By Joe Odaby
Juba, South Sudan — September 12, 2013 … The leading South Sudanese think-tank, The Fashoda Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies, has published the strategic analysis of the regional perspectives of Central Africa. Its conclusion: South Sudan, Central African Republic and Cameroon are set to become an energy alternative to the Gulf of Guinea.
The Fashoda’s experts point out that given the instability of Nigeria and limited energy resources of other Gulf of Guinea states – Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo – finding a long-term substitute or back-up for Nigeria is the main challenge for the global energy markets. Moreover, in seeking long-term solutions, the preference of the West (including Russia) is to continue relying on, and even expanding, the transportation infrastructure from the Gulf of Guinea.
Tankers that can no longer load in Nigeria can be diverted to load elsewhere in the area – most likely Cameroon’s seaports.
From a geological point of view – the untapped reserves of the Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic are the most promising alternate energy resources. “Production will be expensive initially because the virtual absence of infrastructure in both countries will necessitate major investments in electricity supplies, railroads, pipelines and simple roads”, argues the Fashoda Institute. “However, in view of the magnitude of the estimated reserves and the long-term potential of both countries – the early cost of infrastructure is not considered prohibitive or alarming.
In recent months, experts in both Western Europe and Russia have focused on the band/strip comprised of the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Cameroon as both a viable region for accelerated development in the near future and the core of a wider regional alliance”.
“The real challenge is the long-term political stability and predictability of governments and leaders”, stress the analysis. “The West (including Russia) is determined to ascertain the willingness, readiness and ability of local governments to commit to long-term cooperation. The commitment of both Juba and Bangui to democracy, rule of law and forthcoming elections give hope because democratic states tend to abide by official institutional commitments. Initial contacts and discussions, especially with South Sudanese officials, were promising. Senior officials from both countries showed interest in the various ideas the West has for regional development”.
The Fashoda Institute’s report has criticized South Sudan and CAR because “high-level decision making remains slow in both Juba and Bangui”. However, it pointed out that “after the alarm caused by the Nigeria crisis – there emerges a new sense of urgency in the West and a desire, if not determination, to quickly confirm policies and lock long-term cooperation”.
The strategic analysis has also noted that “there are hopeful signs that both Juba and Bangui are ready to expedite the process. The successful visit to Khartoum by President Salva Kiir and the completion of the agreement on sustained oil exports via the Port Sudan pipeline should ameliorate the immense financial burden on South Sudan and should finally enable official Juba to focus on long-term development. The swearing in of President Michel Djotodia in Bangui as a civilian leader signifies the beginning of the transformation of governance and the slow progress toward long-term development (not unexpected given the dire state of the Central African Republic).”
Encouragingly for the Central African region, the report says that “Western leaders and senior officials remain encouraged since both President Kiir and Pres. Djotodia expressed interest in principle in the regional development programs. However, official Juba and Bangui are yet to undertake concrete steps. This procrastination continues much to the chagrin of the key interested and committed foci of power in official Berlin, Moscow, London, Brussels and other capitals. Because of the Nigeria crisis, the expectations of Western leaders and senior officials that both Juba and Bangui will finally commit and start implementation will only keep growing”.
The analysis sums up the challenges and perspectives of the region: “The Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic are sovereign states. Both President Kiir and President Djotodia are honorable and patriotic leaders doing their very best for their respective countries. The West desperately needs the energy and mineral (including diamond) reserves and resources in both countries. Cameroon’s sea ports are the key to safe shipping to the West around West Africa and into the northern Atlantic.
These characteristics make the three countries an ideal location for long-term development and strategic cooperation that might further evolve and expand to the entire region. In as much as Western senior officials and experts still consider the band/strip comprised of the Republic of South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Cameroon to be both a viable region for accelerated development in the near future and the core of a wider regional alliance – these Western senior officials and experts are yearning for a glimpse of comprehension of the new sense of urgency from official Juba, Bangui and Yaounde. It is now incumbent upon the leaders and governments in Juba, Bangui and Yaounde to demonstrate that they are cognizant of the new sense of urgency in the West, and that they are ready to help the West help them turn around the heart of Africa”.