In September 2022, a meeting between Nigeria, Morocco, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) took place in Rabat, Morocco, where an agreement was signed for the implementation of an offshore gas pipeline linking Nigeria to Morocco. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Morocco’s National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mining (ONHYM), Senegalese Oil Company, and Mauritanian companies participated in the meeting and the agreement. The project envisages the construction of a pipeline of more than 7,000 km from Nigeria to Morocco and from there to Europe.
At this point, the fact that Senegal and Mauritania oil companies also signed the agreement reveals that these two countries support the project. In addition, the project aims to transport 3 billion cubic meters of gas per day. The realization of this gigantic project requires a financing of 25 billion dollars and investment is expected to be found for this financing in 2023. The European Union (EU) will also benefit from the project. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the Union will put its hand under the stone to invest in the project.
Nigeria already has an offshore pipeline connecting Benin, Ghana, and Togo. This project involves the construction of a new pipeline in addition to this pipeline to reach Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and finally Morocco.
The project, which is planned to include thirteen African countries, is also important for Europe. This is because Europe is looking for alternative sources after Russia played the energy card in response to EU sanctions over the Ukraine War.
Recently, many countries in Europe have faced high energy prices and related protests. Therefore, it is believed that the continent is entering a difficult winter. In this regard, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, “More difficult years await us. A period against the wind is beginning for Germany.” Therefore, Europe is trying to find secure and low-cost energy sources. Therefore, diplomatic negotiations are being held to access gas from different geographies such as Africa, the Middle East, and Norway. The Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline is one of them.
The project, which is expected to meet all of Europe’s gas needs when completed, is closely followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is impossible for Moscow to ignore a project of this magnitude and importance. Consequently, the Kremlin is playing a dangerous game in Africa to block the project. This is because Moscow wants to eliminate the possibility of Europe finding an alternative. As a matter of fact, Russia is trying to make a move through Algeria. Already, tensions between Morocco and Algeria have increased again after the Ukraine Crisis.
On the other hand, Algeria is a major producer and supplier of oil and gas, has two pipelines connecting Italy and Spain, and is an important actor in the transportation of natural gas to Europe. However, due to Algeria’s political situation, its good relations with Russia and its attitude towards Morocco, Europe considers the Algerian government as a dangerous and difficult actor to cooperate with. To illustrate this with an example, it can be recalled that at the beginning of 2022, the friendship and neighborliness agreement between Algeria and Spain was suspended. This was because Spain supported Morocco’s plan for the Sahara.
Russia is also using Algeria’s position on Morocco to its advantage. At this point, Algeria’s energy supply to Europe may be threatened in the future. At a time when the Ukraine Crisis is taking place and Europe is imposing sanctions on Russia, it is necessary to think about the real reasons behind Algeria’s decision to downgrade its relations with Spain. It is highly likely that Russia is behind this decision.
In this way, Russia can easily use its gas weapon against Europe and destroy its alternatives. In addition, Russia’s strategic moves in Africa, which we can call influence operations, can also be characterized as a strategy game of Moscow. At this point, it is important that the Wagner Group signed an agreement with the country about a year after the coup in Mali and increased its influence there. In addition, the waving of Russian flags during the coup in Burkina Faso in September 2022 also brings Wagner to mind.
Considering all these issues, it can be said that Russia has two strategic objectives in Africa. The first of these is Russia’s orientation towards African resources in order to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU. The second goal is to continue to use gas as a weapon and to condemn the EU itself by blocking the energy agreement planned to be made between the EU and Africa in order to maintain the energy problem, which is one of the most important problems of Europe. In this context, Moscow is working with Algeria for both strategies. Algeria is the largest arms buyer from Russia in the continent.
Europe is also expected to make various moves against this Russia’s strategy game. However, if Russia increases its influence on the continent through Wagner and arms deals, Europe’s steps may come to naught. Therefore, the Morocco-Nigeria Gas Pipeline Project is expected to be put forward quickly. Under former US President Donald Trump, Washington recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara, after which several countries opened consulates in “Southern Morocco.”
The resolution of the Sahara issue could prevent Algeria, and Russia in particular, from using this issue. In addition, supporting this pipeline project could end Algeria’s, and in the background Russia’s, use of the issue of energy supply to Europe as a tool of pressure. Therefore, critical steps could be taken in the future for Europe to support this project. This is because the alliance between Algeria and Russia will continue to worry the EU.
Morocco’s complete resolution of the Sahara Issue and Europe’s cooperation with Morocco is considered to an important potential to break the influence and steps taken by Algeria and Russia in the region. Therefore, it is highly likely that the EU will improve its cooperation with the Rabat administration in the coming period.
 Juan Peña, “Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline: Mauritania and Senegal commit to the Project”, Atalayar, https://atalayar.com/en/content/nigeria-morocco-gas-pipeline-mauritania-and-senegal-commit-project (Date of Accession: 04.11.2022).