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US President Donald Trump’s inappropriate remarks last week, referring to African nations as “s***hole” countries, has left the country’s energy trade with Africa in a precarious position.

According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration has dispatched its top energy and environmental officials to woo potential African buyers of US energy.

Speaking at a conference in South Africa in October last year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, stressed: “We want to be your partner,” adding that the US could “export not only LNG [liquefied natural gas] but also the technology and infrastructure to build gas economies across Africa.”

Net energy exporter

With a goal to become a net exporter of energy globally, the US is pushing for the sale of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

However, Trump’s public actions could prove detrimental rather than beneficial.

David Victor, professor of international relations at the University of California at San Diego, said: “Comments like those made by Trump last week undercut the soft power of the US and tarnish the country’s reputation — and the reputation of Trump himself.”

Victor added: “They probably create some domestic politics problems for countries that want to buy LNG from US suppliers.

“The role of government in blessing or pushing these things — especially in market-oriented economies like the United States — is easy to overstate.”

As the infrastructure required for the import and export of LNG is extensive and complex, media noted that there is a high need for intergovernmental cooperation rather than the average overseas transaction.

Looking closer to home

Africa is historically an oil and gas resource-rich continent, with sub-Saharan Africa home to a significant amount of natural gas.

Antony Goldman, an independent energy analyst highlighted that it would be more affordable for South Africa, the continent’s third-largest economy, to build pipelines to gas fields to the north in Mozambique than it is to import gas by tanker [from the US], Goldman said.

In addition, Morocco could get gas from its North African neighbours and recent discoveries in East Africa could entice Egypt as a potential buyer.

“The ability to produce gas at a much closer market is very real in Africa,” Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Centre for Liquefied Natural Gas, a lobbying group, said.

Therefore, despite growing efforts to secure a long-term relationship with Africa as an LNG offtaker, “the need to import US LNG is probably pretty unlikely,” Riedl said.


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