“After the challenge of physical safety, that of food security, it is the challenge of energy security that must be the concern of our governments.”
Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Secretary General, African Petroleum Producers’ Organisation (APPO), Mahaman Laouan Gaya, is of the opinion that the organisation is at the centre of a new Africa. In this interview, he spoke on the activities of APPO and why its Headquarters was relocated to Nigeria as well the goals of the association seeks to achieve.
Why APPO’s not in the limelight
It should first be noted that the African Petroleum Producers Organisation (APPO) is an African intergovernmental organisation created on January 27, 1987 in Lagos, Nigeria, to serve as a platform for cooperation and harmonisation of efforts, collaboration, sharing of knowledge and skills among African oil producing countries. Its statutory headquarters is Brazzaville in Republic of Congo. With 18 member countries, it accounts for nearly 99 per cent of Africa’s oil production and for at least 13 per cent of world production. One of APPO’s important missions is the promotion of joint initiatives (projects, infrastructure) in management policies and strategies across the entire oil industry value chain, to enable its member countries to draw better profits from the activities of this non-renewable resource. After more than a quarter century of existence, it was recognised that despite some progress recorded, APPO did not meet the expectations of the member countries. The organisation had entered a serious weakness of non-visibility. Observers were constantly wondering what it was for.
The long lethargy in which it has languished for years has also resulted in a very low level, if not a complete lack of cooperation among member countries in the oil sector, a lack of control of activities across the entire value chain of oil industry in Africa. This, among other things, did not allow it to establish a sharp and confirmed African expertise, a total lack of visibility of the organisation at national, regional and international levels and a very noticeable absence in the major centres of international decisions.
The organisation which was sinking on sight, in total ignorance of the global oil context, needed to be reframed on the global oil and energy scene to meet the challenges of the day. As rescue measures, the Council of Ministers decided on its deep reform. Thus, as soon as we took office, we were confronted with this reform. After many meetings of Committee of Experts and Council of Ministers, the draft of this reform was adopted in Luanda in Angola in January 2018.
The resolutions that were adopted included the new Vision and Mission, the new Strategic Objectives of the Organisation, its Guiding Principles and Values, the General Structure and a new Organisational Chart, the Mission Charters of the organs and bodies, the appointment of Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources as APPO President effective 1st April 2018 for the implementation of the reform and the transfer of the activities of the organisation to Abuja in Nigeria during this period. APPA has also been renamed the African Petroleum Producers’ Organisation (APPO). The establishment of a Summit of Heads of State of the member countries of the Organisation was also endorsed in principle as and when necessary.
What informed the relocation of the headquarters to Abuja?
It should be noted that the activities of the organisation have been relocated to Abuja during the transition period ; the statutory seat remains Brazzaville. The Council of Ministers made this transfer decision for technical and strategic reasons.
Our primary objective is to see APPO align with the global oil and energy directions set out by the United Nations (with the SE4All Initiative,…), the World Petroleum Council, the World Energy Council (with the resolution of the Energy Trilemma), the African Union (with the Africa Mining Vision), the African Development Bank (with the “New Deal” for Energy in Africa), NEPAD, etc… It must have a positioning in the energy, oil and gas sectors in Africa and promote its activities like other similar institutions, such as OPEC, GECF, IEF, among others.
The fundamental basis for this success is of course the political will of African leaders and a real change of mentality among some actors in the organisation…those must go beyond their purely personal interests and see only those of our common organisation. The methods of governance and management of the Secretariat as they have been since the creation of APPA, are obsolete and have never been effective. We need a fresh start, and today Nigeria, given its position on the African and world oil scene, its leadership and for various other reasons, offers better, political, technical, financial and diplomatic guidance to accompany this reform. Since moving to Abuja a few months ago, the organisation has received the special attention of the highest Nigerian authorities and I believe that at the end of this transitional period that will devote a total change of the institution, we will finally lay the foundations for a new organisation…the new pride of Africa. This is to say that the machine of reform is in full swing and our goal is to make this organisation one of the largest and most powerful on a continental scale. We are on this path and we will get there soon.
How relevant is APPO in Africa and globally?
The global energy and oil geopolitics is constantly changing and we need to reframe our organisation in this new context. Africa must find a new paradigm to generate real benefits for the hydrocarbon development interface on the one hand and for sustainable development on the other. APPO could become the fulcrum for making this new paradigm a reality. With its potential (one of the largest in the world) and a better framework for cooperation and integration, Africa can validly align with the oil powers of today; to have a say in the global oil and energy spectrum and APPO to be a major partner of the world’s major energy and oil institutions. This unity and these ambitions for Africa, which we lacked in the past; may well be a reality today, and our organisation, which needs special attention from the highest authorities in our countries, is the ideal instrument to meet this challenge. The APPO can be an instrument of security and fight against energy and economic poverty. The promising prospects are there and I think that after the challenge of physical safety, that of food security, it is the challenge of energy security that must be the concern of our governments. Also, oil is a highly sensitive sector that commands coordinated and highly specialised strategic approaches. In isolation, African countries are unable to fight against international oil capital. We therefore need a framework with a real device for economic and strategic intelligence…this is the role our organisation intends to play. In this, I believe that the APPO must in the years to come, be one of the organisations on which Africa can count.
Future of oil industry in Africa
When you take a look at the world’s oil geography, one realises that certain regions (North America, Near and Middle East, North Sea,…) once pioneers of oil production are today either in the phase of depletion, or in that of the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons (the so-called gas and oil shale,…).
In Africa, however, only four (4) countries began a modest exploitation in the 1960s. Today, about 20 countries are identified as oil producers (the 18 member countries of APPO, South Sudan and Tunisia) and about 30 others are conducting prospecting and research operations. Offshore and onshore basins, both off East Africa, the African part of Indian Ocean, West Africa, and the hinterland countries are little explored and have very good prospects (they are mainly located in Tunisia, Morocco, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Niger, Mali, Madagascar, Comoros,…). Africa has proven global oil and gas reserves that are variously estimated but for sure very abundant. Certainly, the continent has more than 13 percent of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves (even if Western statistics tend to underestimate and devalue the potential of the black continent), and better, in the last 15 years, 1/3 of the world oil discoveries have been in Africa. The underestimation by certain institutions and multinational oil companies of the reserves and the hydrocarbon potential of Africa shows a properly neo-colonial joke ! And yet, there is no doubt that Africa’s oil and gas potential can compete today with that of any other region in the world. This leads me to say that if Africa were to be considered as a single producer, it is certain that our continent will challenge Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States. To do this, we must put an end to the disunity and hyper-balkanisation that characterise today’s Africa and further promote its integration. Anyway, the potential is there and, in the years, to come, believe me, Africa will have very big surprises in the oil and gas sector.
Why Afria’s oil, gas industry not growing
In recent decades, Africa has been at the heart of all kinds of debates, both on the misery in which its populations are vegetated and on its immense potential and incomparable natural wealth that could bring in more than US$ 30 billion in revenue per year over the next two decades. Just for the oil reserves of African countries, some statistics estimate them to a hundred billion barrels, as much as Saudi Arabia.
In general, it is recognized by all that the African subsoil is full of abundant fossil energy resources (oil, gas, coal, uranium,…) and those of renewable origins (hydraulic, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal,…). In addition, Africa is today inhabited by nearly one billion inhabitants, 60% of whom are young, while Europe, America and Asia are becoming increasingly ‘’aging’’. If with all these richness, Africa cannot get off the ground, I am not sure that the oil resources are the only ones responsible or that in the current socio-economic situation they can meet the challenges of underdevelopment.