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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
US looks to Africa for 'secure oil'
Nigerian oil rig
African oil output is increasing rapidly

When President George W Bush held meetings with the Presidents of 11 African states on Friday, oil is likely to have been coupled with Iraq at the top of his agenda.

Most of the states involved in the meeting are either current oil producers or are involved in the expansion of oil exploration in the region.

The meetings come as the United States seeks alternative oil supplies from non-Middle Eastern sources, now that tension is growing there over US policy towards Iraq.

The US has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil over the last decade, importing around two-thirds of its requirements.

With much of the oil originating in the Gulf region or the Middle East, America fears its supplies would be susceptible to a negative Arab reaction to any US military action against Iraq.

In recent years, the country has imported more and more oil from sub-Saharan Africa - notably Nigeria and Angola.

President Bush saw the African leaders, most of them from West and Central Africa, in two sessions and discussed a wide range of issues from corruption and investment to Aids and conflict resolution. But oil will never have been far from his mind.

Non-Opec sources

The US imports more than 8.5 million barrels of oil every day.

Nearly two-thirds of the imports come from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada, with Nigeria, Kuwait, Algeria Norway and Britain supplying significant quantities.

African oil and the US
US imports two thirds of its oil needs
Most imported oil comes from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada
Sub-Saharan Africa is rapidly increasing its oil output
Africa could supply 25% of US oil by 2015

War with Iraq could endanger supplies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in the Gulf region and also from Algeria.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has warned that in the event of an attack on Iraq it is likely that Middle Eastern producers would "team up to cut oil production" thereby reducing supplies globally and pushing up prices.

Members of the oil producers organisation Opec could also be affected - disrupting Saudi, Algerian, Venezuelan and Nigerian supplies.

So the US is looking to other parts of the world for sources of supply.

Most of Africa's oil producers are not Opec members - notably Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon.

Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the fastest growing oil sectors in the world.

President Bush
A war with Iraq would affect oil supplies

Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville are all expanding their output and Chad, Cameroon and Sudan are in the race to catch up.

A US Government think-tank, the National Intelligence Council, has estimated that in just over a decade, West African oil exports to the US will constitute about 25% of US oil import requirements from the current level of 16%.

Sights on Africa

Angola is at the centre of the oil boom. Its output has increased from 722,000 barrels a day in 2001 to 930,000 this year and by 2020 it is expected to reach 3,28 million barrels a day.

Nigeria's out will double to 4.4 million barrels a day by 2020.

And minor oil producers now - like Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Sudan - could more than treble their output.

Angolan pipeline
Angolan oil is being pumped out in growing volumes

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project would go ahead with World Bank support. US companies Exxon and Chevron are major partners in the scheme to pump Chadian oil to Cameroonian ports on the Atlantic.

The leaders of Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Gabon were among those whp met President Bush on Friday.

Following the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development, US Secretary of State Colin Powell stopped in both Angola and Gabon, where oil was at the top of the agenda.

Oil security

But the US is not just interested in finding oil suppliers. It wants to ensure that those supplies are secure - not just from political decisions but also from the threat of military attack.

Washington has been discussing with Sao Tome e Principe, the island state off the west coast of Africa, the possibility of establishing a naval base there.

President Sassou-Nguesso
Sassou-Nguesso is happy with US involvement

President de Menezes of Sao Tome met George Bush on Friday.

Ahead of talks with Mr Bush, President Fradique de Menezes of Sao Tome confirmed they would be discussing strengthening security in West Africa.

President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville also said US companies were delighted with their growing involvement in the West African oil industry. However, he declined to say whether the US saw Africa's Gulf of Guinea as an alternative to the Persian Gulf.

But some American politicians have been more forthcoming.

Ed Royce, the Republican who chairs the House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee, is enthusiastic about African oil.

"West African oil doesn't have the strategic bottlenecks that other nations have. We generally have good political relations with African oil producers.

"And if it lessens our dependence on a particular section of the world, that's good," Mr Royce said.

Analysis of the oil market, OPEC, and the alternatives

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See also:

12 Sep 02 | Americas
11 Sep 02 | Middle East
09 Sep 02 | Business
05 Sep 02 | Africa
12 Sep 02 | Middle East
22 Aug 02 | Business
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