Skip to content
Julian Lee

Africa Shows How Hard It's Becoming to Pump Crude Oil

Crude production in western Africa has fallen by one-third since 2010 and will drop again this year.

In deep waters off west Africa.

In deep waters off west Africa.

Photographer: George Osodi

The world’s infrastructure to pump crude out of the ground is creaking, and nowhere is that more apparent than off the west coast of Africa. Years of under-investment, theft, sabotage and civil strife have combined with harsh operating conditions to undermine the region’s oil production, sending it into a slump from which it may never recover.

In 2010, west African countries were pumping close to 5.5 million barrels a day of crude and condensate, about 7% of global production. By 2021, that had fallen to little more than 3.5 million barrels a day, and the region’s share of the total had dropped by two percentage points. This year will see levels fall further.