Sub-Saharan Africa has 62.6bn barrels of proven oil reserves, which is just 7% of the volume of the region with the world’s biggest reserves, the Middle East. Production averaged 5.88m b/d in 2012, up from 4.6% in 2003, and equivalent to about 7% of total global production. The Middle East accounted for 30%, North America 20% and Europe just 4%. However, when North Africa is added to the mix, the continent as a whole accounted for about 12% of global oil production.
Sub-Saharan output has increased by an average of 3% a year over the past decade, with Angola contributing most growth. The US Energy Information Administration forecasts that production increased by 3% last year and will jump by 8% in 2014 as a result of new field development in Ghana, Nigeria and Angola. However, the rate of growth over the next few years depends to a large extent on the security situation in South Sudan.
The 15 existing oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, which are listed in Table 4, are likely to be joined by Uganda and Madagascar at some stage over the next five years. To these 17, we can add four North African producers – Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt – plus two countries that produce gas but not oil: Tanzania and Mozambique. This gives a grand total of 23 oil and gas producers on the continent as a whole. Kenya could join this list in the longer term, but most African countries will still not produce significant volumes of oil and gas.
Africa consumes just 3.5m barrels of oil a day, equivalent to just 3.86% of global demand, although the reliability of statistics is open to question. The International Energy Agency believes that “African oil demand growth has been significantly underestimated” and adds: “Much of the recent historical data on African oil demand has become increasingly inconsistent with the region’s strengthening macroeconomics.” Nevertheless, African per capita energy consumption is certainly very low.
The biggest markets for African crude oil in 2012 were China (22%), the US (13%), India (11%), the Netherlands (6%) and Spain (5%). Just 6% of African oil production was exported to other African countries.
Successive US governments had expected to source an increasing proportion of oil imports from the Gulf of Guinea because of fears over instability in other parts of the world and rising production capacity in Nigeria and Angola.
However, North America now produces far more light, sweet oil – which is easier to refine – than was originally anticipated. This has therefore curtailed demand for African oils, including Nigeria’s own Bonny Light. Nigeria now accounts for just 5% of US oil imports. As a result, the European Union is now by far the biggest destination for Nigerian oil.
Nigerian crude oil production fell from 2.44m b/d in 2005 to 2.10m b/d in 2012, despite the fact that new fields were brought on stream. A combination of oil theft, sabotage and delayed investment cut at least 25% from production capacity.
The government’s plan to raise national production capacity to 4m b/d seemed technically possible but was rendered impossible because of the poor security situation. In addition, the slow pace of gas and power sector reform delayed gas to power projects and a string of planned new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.