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Abdelhamid Al-Dabaiba’s government has granted permission for the construction of two highly ambitious power generation projects. Cork-based AG Energy, with links to the former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, is in line to build what could be Libya’s first private sector solar PV plant. Qatar-based Urbacon Trading and Construction (UCC) has been authorised to build a large gas-fired plant in Zliten. Neither company has built power plants in Libya until now, but UCC has teamed up with Germany’s Siemens Energy, Tripoli-based Acesco Consulting Engineering and Services and Philadelphia-based Hill International, who bring substantial experience in major construction projects in the country, while AG has been promoting projects in Libya and the wider region for a decade.

Libya
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After years of delay, the Petroleum Industry Bill has finally been approved by Nigeria’s parliament – albeit in different versions by the National Assembly’s two chambers. It promises substantial benefits for gas and other under-performing hydrocarbons-based industries and reforms to areas of government in profound need of overhaul. The critical question remains whether the bill is enough to galvanise the economy and industry when implementation could take many years, write Jon Marks and Ajay Ubhi

Nigeria
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Equatorial Guinea has signalled that an agreement with Gazprom, Lukoil and Rosneft could emerge from the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on 23-24 October. A Russian news report, retweeted by minister of mines and hydrocarbons Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, quoted the minister as saying the Equatorial Guinea delegation, to be led by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, would not come to the summit “empty-handed”.

Equatorial Guinea
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President George Weah on 16 October signed into law the amended Petroleum Act of 2019, which aims to update the 2014 law as part of efforts to revive offshore oil and gas exploration. The law increases block sizes to a maximum of 3,500km2, from 2,000km2 previously. National Oil Company of Liberia (Nocal) is working with TGS-Nopec to re-draw the blocks. The re-sized blocks will align with the Global Grid System as mandated by the Economic Community of West African States for its members, Nocal said.

Liberia
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Sonatrach director-general Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour regularly tours the hydrocarbons giant’s sprawling empire, rallying workers and telling journalists about Algeria’s return to producing oil and gas on a global scale, after years of corruption scandals and management inertia. On his 8 February visit to Hassi R’Mel, he announced that Sonatrach would invest $56bn in 2018-22. In an interview, he referred to discussions with Total on an unspecified $5bn project. After a long period of tensions with the French major, this is likely to be a major new petrochemicals project, giving further substance to claims Algeria is back as a force in the industry.

Algeria
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The incoming administration in Accra is faced with a power industry dominated by heavily indebted public utilities, inadequate regulation and 43 power purchase agreements signed by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) without a clear least cost or procurement plan. With the need for additional capacity unclear, the government is focusing on transmission, distribution and renewable energy. “Energy challenges have to be seen holistically,” deputy energy minister Joseph Cudjoe told the Ghana Trade and Investment Forum in London on 28 June, adding that “the problems facing the energy sector are not technical but financial”.

Ghana
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Electricity generation across Nigeria reached 4GW in July, the Presidential Task Force on Power has announced. This is a step forward for Nigeria’s chronically underperforming industry, but shows that output remains way off peak demand of 14GW. Similarly, the transmission network’s capacity reached a new peak of 4.6GW as of 30 July, but this was not enough to fight off fierce criticism of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).TCN is run under management contract by Canada’s Manitoba Hydro International (MHI).

Nigeria
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Total and Kosmos Energy have both signed a Joint Declaration of Principles with the Moroccan government setting out commitments regarding exploration and any eventual development in the disputed Western Sahara. Kosmos said the declaration signed on 19 December 2013 outlined commitments on exploration activities and the key principles under which development would proceed if commercially viable hydrocarbon deposits were discovered. It stated that any such development would be undertaken in accordance with international standards, including those in the United Nations Charter and in the 2002 UN legal opinion on resource development in the territory.

Morocco
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The government has promised to pay $1.5bn of the $6bn it says it owes oil firms in an effort to revive investor confidence and boost investment in the energy sector. “There is approval to pay $1.5bn,” interim prime minister Hazem El-Beblawi told a business conference in Cairo on 4 December aimed at attracting investment from Gulf states. While oil companies remain undeterred by Egypt’s political upheavals, stressing that both onshore and offshore operations are unaffected, they are suffering a growing financial burden from unpaid arrears owed to them by Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries.

Egypt
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Democratic Republic of Congo has the resources – if not yet the right governance framework – to help meet rising global demand for rare earth minerals. China has so far made much of the running with such resources, prompting economic and strategic concern in the US and Europe where DRC’s potential has not gone unnoticed, writes François Misser.

DR Congo
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The Hichilema government says it wants to resolve the long-running dispute between Zesco and CEC, but the duelling companies continue to operate in parallel universes of competing claims around tariffs and arrears, while state miners’ financial shortfalls add to problems, write Dan Marks and Chiwoyu Sinyangwe.

Zambia
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Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed is set to claim beefed-up powers under a new authoritarian constitution, via a referendum planned for 25 July. That may allow for progress on long-delayed renewable power projects, but his critics say the president has not prepared the population for some tough measures that are needed to prevent economic collapse, as state budgets are squeezed and unemployment and inflation increase.

Tunisia
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As African Energy editor Thalia Griffiths leaves to explore new opportunities, colleagues asked for her take on developments after 23 years leading the publication. For all the tragedies like the current Ethiopian conflict, she sees real hope for a better future on a continent where, in many places, governance has improved and previously marginalised populations are becoming empowered to enact positive change.

Ghana | Mozambique | South Sudan | Angola | Nigeria | Uganda
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The coronavirus pandemic has so far been characterised by the dramatic speed of infection and a rapid escalation of policy responses by governments. While Africa has so far been less affected than Europe, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March announced a 21-day lockdown to begin on 26 March, and it is likely that many more countries will follow. The continent has had at least 2,000 recorded cases, mostly among people travelling from Europe, and almost certainly many more in reality.

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The Nigerian government is caught between a rock and a hard place as it tries to square the need to reduce subsidies to the electricity sector with protecting customers and the economy from price rises when they are already hard hit by Covid-19. Distribution companies (discos) are absorbing substantial losses due to reductions in industrial demand and challenges protecting revenue through disconnections and meter inspections. However, there is some confidence that the sector continues to move in the right direction, with enthusiasm about better collaboration between stakeholders and initiatives for franchises within existing disco boundaries.

Nigeria