Nathalie Lum Chairwoman of CABEF discusses important issues related to CAPS project. She gives a better understanding of this crucial project, and it helps raise awareness of the importance of this project for all Central
Here is the full version of her interview with the Mongabay journal.
1. First of all, I was wondering what was the motivation for such a project?
Central Africa has an area of 6,640,000 km² with a population of over 185 million. When we approach the question of energy in Central Africa, the observation that immediately emerges is that of a striking paradox. Paradox of a region with enormous energy potential, which contrasts with a relatively low level of development due to the low energy supply. And yet, sometimes considered a “geological scandal”, Central Africa is one of the lungs of the planet, of which it is one of the main oil and aquifer provinces.
Indeed, its oil reserves are estimated at 31.3 billion barrels. Of the top ten oil reserves in Africa, five of them are in Central Africa (Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Angola). Its water resources are approximately 26,355m3/year per capita, while the average in Africa is 5,730m3 and the world average 7,600m3 per year and per capita. Its hydroelectric potential is estimated at 653,361 GWh, or 58% of that of the continent. The speech I gave in 2021 in Congo and also last year in Douala Cameroon about the little girl Mariam from Chad and Mami Tchop from Douala presents the very urgency of this issue of energy poverty. Mariam is the little girl I was and Mami Tchop is the woman I am today.
Aware of the importance of energy in the perspective of development, and resolutely turned towards emergence, the CABEF that I lead aims to fight vigorously for the survival of the entire region by forming a bloc facing the the West, which wants to force the countries concerned to abandon fossil fuels in order to implement their energy transition policies. It is therefore a question of making the Member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) as much as possible aware of the issues and challenges to be taken up by all so that the region can take advantage of its resources for development. Harmonious and efficient. We must here speak of the energy emergence of Central Africa
2. What will be your contribution to the project?
The first step was to create awareness on the need for Central African countries to realize the need for change. This was done by the Congo conference in 2021. From there the CAPS project was born. The CAPS project was presented at CABEF event in September 9th in Douala, Cameroon.
This led to the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the construction of a sub-regional pipeline between the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO) and us, CABEF, demonstrating the will to take concrete action. CABEF, APPO and direct and indirect investors have set themselves the ambition of building, by 2030, a multinational oil and gas pipeline system of around 6,500 kilometers linking 11 countries for the energy emergence of Central Africa.
NATURAL GAS and REFINED OIL products need to easily circulate among the countries, fostering investments in multi-billion dollar petrochemical facilities, power plants, and terminals to boost the economy of the central Africa community and neighboring countries.
3. How did you choose the participating countries?
ECCAS aims to develop capacities to maintain peace, security, and stability as essential prerequisites for economic and social development; to develop physical, economic, and monetary integration; to develop a culture of human integration and to establish an autonomous financing mechanism for ECCAS. The implementation of the project will be done in two phases
4. Why did you choose these countries for phase 1
The first phase (CAPS 1) includes the countries of the CEMAC region (Gabon, Guinea Equatorial, Cameroon, Chad and Republic of Central Africa). The selection is based on the existing framework to establish an economic union and a monetary union among the member States. These 6 countries already enjoy free trade agreements and belong to the same economic and monetary zone. Moreover, there do have cross-border infrastructures between some of these countries such as the Cameroon-Chad crude oil pipeline of 1070 km.
5. There is no impact study on the site, can you tell us more?
An SPV (CAPS Development LLC) create under the leadership of APPO and CABEF will work with a chosen international consultant will conduct a feasibility study this year, 2023.
6. Do you have a more precise timeline for the implementation of phase 1?
Once the Feasibility Study is completed, we will have a clear indication of the bankability of the project. From our preliminary schedule estimate, the feasibility study should take from 12 to 18 months to be completed. At this moment in time, the project will move into the FEED phase and then into execution.
7. How will the project be funded?
We are fine-tuning that at the moment. But we have few CEMAC countries that have pledged substantial funding support as well as a couple of financial institutions.
8. Some countries like CAR have real governance problems, aren’t you afraid that this will affect the project?
CAR has the highest energy poverty level in the Central Africa sub-region. They do not have proven reserves of oil or gas and rely 100% on energy importation. CAR is landlocked without access to the sea.
The government of CAR received the project with a lot of excitement. I am sure they will work with us to make it possible for their people to have reliable energy which will enable Africans to have improved access to food good health system, shelter, and education. Without energy this cannot be possible.
9. what about security issues?
We will be working with government institutions and government agencies to address security issues for the project.
10. Why would you choose to build a pipeline when this area has?
Any pipeline that would be built would require proper environmental studies as we are well aware of the impact of such a project on the environment. We do take this very seriously.
11. will populations be displaced? if so, how will they be relocated?
The CAPS pipeline project will be bound by international standards and compliance requirements in order to minimize the impact on local populations. These standards require that before any population displacement takes place, affected populations must be consulted and informed of the project’s potential impacts.
The project shall also provide fair and equitable compensation for land and resources taken away, and relocation assistance to those who need it. Relocation assistance may include housing, access to public services, livelihood opportunities, and other measures that help affected people get back on their feet.
In addition, the CAPS pipeline project shall ensure that people are not left worse off than before, either in terms of material possessions, living conditions, or social and cultural values. In any case, the Social and Environmental Impact study shall determine if population will be displaced or not.
12. Will the gas benefit the people? Is there sufficient infrastructure?
The development of gas resources in Central Africa has the potential to bring significant economic and social benefits to the people of the region. Access to reliable, affordable energy can help reduce poverty, attract investments, and create jobs, while also providing an important source of revenue for governments. However, there are a number of challenges that must be addressed to ensure that the full benefits of gas development are realized.
One of the key factors in the success of any gas development project is the availability of sufficient infrastructure. In many parts of Central Africa, existing infrastructure is inadequate to support the development of new gas projects. This includes the need for pipelines and other related infrastructure such as storage and processing facilities. In addition, access to electricity grids is limited in many areas, meaning that gas needs to be transported to end-users.
In order to maximize the benefits of gas development in Central Africa, governments and private companies through PPP programs must invest in necessary infrastructure. This includes improvements to existing infrastructure, such as pipelines and power grids, as well as the construction of new infrastructure where needed. In addition, investors should also prioritize investment in skills and training, to ensure that local communities are able to take full advantage of the opportunities created by gas development.
Overall, while there are significant challenges to overcome, gas development in Central Africa has the potential to bring considerable economic and social benefits to the region. With the right investment in infrastructure and capacity-building, the people of Central Africa can look forward to a prosperous future.
13. Why not invest in green energy for the development of Central Africa?
Investing in green energy for the development of Central Africa is a great idea, and one that should be considered. There are a number of benefits to investing in green energy, including reducing emissions and helping to protect the environment. Additionally, green energy can help to create jobs and provide additional income to those living in the region.
For the CAPS project, we are seriously considering an energy mix. When considering an energy mix for Central Africa, it is important to take into account both the environmental and economic benefits of different types of energy. For example, a combination of solar, wind, and hydropower can provide clean, efficient, and cost-effective energy. Additionally, these sources of energy can also be used to produce electricity, which can help to meet the increasing demand for energy in the region.
However, it is important to consider the current energy infrastructure in the region and the challenges that come with transitioning to renewable energy sources. Many countries in Central Africa lack the necessary technology and infrastructure to support an effective transition to green energy. Additionally, many of these countries are dependent on the export of oil and gas, which helps provide them with income to support the development of their economies.
Moreover, while renewable energy is an important part of any energy mix, it is also important to consider other sources of energy such as natural gas. Natural gas is a reliable source of energy that can provide an affordable and stable source of electricity. Additionally, natural gas is a clean burning fuel that produces fewer emissions making it a good choice for countries looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Ultimately, the best energy mix for Central Africa will depend on the specific needs and goals of the region. A combination of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources can provide a balanced approach to energy development that can benefit both the environment and the economy.
If there is ever a topic you wish to discuss, please do not hesitate.
I remain available for any questions.
Natalie LUM, CABEF Chairwoman.