News / Africa

Sahel Attacks Prompt Fears in France Over Energy Supply

Sahel Attacks Prompt Fears in France Over Energy Supplyi
X
June 03, 2013 11:34 PM
Security is being stepped up at Western installations across Africa's Sahel region following twin attacks in Niger late last month by Islamist militants. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, fears are growing over the extent of the militants’ reach in a region with close links to Europe. The stakes are especially great for France, which is highly dependent on resources mined in its former colonies
Henry Ridgwell
Security is being stepped up at Western installations across Africa's Sahel region following twin attacks in Niger late last month by Islamist militants. Fears are growing over the extent of the militants’ reach in a region with close links to Europe.  The stakes are especially great for France, which is highly dependent on resources mined in its former colonies.

Since the 1970s, much of France’s energy supply has derived from the Sahel region of Africa.   So recent attacks on Western commercial interests there have big implications, says energy economist Malcolm Grimston of Imperial College London

“It [France] gets not far short of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power - that’s by far the highest proportion in the world.  It uses around 12,500 tons of uranium per year.  Not far short of a third of that comes from Niger already," said Grimston.

Last month Islamist suicide bombers staged twin attacks in Niger - targeting this army barracks in Agadez, and the French run Somair uranium mine in Arlit.  One staff member at the mine was killed and uranium production was halted.

The French firm Areva owns the Somair mine.  Its president visited Niger the day after the attack to reaffirm the company’s engagement in the country.  Areva is developing another site in Niger at Imouraren,  says Malcolm Grimston.

“Areva has invested something like 1.5 billion euros [almost $2 billion] in the new mine in Niger.  That is a very key area, and I think France will be very keen to maintain its long-term interest and its long-term security in that area," he said.

France has deployed Special Forces alongside Niger's army to protect the mines.

The May attacks follow the assault in January on a gas plant in Algeria. Thirty-nine foreign workers were killed by militants linked to al-Qaida. The plant has yet to reopen.

Fears that Western-run facilities in the Sahel present terror groups with easy targets are over-simplified, says Paul Melly of the London-based policy institute Chatham House.

“On the whole, the security risk is less one of fixed sites, and it's more one of generalized instability and the dangers to the survival of the stable constitutional states in West Africa and the normal process of economic development and political security," said Melly.

Melly says those concerns underpinned France’s military intervention to oust Islamist forces from northern Mali.

“For Europe, West Africa is a long-term fundamental strategic interest rather like Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are for the U.S.  It’s that kind of long term investment in partnership that really matters and that’s what underlay the decision to go so far as to send 4,000 troops into Mali," he said.

Analysts say despite the risks, the potential gains for foreign and host governments mean that energy companies are unlikely to suddenly withdraw from the Sahel.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid