OPINION: Fears are growing that Islamist insurgents from Africa’s Sahel region could destabilise countries to the south and west — some of them oil and gas rich — because of the growing governance vacuum in Mali.

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo warned this week of the insurgency’s spread beyond its heartlands in Mali and said it could pose a serious threat to coastal nations.

“Today the terrorist groups, emboldened by their success in the regions, are seeking new grounds,” he said, stressing that “the worsening situation... threatens to engulf the entire West Africa region”.

Akufo-Addo was speaking at a security forum in Accra, where his view was endorsed by Charles Michel, president of the European Council, who said: “For years, we’ve been talking about the risk of contagion of terrorist threat from Sahel to coastal states. It is not a risk any more but a reality.”

Michel called on Europe and the West to re-engage with Sahelian nations alongside regional partners to counter the insurgency.

A security source in northwest Africa told Upstream worries are growing about the potential movement of Islamists from Mali into neighbouring Senegal, partly due to a lack of modern border controls.

It is understood this situation is causing unease within Senegal’s main upstream actors, BP and Woodside, due to security concerns for personnel and onshore infrastructure.

This Sahel insurgency cannot be allowed to spread.

Otherwise, Africa will have on its hands another Cabo Delgado — Mozambique’s gas-rich province where onshore liquefied natural gas projects remain under force majeure due to security threats posed by Islamists.

(This is an Upstream opinion article).

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