U.S. officials cite importance of African oil to U.S. economy
Regional-USA, Economics, 1/30/2002
U.S. officials stressed the growing importance of African oil to the U.S. economy at a recent energy seminar, among them Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner, who rushed from a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell to make that point.
Kansteiner, a former businessman with the Scowcroft Group, an international consulting firm, spoke at a January 25 breakfast meeting entitled "African Oil: A Priority for U.S. National Security and African Development," sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS). "It is undeniable," he said, "that this [oil] has become of national strategic interest to us."
According to Kansteiner's assistant, James Dunlop, who also spoke at the event, the United States now gets 15 percent of its total oil imports from the African continent -- and that figure is growing.
A number of ambassadors from energy-producing states in Africa attended the seminar, including Nigerian Ambassador Jibril Aminu, Algerian Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, and Cameroonian Ambassador Jerome Mendouga, as well as representatives from the embassies of Ghana and Angola.
In terms of development for Africa, John Flynn, a former British foreign service officer who is now an executive with Chevron/Texaco, agreed with the U.S. officials' assessment, saying, "U.S. investment is crucial in Africa," and he told his audience, many of whom represent companies that do business on the continent, "If you lead, others will follow."
U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, a political/military officer assigned to the secretary of defense's Office of African Affairs, also emphasized that "Africa is important to U.S. national security." Noting that she was speaking as "a U.S. government policymaker in the area of sub-Saharan Africa and national security interests," she said, "The U.S. relationship to African countries is non-colonial, based on a generally positive history, past and present trade, and shared interests in democratic and accountable governance."
Referring to the National Intelligence Council's "Global Trends 2015" report, which came out last December, Kwiatkowski pointed out that 25 percent of U.S. oil imports in 2015 will come from sub-Saharan Africa.
The prime "energy locations" identified in the study are West Africa, Sudan, and Central Africa.
It follows, the Defense Department official explained, that "U.S. trade, freedom of movement, government transparency, protection of U.S. interests are even more important in these [regional] areas." She cited a number of areas of interest for government policymakers, including:
-- "more fully understanding the challenges of U.S. energy companies and investors in sub-Saharan Africa;
-- "working where we can to improve today's security for U.S. investments and operations; and
-- "working where we can to increase the level of accountable government and overall economic development that comes with adherence to rule of law, freedom of the marketplace, freedom of the media, and well-trained, small, professional and apolitical militaries."
Robert Murphy, an economic specialist with the State Department's Office of African Analysis, told the seminar that Africa is important to "the diversification of our sources of imported oil" away from the troubled areas of the Middle East and other politically high-risk areas. He noted that "political discord or dispute in African oil states is unlikely to take on a regional or ideological tone that would result in a joint embargo by suppliers at once."
In addition, Murphy said, "much of West Africa's oil is offshore, thereby insulated from domestic political or social turmoil, and can be delivered via open sea-lanes devoid of canals or narrow straits." With "proven reserves of well over 30 billion [30,000 million] barrels of oil, and over 40 different types of crude," the official said, "under current projections, we will import over 770 million barrels of African petroleum in 2020."
While oil is critical to the U.S. economy, the revenues Africans earn from its production also play a key role in their nations' development, Murphy noted. "When we hear of a Chevron or Exxon oil well in Africa, we think of the oil companies as investors, but they are also service providers, sellers of services, and contractors of services. By 2003, investment in the African oil industry will exceed $10 billion [thousand million] a year. Between two-thirds and three-fourths of our foreign direct investment in Africa will be in the energy sector," he said.
Murphy explained that the expanding energy/trade relationship could be a great benefit to Africans because "the presence of oil creates opportunities for constructive engagement, transfer of technology, and the development of infrastructure and human capital."
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