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Energy Transition: APPO Challenges IEA, Advocates Africa’s Autonomy

By William Emmanuel Ukpoju

The African Petroleum Producers’ Organization (APPO) has issued a rallying call for Africa to chart its own course in the face of global energy transitions. In a recent address at the just concluded Sub Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (SAIPEC), APPO emphasized the need for critical evaluation of external prescriptions and underscored the importance of Africa taking control of its energy destiny.

Speaking during a keynote address, Secretary General of the African Petroleum Producers’ Organization, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, highlighted key concerns regarding the global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. He raised questions about the origins of this transition, the timing of awareness regarding fossil fuel dangers, and the measures being taken by developed nations to ensure energy security for their citizens. Dr. Omar urged African nations not to blindly accept these recommendations but to scrutinize them thoroughly to safeguard their interests.

The call by the APPO helmsman is coming weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported on instances where organizations like the International Energy Agency (IEA) make incorrect forecasts or assessments.

One notable instance occurred in May 2021 when the IEA released a report suggesting there was no need for new fossil fuel investments if the world aimed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This report faced criticism from various quarters, including the fossil fuel industry and some analysts, who argued that the IEA underestimated the future demand for fossil fuels.

Critics pointed out that the IEA’s assumptions were overly optimistic about the pace of renewable energy adoption and the feasibility of certain technologies like carbon capture and storage. In a world grappling with the urgent imperatives of climate change mitigation and energy transition, the accuracy of energy forecasts holds unparalleled significance. Yet, a series of discrepancies between the IEA’s projections and real-world developments have sparked scrutiny and debate, thereby prompting stakeholders to question the reliability of the agency’s crystal ball. From overestimating the resilience of fossil fuel demand to underestimating the rapid ascent of renewable energy technologies, the IEA’s track record has come under intense scrutiny. Instances of incorrect forecasts have reverberated across global energy markets, impacting investment decisions, policy formulation, and the trajectory of the energy transition.

According to Dr. Omar, “For so long, we have been criticizing what the world is telling Africa to do and we are also criticizing our leaders for accepting this counsel. I recall that in November last year, the IEA came up with a report condemning fossil fuels, asking the world not to invest in them because the renewables are going to deliver by 2030, 2040 to 2050s. APPO wrote to condemn what the IEA Executive Director said. We believe he was wrong. Today, in the Wall Street Journal, I saw a story that the International Energy Agency is being criticized for misleading the world about the energy transition. In the Wall Street Journal, it was stated that the IEA once provided solid information, but today, its report can no longer be trusted; it has succumbed to politicization. IEA’s influential demand forecast now reflects wishful thinking.”

Central to his message was the assertion that Africa must develop its own energy solutions tailored to its unique needs and circumstances. While expressing skepticism about the feasibility of renewables delivering on their promises within the projected timelines, Dr. Farouk warned of potential consequences for Africa if it relies solely on external directives without adequate infrastructure or development.

 In this regard, the APPO Scribe stressed, “What we are saying is this; when we say that we don’t agree with certain positions that others say and prescribe to us, which our leaders have come to accept and because these institutions have built within our countries forces that they pay to propagate those positions, we are seen as been unrealistic.  Our fear is that if we allow ourselves to be bamboozled into accepting all of these things, and abandoning what we have in the expectation of what we will not have, and we are sure that renewables will not materialize by 2050; we are going to be the biggest victims in the world. This is because when there is shortage of anything (this is simple economics), those with the resources to buy will take everything, and that is exactly what is happening. If we fail to produce our energy and renewables fail to deliver, the little that we produce, we are going to be compelled to export it to Europe and America and we will continue the way we are or even worse. This is because they have the purchasing power, we don’t have it. It is exactly what is happening today, we produce and export 75% of the oil that we produce in Africa to outside Africa. And 45% of the gas that we produce also goes outside of Africa.”

The presentation further highlighted the economic implications of energy decisions, arguing that empowering African populations with access to energy could significantly boost productivity and government revenue. “The earlier we empower our people to have access to energy, the better for our development. We have been made to believe that empowering our people to have energy is not an economic argument; I don’t believe that. I would rather empower my people to have energy, not just to have light, but to use that energy so that their production and their economic productivity will increase to the point that government can even earn more taxation than from exporting oil. This is the vision of APPO, this is what we are pushing; it’s not easy, but we are happy to say that the Africa of today is not the Africa of yesterday”, he reaffirmed.

“If we want Africa to move forward, we need to put on a new thinking cap. For so long, our intellectuals and leaders have become just takers of prescriptions made outside our continent. The earlier we begin to scrutinize problems and solutions that we are given, the better for our continent. In this respect, APPO is not just talking, but we are acting. At the last APPO Ministerial Council meeting, approval was given to ensure that by the end of March, we take a decision on which country is going to host the headquarters of the Africa Energy Bank. We were also given the mandate to ensure that the Africa Energy Bank becomes operational before the end of the first half of this year. More than that, for technology and expertise, we are working towards ensuring that we have regional centres for oil and gas across different regions of the African continent”.

In closing, Dr. Omar signaled a shift in Africa’s stance from being passive recipients of foreign prescriptions to actively shaping its energy future. He pledged that APPO will continue to work towards ensuring that Africa’s energy policies and strategies reflect Africa’s interests and aspirations.

Before he was appointed Secretary General of the African Petroleum Producers’ Organization in December 2019, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim held various positions in the oil and gas industry both nationally and internationally. He was Nigeria’s Governor for OPEC and Nigeria’s Executive Board Member at the Gas Exporting Countries’ Forum, GECF, between 2015 and 2020. Dr. Ibrahim was Adviser to four ministers of Petroleum of Nigeria between 2009 and 2020.

Between early 2003 and late 2009, Dr. Ibrahim was Head of Public Relations and Information Department at the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna, where he was at various times the Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor of the authoritative OPEC Energy Review.

Before joining the oil industry Dr. Ibrahim spent 13 years in the media, first as a columnist and member of the Editorial Board of the Daily Times and later as the Managing Director of the then Federal Government-owned New Nigerian Newspapers. Dr Ibrahim was between 1981 and 1990 a lecturer in the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences at the Bayero University Kano.

As Africa stands at the crossroads of global energy transitions, the recent address by the African Petroleum Producers’ Organization (APPO) serves as a clarion call for self-determination and regional empowerment in shaping the continent’s energy future. Led by Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim, APPO emphasizes the imperative for African nations to critically evaluate external energy prescriptions, asserting that Africa must chart its own course based on its unique needs and circumstances. With a pledge to prioritize the empowerment of African populations with access to energy, APPO signals a transformative shift towards sustainable development and economic growth. As Africa navigates the complexities of the global energy landscape, APPO’s message resonates as a rallying cry for unity, self-sufficiency, and prosperity in the continent’s energy sector.