trying to cross its waters, the Mediterranean could become the connector between civilizations and histories, markets and people, for a future of prosperity and peace on both shores.

To make Africa the region of opportunities, both the Europe Union and the African Union will have to invest in the stability of the continent and in the human security of its people.

The United Nations has defined human security as “freedom from fear, from want, and from indignity,” but human security in Africa is at the lowest level in the world.

To invest in human security in Africa means first of all to address the root causes of instability and to carry out a real “peace-building” process with investments at the social, political, and economic levels of society.

Addressing the root causes of instability would involve combating endemic corruption at institutional level, empowering civil society organizations, supporting democratization, and working with international businesses to stop the pillaging of African resources. It also requires speaking out about human rights violations, tackling the security-development nexus, fighting armed groups benefitting from economic underdevelopment, supporting local economic development, and ending gender inequality and violence against women.

 

A Marshall Plan For Africa

Europe and the African continent will have to make important choices over the next few decades after the pandemic-induced economic crisis, which will be much worse than the economic downturn that started in 1929 leading to the "Great Depression."

This will be the decisive century for the survival of the world, and Africa and Europe will take center stage. The European Union could consider something similar to the United States’ Marshall Plan, a program to provide aid to a devastated Europe after World War II. My own country, Italy, was the third largest recipient of Marshall Plan aid. Decades after independence, African countries are still recovering from the effects of colonialism and the dictatorships that followed it, which Europe often supported. A similar plan should be developed for these countries.

The European Union will have to choose between pivoting to Africa or looking inward while struggling with domestic economic stagnation, and possibly losing the opportunity to become the cooperative leader that the world needs in this century. And Africa will have to decide whether it will look to the future or keep blaming the past.

These are tough choices, but there is no easy solution for ensuring the future of humankind: we need visionary leadership and courageous actions, or face the collapse of societies.

 

Maurizio Geri is an analyst on peace, security, defense, and strategic foresight. He is based in Brussels, Belgium.

 

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (left) shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing on September 3, 2018. (Andy Wong/AFP)
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (left) shakes hands with Chinese president Xi Jinping during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing on September 3, 2018. (Andy Wong/AFP)

Egypt’s El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company and China’s Dongfeng Motors have signed a deal for electric car production in Egypt. An agreement was signed on June 18, stipulating that El Nasr will produce 25,000 electric vehicles annually.

Not only is this a boon for Chinese car manufacturing, which according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers saw a 42 percent decline in the first quarter of 2020, but it also revives Nasr after the company shuttered its production plant in 2009.

 

Strategic Relations

This marks yet another expansion of China’s growing footprint in Egypt. Economic and political relations between the two nations go back to 1956, when Egypt formally recognized the communist government of the People’s Republic of China, making it the first Arab and African nation to do so. Since the 2011 Arab Spring, which saw the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s succeeding presidents Mohammed Morsi and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have made foreign relations with China a top priority.

For China, Egypt’s strategic location and its ownership of the Suez Canal make it an important ally as it expands its Belt and Road Initiative.

 

Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune prays during a ceremony in Algiers on July 5, 2020, to lay to rest the remains of twenty-four resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century-and-a-half, on the fifty-eighth anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France. The skulls of the fighters, who were shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were on display at the Palace of Culture before they were interred in coffins draped with the national flag in El-Alia Cemetery’s Martyrs’ Square. (Via Algerian Presidency Press Office/AFP)
Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune prays during a ceremony in Algiers on July 5, 2020, to lay to rest the remains of twenty-four resistance fighters returned from Paris after more than a century-and-a-half, on the fifty-eighth anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France. The skulls of the fighters, who were shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were on display at the Palace of Culture before they were interred in coffins draped with the national flag in El-Alia Cemetery’s Martyrs’ Square. (Via Algerian Presidency Press Office/AFP)

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has initiated a program to convince highly educated expatriates to return and put their skills to use in service of the country. This charm offensive aimed at the diaspora makes sense as an effort to bring in not only immediate financial gain but also knowledge and expertise as the country finds itself in a precarious economic situation.

The energy industry is the backbone of the Algerian economy. As a result of falling oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on petroleum and gas exports, the country’ foreign exchange reserves have plummeted to record lows. The president’s charm offensive toward the diaspora makes sense as an effort to bring in not only immediate financial gain but also knowledge and expertise.

To facilitate this program, Tebboune has been pushing hard for constitutional reform. Among several other changes, it would eliminate a provision that in order to hold public office or another high functionary position, a candidate must hold exclusive Algerian citizenship. Given that most Algerians living abroad have dual citizenship, this provision denies expatriates a chance of entering into civic life.

 

A Major Hurdle for the President’s Plan

The Hirak movement in Algeria poses a challenge to Tebboune’s diaspora outreach. The popular movement has been mobilizing Algerians against the regime since February 2019, holding peaceful mass protests across the country every Friday—save for a brief suspension due to COVID-19—to demand, among others, the dissolution of both chambers of parliament and a fundamentally new constitution.

 

Local residents buy and sell fish at the Malindi Fish Market in Stone Town, on the island of Zanzibar, on December 28, 2017.  GULSHAN KHAN / AFP
Local residents sell and buy fish at Malindi Fish Market in Stone Town on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. (Gulshan Khan/AFP)

NovFeed, a Tanzanian company, has begun developing a low-cost, sustainable fish feed by raising black soldier fly maggots, then drying and grinding them up into a high-protein powder.

NovFeed co-founder Elisha Otaigo explains that these maggots have a higher protein, fat and micronutrient content than housefly maggots. Unlike houseflies, black soldier flies do not transmit diseases and reach maturity quite quickly. Just two to three weeks of feeding them organic waste gets the larvae to its highest nutrient state, and then they can be processed, to be used as an ingredient in fish feed.

 

Fish contributes to almost a quarter of the population’s animal protein diet

 

Animal products make up about 3.4 percent of Tanzania’s total exports, of which fish products make up the vast majority. The Tanzanian fishing industry also provides up to 4 million jobs—about 35 percent of all rural employment—and fish contributes to almost a quarter of the population’s animal protein diet.

Recent years have seen a decline in fisheries due to mismanagement and rising costs, making NovFeed’s innovation a boon to some of Tanzania’s poorest citizens.

 

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