For Yero Sarr, the matter is clear: “The Federal Republic of Germany must not take part in this project,” says the Senegalese activist. His government and the Federal Republic, on the other hand, see it very differently. Because it’s not just any project Sarr is talking about. It’s about huge gas deposits off Senegal’s coast, Germany’s energy supply and German-African relations.
The first gas from the Greater Torture Ahmeyim field is scheduled to flow from December 2023. For starters, Senegal’s government expects 2.5 million tons a year. The necessary work is underway, including a floating terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) under construction. From 2030, even 10 million tons of gas could be extracted. But for this, Senegal’s government needs partners. “That’s why I asked Chancellor Scholz to accompany us in supporting the export of gas and LNG resources to Europe and in enabling us to use this gas for our power plants,” said President Macky Sall after an interview with Chancellor Olaf Scholz in May.
Germany’s interest is obvious, after all the federal government has been desperately looking for new suppliers since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. “Following these talks, we will continue this very intensively at the technical level because it is simply something that makes sense to follow closely,” said Chancellor Scholz after the meeting with Sall.
Environmental aid: “Violates the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement”
Environmentalists, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to gain from the rosy vision of a joint gas partnership. “It is absolutely unacceptable for the federal government to travel to other countries and launch joint new fossil projects there. That goes against the spirit of the Paris climate protection agreement,” Sascha Müller-Kraenner from the German Environmental Aid agency told DW. Actually, Germany and the other G7 industrialized countries had committed themselves to stop investing public money in fossil energy sources. But in view of the Ukraine crisis, the decision has been softened.
In the fishing town of Bargny, the rise in sea level due to climate change is already a danger – the sea and fishermen would face further problems as a result of gas production
A huge setback for the international climate goals, says environmental aid and fears even more: “The gas drilling off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania have a massive impact on the local fishing industry, on the people there, on their jobs and of course on nature “, fears Müller-Kraenner. A marine toad sanctuary with UNESCO World Heritage status and the largest cold-water coral reef in the world lie off the Senegalese coast. Environmentalists fear production platforms, pipelines, a proposed breakwater and other infrastructure could cause significant damage to sensitive areas.
Federal government: “absolutely the right option”
The federal government is still behind the project. Germany only wants to use gas until it can cover its energy needs entirely from renewable sources. It is an “absolutely right option” if Senegal uses its gas fields for its own transition to renewable energies, but is also available as a supplier for others, said State Secretary in the Development Ministry, Joachim Flasbarth, at the end of June. During his visit, Chancellor Scholz also promised to expand cooperation on renewable energies – for example with a so-called “climate partnership”.
“Climate partners” and gas friends? – Senegal’s President Macky Sall showed his guest Olaf Scholz a solar park in May
The German Reconstruction Loan Corporation is already promoting a solar power plant near the capital Dakar. In the future, Senegal wants to cover 30 percent of its electricity needs with renewable energies. However, President Macky Sall also believes that we cannot do without gas. 1.3 billion people live on the African continent, 600 million of whom have no access to electricity. “You also have to support industrialization,” Sall demanded during Scholz’s visit in May.
Afrikaverein: “an essential step”
Business representatives are also in favor of the gas project. “It is an essential step to strengthen and deepen energy cooperation with the African continent as a whole. It is somewhat unfortunate that we are only doing this now, when we are having acute problems due to the failure of gas supplies from Russia,” says Christoph Kannengiesser from the Africa Association of the German economy to DW. Germany is still dependent on gas imports and cannot cover all of its energy needs from sustainable sources.
This coal-fired power plant provides electricity for Senegal – and covers the area with a fine layer of dust
However, it is unclear what will ultimately remain of the beautiful prospects of joint German-Senegalese cooperation. Because it is not clear what the talks announced by the Chancellor have achieved. A DW request to the Federal Ministry of Economics remained unanswered.