When Germany’s new Chancellor Olaf Scholz embarked on his first African tour this month, many media outlets focused on Senegal’s potential to supply natural gas to Europe. This spoke both to Europe’s scramble to replace Russian gas supplies and to a surge in optimism about new revenues among gas-producing African countries. But separating reality from hype has been a challenge.
Through the publication on 18 May of its external energy strategy, the EU somewhat clarified its approach to diversifying gas supplies. The strategy is of course written from a European perspective; its implications for African producer countries require a bit of dissection. These implications are important given live debates around the role of gas in Africa’s future and more broadly, including at the G7 level.
The EU strategy (and the broader “REPowerEU” package in which it sits) indicates that Europe is seeking a short-term injection of additional gas—but also that it is accelerating its transition to cleaner energy sources. The EU is therefore unlikely to seek longer-term (post-2030) sources of gas. Current and prospective African gas producers ought to take note and adapt accordingly. If European interest in African gas is indeed primarily short-term, responsible EU-Africa engagement would require European officials to clarify their intentions and needs, and relevant African policymakers to ensure that related expectations in their countries are realistic given likely future scenarios.
With such clarity, the handful of African countries ready now (or soon) to start or increase gas production can seize a short-term opportunity to increase public revenues. But given major uncertainties around the future of gas, officials in these and other countries should focus primarily on building more sustainable economies and domestic energy systems, not investing billions of dollars of public capital in long-term gas projects that face tough obstacles and risk carbon lock-in.
There is a bigger opportunity in Europe’s energy rethink for African countries: they can use it to push the EU to follow through on its promises of financing and technology for renewable energy growth in Africa. Europe could couple the realization of these commitments with near-term gas procurement from certain African countries, contributing to long-term partnerships in service of a just energy transition.

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