A $13bn project to build a gas pipeline connecting giant gas fields in Nigeria to Europe is threatened by the recent coup d'état in Niger.
The long discussed 5,600-kilometre pipeline could fuel 11 countries along the African coast on its way to Morocco and then be connected to the energy system of Spain or Italy was given fresh impetus after Russian gas supplies to the EU were cut off last year.
At a meeting held in the Nigerian capital of Abuja last June, energy ministers from Algeria, Nigeria and Niger agreed to accelerate the work on the mooted Trans-Saharan gas pipeline (TSGP), which could carry 30bn cubic metres per year of gas exports from the three countries to Europe.
The idea of the trans-Saharan pipeline was first proposed in the 1970s, but revived in 2002, when the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Algerian national oil and gas company Sonatrach signed the Memorandum of Understanding for preparations of the project. A feasibility study was completed in September 2006, and it found the pipeline to be technically and economically feasible and reliable, however, little progress on the project has been made since then until a new MoU was signed in 2022 revived hopes for a fresh start.
With a length of 4,128 km, the pipeline would link Warri in Nigeria to the major Hassi R'Mel gas hub in Algeria, passing through Niger and initial agreements with the old regime were already reached. However, the new authorities that took over last week do not share their predecessors' enthusiasm for relations with Europe.
The coup in Niger has become a tussle for influence between East and West rivals in Africa. The ousted President Mohamed Bazoum was pro-Europe and close to France, which was a major supplier of commodities to France, including uranium. However, the new leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the former head of the presidential guard, is aligned with Russia and has already cut exports of commodities to France.
The EU is already heavily involved in the dispute and trying to maintain its commercial ties with Niger, while Russia has also been very active in promoting its relations with African leaders offering them free grain and discounted funding for nuclear power stations amongst other things.