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European-West African Relations in the field of Energy - Obstacles to a Sustainable Approach

Charlotte King and Jon Marks for West Africa Institute and Centre for European Integration Studies

This paper considers the bi-regional relations between Europe and West Africa in the field of energy. As its point of departure, the paper begins by acknowledging the ferocity with which today’s energy landscape is changing. As important poducers and consumers within this landscape, Europe and West Africa are subject to change, both intra- and inter-regionally. How will this 60-year old energy relationship adjust to this new landscape? And what obstacles stand in the way of securing a mutually-beneficial, sustainable relationship for the next 60 years?

Conceiving energy as a set of commodities, Section 1 considers the commercial trade dynamics within the bi-regional relationship. Tracking the regions’ hydrocarbons reveals structures and agency reminiscent of the colonial era.

New supply/demand patterns and realigning global energy flows are, however, causing these trade patterns to shift. The final part of this section makes the claim for interdependence; Europe is a viable export market and West Africa a viable resource basin. Conceiving energy as a strategic good, Section 2 considers the strategic political dynamics within the bi-regional relationship. The evolution of the politicized relationship informs two themes: West Africa’s energy poverty derived of client-donor relations cloaked in development principles; and Europe’s energy security derived of the proximity between energy and geopolitics. The tussle between these themes is shown to play out in the regions’ institutional and financial interactions.

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Category: Energy

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