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Editorial comment

Over the past year, it has been easy to lose focus of the global nature of the energy crisis. Much of the attention has been on Europe, which is understandable given the fact that the continent has had to quickly adapt to life without Russian energy. However, as highlighted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last year, this is truly a global energy crisis, and major impacts are being felt in many emerging and developing economies. The IEA points to the number of people worldwide who lack access to electricity, the large majority of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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In its ‘Africa Energy Outlook 2022’ report, the IEA notes that the increased cost of energy, food and other commodities, as a result of the war in Ukraine, has affected many parts of Africa’s energy systems, including reversing positive pre-COVID-19 trends in improving access to modern energy.1 The continent is also facing more severe effects from climate change than most parts of the world, despite accounting for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to date.

In this issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering, our regional report focuses on the current status of the oil and gas sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Contributing Editor, Gordon Cope, provides a breakdown of the latest developments in several countries, and examines a number of factors that are limiting prosperity in the region.

However, as Cope explains, opportunities do beckon, and green shoots are appearing across several countries. The IEA’s ‘Africa Energy Outlook’ aims to set out a path to bring modern energy access to all Africans by the end of this decade. As Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, explains: “The new global energy economy that is emerging offers a more hopeful future for Africa.”

Although renewables will be the driving force for Africa’s energy sector this decade – with solar leading the way – the IEA notes that the continent’s industrialisation will rely in part on expanding natural gas use. Africa has more than 5000 billion m3 of natural gas resources that have not yet been approved for development, with the potential to provide an additional 90 billion m3 /yr by 2030. Cumulative CO2 emissions from the use of these gas resources would bring Africa’s share of global emissions to just 3.5%.

Africa is also set to be at the heart of the hydrogen revolution. A recent study from the European Investment Bank (EIB), International Solar Alliance and the African Union has set out the continent’s “extraordinary green hydrogen potential.” The report considers investment opportunities in four African hubs: Mauritania, Morocco, southern Africa and Egypt. The analysis suggests that harnessing Africa’s solar energy to produce 50 million tpy of green hydrogen by 2035 could help to secure global energy supply, create jobs, decarbonise heavy industry, enhance global competitiveness, and transform access to clean water and sustainable energy.2

On the topic of hydrogen, I’m pleased to announce that the Summer issue of our sister publication, Global Hydrogen Review, is out now. For detailed analysis of green (and blue) hydrogen production, and much more, please sign up for a free subscription to the magazine (turn to p. 22 for more details).


  1. ‘Africa Energy Outlook 2022’, International Energy Agency (IEA), (June 2022).
  2. ‘New study confirms €1 trillion Africa’s extraordinary green hydrogen potential’, European Investment Bank (EIB), (21 December 2022).

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