Opening remarks by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Director of Research, Dr. Ayed Al Qahtani, kicked off a roundtable discussion at African Energy Week (AEW) 2023 – organized by the African Energy Chamber – uniting OPEC and non-OPEC African explorers and producers to discuss the continent’s energy development needs, current market conditions and future expectations. “OPEC has proven to be a rock-solid, reliable, inclusive and active energy partner,” stated Al Qahtani, adding, “Africa’s potential is undeniable, and we should work together to unlock these opportunities for the benefit of Africa and the rest of the world.”
The roundtable featured the participation of energy ministers from Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, the Republic of the Congo, Namibia and Nigeria, as well as representatives from OPEC; the African Petroleum Producers’ Organization (APPO) and pan-African organization for the downstream oil sector, the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA).
African countries and the OPEC+ alliance have brought into focus how important the continent is to the oil producers’ group. As such, the roundtable reiterated the important role of partnerships in addressing energy poverty and advancing energy security in Africa.
“African countries constitute a majority of the members of OPEC,” stated Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, Secretary General for APPO, adding, “It is in our interest to be in OPEC because they ensure stability in the oil market. And because they ensure stability, we have no choice but to want to join them in order to be able to predict what will happen next year so that we plan our budgets accordingly.”
Representing the only major oil producer in East Africa, South Sudan’s 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves is poised to play a critical role in facilitating energy security, both in the country and across the regional market. Therefore, South Sudan’s critical role as an emerging, critical oil player in the continent was noted as being the gateway to East African energy.
“South Sudan is not a full member, but we are members of OPEC+. The greater benefit to us, however, is the fact that we have the opportunity to participate and contribute on the table as to how the market should look,” stated South Sudan’s Minister of Petroleum, Puot Kang Chol, adding that, “If we want to talk about the transition, we must all take part at the table and participate.”
On the back of five major oil discoveries – the Venus-1X, Graff-1X, Jonker-1X, La Rona-1X, and Lesedi-1X exploration projects – having been made in 2022 and 2023, Namibia stands on the cusp of unparalleled energy development. As a result of these discoveries, the Government of Namibia has sought to engage multinational firms to compete for multi-billion-dollar projects in the country.
“Namibia, being a new kid on the block, looks at OPEC as being there to provide market stability. And we all agree that we need stability. But the stability that we would wish to see in the market – vis-à-vis what we would want to see in the industry – is the transformation of the livelihoods of the African people,” stated Tom Alweendo, Minister of Mines and Energy, Namibia.
Meanwhile, boasting substantial reserves of crude oil and natural gas, the Republic of the Congo became a full member of OPEC in June 2019. In an effort to significantly increase its crude oil output and double gas production within the next two-to-three years, the country’s Minister of Hydrocarbons, Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua, stated during the roundtable that the country’s ambitions will be driven by a slate of new projects.
“Being part of the discussions, which has an impact on our economy, has resulted in a good place to participate in international trade. This is immensely important for our people, for our local content building and is a very good opportunity for access to knowledge,” Itoua stated.
The roundtable highlighted market stability and strong regulatory frameworks as the means by which Africa can drive investment into the continent’s oil and gas industries. It was noted that certainty within the energy market will result in greater international and pan-African investment while ensuring the promotion of energy access.
“Everything goes around market stability. African countries, especially in this era of the energy transition, are interested in having certainty in our budgets. Certainty is something that happens because there is market stability,” stated Antonio Oburu Ondo, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons for Equatorial Guinea.
“Fundamentally, we have to drive regulatory frameworks that will drive investment on the continent.” Stated Anibor Kragha, Executive Secretary for ARDA, concluding, “We need, as Africans, to start putting in the investments that we need for Africans. That way, we can add value and become more self-sufficient in an intra-African oil and gas market.”
Setting the tone for the narrative surrounding Africa’s energy independence, the OPEC – Africa Roundtable at this year’s edition of AEW offered valuable insight into the future expectations of the continent’s largest oil producers. With a range of stakeholders spanning the entire continent and the energy value chain coming to Cape Town to engage in four days of discussions and deal-signing, the Roundtable spoke to the caliber of the event as the premier forum to discuss Africa’s energy future.