Gas-to-power (GtP) projects have been a rarity in Sub-Saharan Africa, but governments finally seem to acknowledge the window of opportunity to tap abundant indigenous gas resources may only last another 20 to 30 years.
Only last week, Wartsila signed a deal to build a GtP power plant in Gabon, while Sasol is building a facility in Mozambique and many others are planned for the region.
As the energy transition bites, gas' inherent value will increase and lead Sub-Saharan Africa governments to realise that gas can provide power to their burgeoning populations.
Tanzania was a frontrunner, launching its Songo Songo project in 2004 with financial support from a prescient International Finance Corporation.
Songo Songo was ahead of its time — perhaps too far ahead, because few nations followed in the footsteps of the bold Arusha government.
The Kudu and Ibhubesi projects in Namibia and South Africa faded in and out of the picture before an unlikely champion — Victoria Oil & Gas — emerged in Cameroon and managed to get a GtP project off the ground near Douala.
If a junior company that cultivated good relationships with Yaounde could get it done, what was there to stop other players doing the same? Well, they were manifold.
Africa’s political classes seemed content to feather nests instead of invest in power provision, while overseas investors only had eyes for gas exports.
To be fair, a lack of creditworthy indigenous gas or electricity buyers scared off investors, while many countries could not raise finance for their sclerotic state-owned utilities to underpin gas sales or power purchase deals.
In the past five years, the political and business environment has changed, and conditions are now ripe for GtP schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Nigeria — the region’s biggest economy — determined that the next 10 years are the “decade of gas”.
The region has huge untapped gas resources. The quicker they are exploited for domestic use, the better for governments, their populations and the climate.