Climate  Cynicism: Fossil Fuel Growth in Africa


Kola Ibrahim


While Africa is being conned by global climate change politics, the same people who claim to be fighting climate change are the ones promoting fossil fuel, globally and in particular, in Africa. Indeed, Africa has become a new frontier for fossil fuel development. This is being carried out by global finance capital, multinational corporations, governments of developed economies, and worse still multilateral organizations that claim to be spearheading the funding for climate actions. Of course, this is done with active connivance of African political elite and big business class, who serve as local junior partners.


While the Paris Agreement was reached in 2015 and put into effect in 2016, investments in oil, gas and coal development increased across Africa, especially between 2016 and 2021. A research report by a group of NGOs, (Geuskens and Butijn, 2022[2]), found that there are 964 fossil fuel projects in Africa, 782 of which are currently in operation or were under construction (as at 2022), and 111 others approved. The report also noted that, out of over $132 billion that was committed to 58 fossil fuel projects and 24 fossil fuel companies in Africa; 54.8% came from western countries (Australia, Europe and North America), while 31.4% is from Asia (mostly China).


In fact, top 10, out of 24 national financial institutions providing financing for fossil fuel development in Africa between 2016 and 2021 were located in China, United States, Japan, Korea and United Kingdom. These ten institutions were responsible for 94.6% ($23.7 billion) of fossil fuel funding in Africa by national financial institutions. Also, 81.4% ($16.8 billion) of the $20.4 billion committed by private financial companies (banks and financial businesses) to 58 fossil fuel projects in Africa came from  North American, European and Asian companies. Furthermore, 88.8% of over $88.8 billion general financing of 24 biggest fossil fuel companies in Africa come from European, American, Australian and Asian multinational financial companies, while only 10.8% is from African companies (mostly South African companies). Yet, between 2016 and 2019, G-20 public financial institutions and multilateral organizations  only committed $13 billion to renewable energy in Africa.


Indeed, nine multilateral institutions committed $4.8 billion to fossil fuel between 2016 and 2021, with African Development Bank, AfDB, World Bank Group and Africa Ex-Im Bank contributing the lion share (63%) (Geuskens and Butijn, 2022). Interestingly, AfDB and World Bank currently have different projects and programme on clean energy and climate mitigation and adaptation in Africa. Yet, they are committing more and more resources to fossil fuel.  This underscores the reality that these institutions of global finance capital are only serving the interests of major big business whose main aim is to maximise profits at all costs, and are not prepared to commit much needed capital and resources to transit to clean and climate friendly energy and production systems.  It is important to note that oil exploration financing in Africa increased from $3.4 billion in 2020 to $5.1 billion in 2022, while 18 out of 45 countries where oil and gas are being prospected are frontier-countries, i.e. countries where oil and gas in being produced for the first time.


Half of the 20 companies developing the largest oil and gas upstream projects (12.27 billion barrel of oil equivalent, bboe) are from China, Japan, United Kingdom, France, United States and Italy. These companies, together hold 6.56  bboe, (53%) (Tucker and Reisch, 2021). Even those projects being developed by African state-owned companies like Nigeria’s NLNG, Algeria’s Sonatrach, Libya’s NOC, Mozambique’s ENH and Ghana’s Springfield, are mostly jointly owned or foreign debt- or equity-funded. Between 2021 and 2022, new projects have been added which include the Tanzania LNG Liquefaction Project ($30 billion), Rovuma (Mozambique) LNG Terminal Project ($30 billion), Etan and Zabazaba (Nigeria) oil fields ($13.5 billion), Algeria’s Berkine Basin Gas development ($4billion)  (Tucker and Reisch, 2021). 25% of the TotalEnergies’ fossil fuel production in 2021 came from Africa, while its new discovery in Namibia has fossil fuel reserve of 3 billion. The French multinational, which has been branding itself as promoter of energy transition, is adding 2.27 billion barrels of oil equivalent to its investment in Africa in the short term.


The continuous investment in fossil fuel again knocks a big hole in the purported and much touted climate action commitments of developed economies, multilateral institutions representing global finance capital, and global multinational corporations, especially in Africa. Their climate funding in Africa, aside being grossly inadequate and meagre, is also aimed at deepening underdevelopment and poverty in Africa. Yet, their commitment to fossil fuel is extremely legendary. Therefore, it will be self-delusion to expect global finance capital, developed countries and their multilateral agencies, to genuinely play any serious role in climate sustainability in Africa. Rather, they will use climate change as disguise to further exploit Africa’s resources, and plunge it into deeper debt holes and underdevelopment.


The increasing investment in fossil fuel will increase Africa’s carbon emission and raise Africa’s share of contribution to climate change. In 2021, Africa contributed 3.9% (1.45 billion tonnes of CO2 eq.) of global carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel and industry (Ritchie, et al, 2020)[3] . According to report by a group of NGOs (Tucker and Reisch, 2021)[4], if the largest upstream oil and gas projects worth 12.27 bboe come on stream, it will add 4.54 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2eq ); more than three time Africa’s 2021 emissions. New coal projects is expected to add 105,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Furthermore, some 7 million boe/day will be produced in Africa in 2025, which will add 3.01 million tCO2eq  per day (or 1.08 billion tCO2eq  per year) (Tucker and Reisch, 2021). It will subsequently increase global emission and make it difficult to reverse climate change and its terrible outcomes. This is dangerous for Africa, which already is bearing an unfair and disproportionate impacts of climate change, a situation that will get irreversible and terribly worse if global temperature rises to 1.50C or 20C.


Secondly, fossil fuel exploration is associated with environmental degradation and pollution. Large scale oil exploration and production have been associated with destruction of natural forests, air and ocean pollution and displacement of indigenous people. Several reports have highlighted various impacts on health, livelihood and environment of oil and gas production in Africa[5] [6] [7].


Moreover, the economic implication of fossil fuel production put the continent on the road another round of economic crisis. This is because some of the oil and gas projects will turn oil producing Africa countries, whose main public revenues come from fossil fuel production to be more oil-wealth dependent. This will mean that global transition to clean energy, even on basis of current slower scale, will lead to serious strain, if not collapse, of the economies of these countries. Seven African countries (Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Gabon, Libya and Republic of Congo), depend on oil and gas as source of revenue for between 35% to 82% of their governments’ revenues; while oil and gas share of GDP of at least eight countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Algeria, Chad, Angola, Gabon and Libya) range between 10% to 64%. Fall in oil and gas price and demand will seriously affect their revenues and GDP. This will lead to new debt burden, introduction of austerity, and social crisis. It will also make it difficult for them to lock out or exit fossil economy. This will also impact their ability to withstand and adapt to climate change impacts, which will worsen in the coming period.


Furthermore, oil and gas investments in Africa pose serious financial risks for Africa. Some of the finances for the African oil and gas projects are secured by national governments, especially those sponsored by governments. Some of these projects have tendency of being abandoned, especially when crude oil price fall. This was witnessed during the Covid-19 period (Le Bec, 2020)[8], which led to serious fall in crude oil and gas prices, leading to fiscal and balance of payment problems for many oil exporting African countries (lower revenues, higher debts, foreign exchange crisis, etc.). The Covid-19 economic crisis led to downgrade of Africa’s oil and gas growth from 32% increase to 24% decline between 2020 and 2050 (56% downgrade). It also led to capital loss of $25 billion in the oil and gas sector in Africa (Bostan and Waters, 2020)[9], as some of the projects on stream were cancelled or postponed.


A specific example is the Dangote oil refineries in Nigeria, conceived and started in 2013, and was expected to be completed in three years, but extended to 2023, and will not be fully operational until 2025 (Sguazzin, 2023). The delay was occasioned by series of global and local economic crises including two national economic recessions. The project sum increased from $9 billion to $20 billion (Sguazzin, 2023)[10], and will possibly cost more in the coming years for the refineries to fully come on stream. Though partly funded locally by banks and Dangote businesses, yet the Nigerian government insured the projects and had to commit billions of dollars in public funds to support the project, including a $2.76 billion commitment as equity in the refinery[11] (obviously to save the company from liquidity problem). Yet, majority of Nigerians still pay heavily for fuel, while only about 54% of the population have access to the very unstable power supply. The state-owned refineries under the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have been grounded due to corruption, deliberate sabotage and mismanagement; and are only able to refine less than 10% of its installed capacity.


If the political pressure mounts on governments of developed economies on climate change, which can compel a shift towards renewable energy, this can affect oil prices and lead to collapse of some, if not many, of the oil and gas projects in Africa. This will have serious impact on finance of African countries, which include but not limited to loss of revenue, capital, increasing cost of borrowing and debt overhang. About $245 billion of gas investment on stream until 2030 are at risk of becoming stranded assets (Cavcic, 2023)[12], even if minimal efforts are taken towards climate change. Even for projects that are not abandoned, an increased shift towards renewable energy may affect access to capital for such projects, which will elongate their completion time and increase the tenor of loans incurred for them.


Beyond the financial and fiscal problems to be unleashed by the oil and gas projects and investments in Africa, is the adverse impact on transition towards clean energy and climate solution. With increased oil investments and capital, oil and gas producing countries are locked into the fossil economy. This will make transition towards clean energy difficult. Given also that most of the oil and gas projects in Africa are owned and controlled by foreign multinational corporations and financial institutions, with governments of developed economies and multilateral organizations playing key roles in securing these projects, it is expected that clean energy and climate action policies in Africa will be undermined and sabotaged.

Kola Ibrahim, an author and scholar-activist, is a public intellectual and climate justice researcher and campaigner.


[1] Kola Ibrahim, an author and scholar-activist, is a public intellectual and climate justice researcher and campaigner. He can be reached at:, or contacted through: +234 *059399178. This essay is an edited excerpt from his forthcoming book on climate imperialism in Africa.

[2] Geuskens, I. and Butijn, H. (2022). locked out of a Just Transition: Fossil fuel financing in Africa,. BankTrack, Oil Change International and Milieudefensie. Available at:

[3] Ritchie, H., Roser, M. and Rosado, P. (2020). CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

[4] Tucker, B. and Reisch, N. (2021). The Sky’s Limit Africa: The Case for a Just Energy Transition from Fossil Fuel Production in Africa. Oil Change International. Available at:

[5] (This website supplies data on various oil spill in the Nigeria’s Niger Delta)

[6] Bryan, T., Virdin, J., Vegh, T., Kot, C. Y., Cleary, J. and Halpin. P.N. (2020). Blue carbon conservation in West Africa: A first assessment of feasibility. Journal of Coastal Conservation, Vol. 24, No. 8

[7] Ugochukwu, C. N. C. and Ertel, J. (2008). Negative impacts of oil exploration on biodiversity management in the Niger De area of Nigeria. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, Vol, 26, No.2, pp. 139-147, DOI: 10.3152/146155108X316397A

[8] Le Pec, C. (2020). Coronavirus: Pandemic puts strain 30 major African oil and gas projects. The Africa Report. Available at:

[9] Bostan, R. and Waters, N. (2020). Africa set to lose out on USD25 billion in investment amid global upstream flux. S&P Global Commodity Insights. 12 November, 2020.

[10] Sguazzin, A. (2023). Dangote Refinery Opens With Fanfare But No Fuel Yet. Bloomberg. Next Africa Newsletter, 23 May, 2023.

[11] Onua, F. (2021). NNPC to buy 20% stake in Dangote's oil refinery for $2.76 bln. Reuters. 4 August, 2021.

[12] Cavcic, M. (2023). Gas investments worth $245 billion across Africa in risk of becoming stranded assets. Offshore Energy. 3 January, 2023.