An ambitious project concerning energy industry in Africa between Morocco and Nigeria was set to be constructed to enhance the acceleration of electrification projects across the West African region. The objective of Morocco-Nigeria pipeline project is aimed at creation of a competitive regional market of electricity, and to connect gas resources from Nigeria to West African countries including Morocco.
The pipeline project will be approximately 5,660-km long and its construction works will be in phases covering 25 years. After feasibility studies in 2017, the two countries opted for a combined onshore-offshore route to build the pipeline.
The two countries are expecting great economic outcomes by conducting this milestone gas pipeline project. In fact, it is considered a strategic project by both countries, will have a significant impact on the populations of West Africa and likely to evolve Morocco and Nigeria into leaders of South-South cooperation in Africa, according to “maroc.ma” [1.
Major Causes of Concerns
This pipeline project has been a subject of major discussions concerning its impact on the environment, public health and biodiversity of the area. It is considered a step back for Moroccan efforts to produce more clean energy and harness the solar power as a main energy source of the country. Various policy, decision maker and environmental specialists did raise concerns about the choice of spending nearly 20 billion US dollars on a pipeline while it can be invested in improving and strengthening renewable energy projects in the West African region.
One of the major environmental objectives set by the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) [which was hosted by Morocco in 2016] is the reduction of the fossil fuels-based energy due to its bad consequences on the health of human beings and the planet earth in general. However, we still see Morocco and Nigeria willing to implement this project despite concerns raised by various NGOs protesting the gas pipeline project. Some of the key contentious issues for the NGOs are as follows:
- While the acceleration of global warming exceeds all expectations and greenhouse gas emissions have set a new record in 2016, the construction of this pipeline can only go in the direction of an increase of extraction and consumption of fossil resources, the main causes of global warming.
- Contrary to what is often asserted, natural gas is not clean energy. The methane in it is more volatile than CO2, and much more powerful in global warming potential. Moreover, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has accelerated dangerously since 2007.
- The extraction, transportation and use of fossil fuels has considerable environmental implications in the form of disturbing effects of seismic studies on marine fauna, the use and release of various chemical substances and wastes, the risks of leaks, fires and explosions related to corrosion and navigation are additional risks to that of methane emissions. This will destroy livelihoods of millions of our people depending on fisheries in our regional waters.
- The section already constructed (WAGP) was done without consulting the populations who rejected the environmental impact study.
- It is a top-down project that does not consider the needs of the populations and the environment. They are not consulted and will not be the first beneficiaries of this pipeline. While Nigeria is Africa’s largest exporter of gas and oil, less than half of the population has access to electricity. In Benin, Togo, already served by the WAGP, barely a third of the population have access to electricity.
- The proposed pipeline is a project for the multinational corporations. Nigerians do not benefit from oil exploitation in Nigeria.
- The energy produced will be used primarily to fuel agri-business projects and export-oriented industrial clusters at the expense of small farmers and artisans and the satisfaction of the needs of the people.
- This project will be a financial sinkhole. It is likely that the forecast cost of US $ 20 billion will be probably doubled and will lead to an exponential increase of the debt burden of our countries.
The Way Forward
The complete independence from the consumption of fossil resources is far to be a reality for the African continent that suffers from a shortage in energy production and transmission. This shortage and dependence on foreign investments is set to grow in the light of the recent efforts of industrialization of the continent set by the African Development Bank  .
The combination of industrialization and energy sufficiency is a complex multi-objectives problem. It needs a special evaluation and analysis to consider all factors and reduce the side effects on the environmental and social prosperity of the African population.
A smart production of energy and transmission to the West African region is a possible alternative for the pipeline project. The investment in solar energy which is one of the valuable resources of the African countries is a must. 20 billion US dollars could make a difference in the energy network of the continent and transform it into one of the leaders of clean energy in the world.