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Columnists

Local content – A driving force for African oil and gas sector sustainability

There is a wave of change coming and COVID-19 is the first of the determinants that oil and gas investment will gradually be reducing.

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How Libya and Iran can add to Nigeria’s woes

With 2020 being a year of uncertainties in the oil and gas sector and some of the decisions, activities and market trends that took place last year, I reflect on what some of the activities pre-COVID-19 and now means for the African energy sector.

Following the reform of the African Petroleum Producers’ Organisation (APPO) Fund, I was opportune to witness the equally newly reformed Africa Energy Investment Corporation (AEICORP). The AEICORP is to provide “a Solid Capital Base and Liquidity Profile, a Preferred Creditor Status, Developmental Impact, Strong Financial Performance Returns to Investor,” for investors to participate in a low-risk pan-African growth.

With one of the objectives of APPO seeking to ensure member countries cooperate, I believe for African countries to reap the maximum benefits from oil and gas, investment in energy technology through institutions like AfDB and AEICORP will help to achieve this aim. The thought of African investments in the hydrocarbons sector takes my mind to a familiar place – de-carbonization of fossil fuels, as opposed to abandonment.
De-carbonising fossil fuels through technology developed by Africans might take a while to embrace but it is worth the long-term investment. At the moment (or for the next 20 years), Africa is not ready for zero-carbon emission energy sources. Almost all of the oil-producing countries on the African continent depend on revenues from oil and gas to fund their budgets and keep their economy moving. It cannot be denied that the energy security of Africa is highly dependent on decarbonisation.

This is because most of the African countries export their crude to countries abroad and the countries abroad are moving towards adopting the terms of the Paris climate accord which aims to see low carbon emission.
New discoveries of oil and gas are still being made daily with a large part of prospective areas still underexplored. All the countries on the continent cannot boast of 24 hours steady supply of electricity. The West is embracing decarbonisation because they have gotten to a stage where all of the basic social amenities are working, Africa isn’t there yet.

Africa looks to be one of those who will suffer climate change the most. We cannot follow the same paradigm as the advanced countries and we will take a longer time to achieve what they will achieve. The COVID-19 pandemic is a trigger for many African countries to begin to gradually embrace diversification and invest in other sectors of their economy. If African countries do not fully depend on the revenues from oil and gas, we can begin to talk carbon decarbonisation. For now, it is a gradual process and we still have a long way to go.

The West will not come and save us. The West will save the West and Africa should save Africa. In November 2019, the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced that it will no longer grant loans for crude oil, natural gas and coals project from January 1st 2022, with a few exceptions for gas projects. Also, in October 2020, the United Nations asked world’s publicly funded development banks to bring their lending policies in line with the Paris Agreement, and a few weeks later, many of the institutions including the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) said they will reduce investment in fossil fuels related project.

This is to show that it would soon be every investor for themselves. And if China follows suit, the African market will break.

When all of these lenders stop funding fossil fuel projects in the country, most African countries will have little or no advantage when it comes to negotiations. Chinese authorities have been big players in the development of oil and gas resources in Africa and one of the biggest lenders to African countries. If by 2025 that all of the world’s publicly funded development banks would have joined the EIB in halting the disbursement of funds for fossil fuel projects, an indication that they are only willing to do embark on projects that are in line with their net- zero commitments, China will be the only option left.

Many African countries have already signed agreements that will see them forfeit important state-owned assets if they fail to meet up on their repayment plan for loans obtained from China. Let us not forget that China is also a signatory to the Paris climate accord. So if in the future, China decided to also stop funding fossil fuel projects, most of our countries in Africa who do not start planning for the unexpected now will be left with a wrecked economy and with no option than to forfeit out of the little they have to pay their debts.

French Group, Total, ‘totally’ dominates the oil and gas sector in some African countries. What happens to us when Total pulls out its resources and stops funding fossil fuel projects, because being a French company, it is one of the companies expected to fully commit to the terms of the Paris Agreement?

Is the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) the saviour?

Yes, we do have a genuine opportunity through the AfCFTA. The AfCFTA was formed in 2018 to eliminate tariffs on intra-African trade, to make it easier for African businesses to trade within the continent and cater to and benefit from the African market. It creates a single market for goods, services, facilitated by movement of persons to deepen the economic integration of the African continent, under the Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The benefits are:

To improve the intra-African trade landscape and export structure;

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  • To create a sound global economic impact;
  • To develop better policy frameworks;
  • To foster specialisation and boosting industrialisation;
  • To strengthen regional and inter-state cooperation;
  • To increase employment and investment opportunities, as well as technological development;
  • To provide the opportunity to harness Africa’s population dividend.

In a few years, the AEICORP and AfCFTA may, alongside a few lending bodies and China, be the only creditors willing to invest in the African energy scene. The continent needs to embrace its own Funds and platform and invest in technology in the African energy scene, in preparation for the future of the oil and gas industry.

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One of the solutions to energy security is for African countries to make a case for themselves. Why is the West ignoring the gas sector, which is cheaper and safer and the least-polluting fossil fuel to a more expensive and less reliable source like renewable energy? If African forces start to condemn the decision of these lenders to stop financing fossil fuel projects, under a uniform voice and umbrella body like APPO, negotiations will take place and better resolutions that will favour all parties can be reached.

Countries with huge natural gas reserves such as Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Algeria, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon etc. should follow in the footsteps of Mozambique and attract investors to invest in that sector. Equatorial Guinea also has projects lined up for its ‘Year of Investment’. Egypt has also been investing heavily in the gas sector and alongside Mozambique, it would become one of the biggest players on the continent, in a few years.

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African countries can also take advantage of the fact that an African, H.E Mohammed Barkindo is the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to lead negotiations in ensuring that fossil fuel projects are still catered for by lenders.

Countries on the continent should also trade between themselves in the areas of energy. It is remarkable what the East African countries are doing together to ensure electricity supply in each other’s countries. Last year, Nigeria also announced it will be importing Niger’s surplus oil. African countries need to get from Africa what is present in Africa. This is the way by which we can help the cause of the AfCFTA, APPO, and each other to reach our full energy potentials and have adequate energy security.

There is a wave of change coming in the world and COVID-19 is the first of the determinants that oil and gas investment will gradually be reducing. African countries cannot afford to buy this change yet. We cannot afford to compare ourselves to the West as we lack what they have, and yes, we have some of the fossil fuels that they still want before their full switch to renewables. We have to take advantage of that gap and reach an agreement that favours all.

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It will be great to see the terms of the Paris Climate Accord come to pass in the future. But for now, Africa needs the financing and investment in technology will help to still keep to the terms of the Accord while investing in the huge oil and gas potential here.


About the author

David R. Edet is an oil and gas expert, serving in the capacity of Business Analyst at Afric Energy Ltd, an Oil and Gas Company operating from Nigeria. Mr. Edet is a leading voice to youth involvement in African energy matters and campaigns for more involvement of local contact in the African hydrocarbons sector.

Nairametrics frequently publishes articles from experts such as financial analysts, economists, researchers and investors. We also feature articles from guest writers and bloggers who wish to push their views and opinions through our platform.To get your articles on Nairametrics, kindly send an email to [email protected] and we will publish it within 24 hours of approval by our editorial team.

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Columnists

Central Bank of Nigeria; resuscitating an ailing economy

Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, the monetary authority has continued to introduce measures to support economic recovery.

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Banks' stakeholders express 4 main concerns bothering the sector right now, CBN, MARKET UPDATE: CBN’s historic agriculture lending; Is it yielding the desired results? 

Recently, the financial policy and regulation department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in a circular announced the extension of the regulatory forbearance on its intervention facilities to Institutions impacted by the dampening economic effect of the lingering coronavirus pandemic for an additional year.

Though the country has exited recession according to the latest GDP report, the beneficiaries of these facilities still require regulatory support to completely get back to business before assuming the burden of servicing those facilities.

Earlier in 2020, the CBN had given the initial forbearance following the complete stall in economic activities brought about by the need to community transmission following the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic is nipped in the bud.

Consequently, the interest on the facilities was revised from 9.0% to 5.0%, with a one-year moratorium given on all principal repayments from 01 March 2020. Following the expiration of this forbearance, the CBN has announced the extension for another 12 months of the discounted interest rates for the CBN facilities. However, the rollover of the moratorium on these facilities will be considered on a case by case basis.

Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus, the monetary authority has continued to introduce measures to support economic recovery. The Bank has continued to extend support to industries that were hit by the negative effect of the coronavirus through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) Commodity Association, Private/Prime Anchors, State Governments, Maize Aggregation Scheme (MAS), and the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS), among others.

Yesterday, the CBN considering the impact of the economic frailties on the Nigerian poultries value chain and industries, released 50,000mtn of maize to cushion shortage of supply. Consequently, the price per metric tonne of maize has dropped to N180,000/metric tonne from N200,000/metric tonne, with an expectation that it would further plunge.

We acknowledge that farming activities have been significantly affected in 2020 due to covid-19 movement restrictions during the planting season as well as abnormal rainfall patterns which led to flooding of farmlands and the farmers/herders clashes which remain a significant threat to agricultural productivity.

These unfortunate events have led to a spike in food prices reflected in the food inflation rate of 20.57% in January 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Thus, we consider the provision of reliefs for farmers important to restore farming activities and output level back to pre-covid levels.

While we welcome these interventions given Nigeria’s current precarious economic situation, and how it has burdened businesses, we are of the view that the government needs to also keep an eye on resolving long-standing structural bottlenecks to truly maximise the full potential of Nigerian businesses.


CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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Columnists

Why NNPC should be commercialised

A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations.

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NNPC reports explosion at OML 40 facility

The Nigerian government is seeking efficient ways of positioning the country on its path to recovery and the petroleum industry which contributes about 90% of its exchange earnings would undoubtedly be critical on this journey.

The long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which seeks to regulate the entire Nigerian Petroleum Industry and repeal a host of existing legislation is paramount in transforming the industry and introducing more efficiency particularly in its government-owned parastatals. The PIB has gained more traction in the current administration and is now awaiting deliberations by legislators.

A key highlight of the PIB is commercializing the State-run behemoth, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This move would see the NNPC incorporated as a Limited Liability Company and be known as NNPC Limited. This company would conduct its affairs on a commercial basis without resorting to using government funds.

While this might seem like a bold move by the government, it still should not come off as a surprise…

Owing to the fall in crude oil prices from over $100/barrel to below $50/barrel levels in 2020, Nigeria’s exciting story with crude oil slowed down but has picked up in recent months. The country’s heavy dependence on the volatile crude oil market and its ineptitude in diversifying during its “oil-rich” days have now thrown its growth story in jeopardy. The once 3rd-fastest growing economy with foreign reserves in excess of $40bn now wallows in rising inflation complemented and a weakened currency.

Why do we need to commercialize NNPC?

A core theme with a number of government-owned parastatals is the plague of inefficiency and obscurity in the way they are run. To give an idea of the NNPC’s lack of transparency, the corporation only published the group’s audited financial statements for the first time in its 43 years of operation in 2020. It’ll be right to commend this administration is pushing for transparency but you can go on to imagine what went on during those opaque years of operation.

As expected, the results were not impressive. The corporation reported a recurring loss, albeit 70% lower in 2019. The significant reduction in losses may prove the government’s will in improving the operations of the NNPC, however, comments on the report noted that “material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Group and Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Moving down to the State-owned refineries with a combined capacity of 445,000 bpd, capacity utilization well below 20%, and recurring annual losses in excess of ₦150bn, we can agree that the condition of these refineries is utterly worrisome. Despite the government’s annual budget for Turn Around Maintenance of these refineries, they have now been shut down with plans to undergo a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) model.

Chief among the NNPC’s problems is corruption. A number of investigative reports have explained how subsidy payments, domestic crude allocation, revenue retention practices, and oil-for-product swap agreements are smeared with corruption. The Senate has initiated countless probes and new management seeking transparency has been introduced by the President, however, it just seems like the rot has eaten too deep into the system.

What does commercializing NNPC mean for the country?

The government-managed NNPC has proved to be inefficient and riddled with corruption. A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations. The possible introduction of more shareholders would strengthen the amount of funding available to the NNPC and further shift the burden of being the sole-financier away from the government.

Exploring an NNPC IPO

An Initial Public Offering (IPO) would see the NNPC’s shares traded on Stock Exchanges and position the corporation to raise much more funding, build trust and endear to the international community. While this might seem like a daunting task, Nigeria can perhaps take a cue from Saudi Arabia whose National Oil corporation; Saudi Aramco began raising capital for its IPO in December 2019.

The Saudi Crown Prince; Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) announced a valuation of $2trn enticing the world’s largest investment banks, appointed a new set of leaders on the board of the corporation, and executed a highly engaging local marketing strategy. Although the valuation figure was brought down to $1.5 – $1.7 trillion by financial advisors, Saudi Aramco successfully achieved its IPO raising nearly $26 billion for 1.5% of Aramco’s value.

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NNPC’s fundamentals might not support an IPO currently as investors might be wary of the high level of risks involved but we can’t deny the immense opportunities an IPO would present not just for NNPC’s transparency and performance but Nigeria’s economic reform.

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In Conclusion

The recurring performance of the corporation with several corruption allegations, inefficiency, and unclarity is indeed worrisome. It is time to have the NNPC turn over a new leaf and operate on a commercial basis. This would afford the government the ability to deploy funds into other segments of the economy and have the NNPC focus on being a commercially viable entity.

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