OPEC's Newest Member Urges African Nations to Join Oil Group

  • Equatorial Guinea tells fellow producers: ‘Defend your base’
  • Changing energy landscape requires cooperation, minister says

Equatorial Guinea, OPEC’s newest member, called on fellow African producers to band together to protect the value of their oil resources and join the group.

As more discoveries are made across the continent, cooperation among producers is key, the nation’s Minister of Mines, Industry and Energy Gabriel Obiang told a conference in Cape Town. “Have a principle and defend your base,” he said, wryly referencing a strategy of U.S. President Donald Trump. 

Equatorial Guinea joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries last month, making the group the largest it’s ever been. Although small, the country is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer, after Nigeria and Angola. Like other oil-rich nations, including top exporter Saudi Arabia, Equatorial Guinea is preparing for a world where energy demand veers away from crude.

“If in 10 years, oil becomes a commodity that the developed countries don’t want -- they want to focus on just gas, solar -- what are the African countries going to do?” Obiang said Tuesday. “It’s very important to know what our brothers, our bigger brothers in the region, what Nigeria is doing, what Algeria is doing” and communicate that throughout the continent, he said.

Energy Evolution

While the International Energy Agency currently forecasts an increase in global oil consumption over the next two decades, it has outlined alternative scenarios in which fuels such as natural gas could displace about 13.5 million barrels of demand by 2040, while efficiency gains and a move to electric cars could remove millions more. An organization such as OPEC is vital in supporting oil producers as the energy landscape changes, according to Obiang.

“African countries that are producing the same as Equatorial Guinea, or even more than Equatorial Guinea, I encourage them to join OPEC because that’s the platform that is definitely going to be fighting for your own resources,” he said.

Fitch Ratings’ BMI Research questioned the effectiveness of such a strategy, saying countries should focus more on attracting investors.

“Without the expertise of international oil companies, it’s likely that a lot of oil will be left undeveloped, especially offshore,” Christopher Haines, head of oil and gas at BMI, said by email. “Improving investment environments and fiscal structures would be far more beneficial to oil-producing countries than protectionist measures.”

Equatorial Guinea, in West Central Africa, is pushing to increase its oil production to 300,000 barrels a day in two years and 500,000 a day in five years, from about 269,000 a day now. It opened a licensing round last year to bring in foreign investors for exploration projects.

“The key thing for us is: to have more production, we have to have more discoveries,” Obiang said.

Winners of the licensing round, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Ophir Energy Plc, were announced Monday.

Obiang is one of the younger sons of President Teodoro Obiang, the longest-running head of state in Africa. Teodoro Obiang assumed power in 1979 in a military coup that ousted his own uncle, Francisco Macias, who had ruled the country since independence from Spain in 1968.

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