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Analysis: Russia looks to Africa to broaden its global energy influence

London — Russia is looking to increase energy cooperation with African countries as it strives to play a more influential role in global energy markets.

President Vladimir Putin will host the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi this week as Russia looks to expand its footprint in Africa.

Africa is already a major producer of key commodities, but with its population and economies growing steadily, the continent is also emerging as a major demand hub. This is why these sectors will be at the heart of Russia's push towards Africa.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi is set to speak alongside Putin in the plenary session of the summit and energy officials from several African countries are expected to attend.

An increase in dialog could translate into new deals in oil and gas exploration and production, LNG and oil trading, as well as nuclear power, according to analysts.

Indigo Ellis, head of Africa at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said African governments would welcome Russia's renewed interest as they are "slowly waking to the realities of China's murky lending, and long aware of the West's conditional, and ever scarcer loans." "Russia offers 'no strings attached' investment for African countries that seem to be a win-win for both parties," Ellis said, adding that she expects trade agreements and partnerships for energy, mining and defence to emerge from Sochi.

"While defence contracts have so far been Russia's primary modus operandi in engaging with African governments, Russia will curry favor across Africa through more energy deals."

CLOSER TIES

Russia's pivot to the Middle East in the political and business sphere has yielded more power to Putin and the President is now looking to forge closer ties with Africa.

"Moscow will try to make as much as hay as possible about its growing investments in the region at the Russia-Africa summit. It wants to present itself as influential in Africa, even if Russian engagement is relatively small compared to the United States, European Union, and China," Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said.

"Most deals will focus on security and energy sector, such as a recently signed nuclear power deal with Rwanda." Russia's influence in Africa during the Soviet Union/Cold War era was very strong but since then its influence has been on the wane, with China emerging as the dominant investor in the continent.

MIXED SUCCESS

Russian oil and gas companies are already present in North Africa, and also have some exploration projects in West Africa and Mozambique.

These have had mixed success in the oil and gas sector in Africa, however. This summit provides some of these business another shot at redefining their African strategy, analysts say.

Rosneft, Lukoil, Gazprom, Gazpromneft, Tatneft and Rosgeologia all currently have business in the African continent.

"Given the fact that African projects can only be realistically shouldered by state-backed players (Gazprom, Gazpromneft, Rosneft) plus Lukoil, it is fair to presume that most oil and gas cooperation will be taking place in countries where Russia already has or is quickly building out close military and security relations," George Voloshin, a director at risk consultancy Aperio Intelligence said.

Russia's most successful energy cooperation with Africa has been in North Africa, where Gazprom holds a stake in the El-Assel project in Algeria and Tatneft holds stakes in the Ghadames and Sirte projects in Libya.

Significant new deals signed in recent years include Lukoil joining the Marine XII license offshore the Republic of Congo, and Rosneft joining the Zohr gas project offshore Egypt.

Lukoil recently left projects in Sierra Leone, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire because of uncertain economics and mixed exploration results.

"Lukoil will be the Russian player to watch," said Ellis. "While Gazprom and Rosneft have the Russian market cornered, Lukoil is looking to Africa for expansion, most recently entering Congo."

LNG PUSH

Despite these setbacks, Russia has been focusing on expanding its presence in Africa's growing LNG sector.

New LNG capacity from Mozambique, Egypt and Tanzania is expected to come onstream over the next five years and Russian companies are hoping to take advantage of that.

Rosneft has non-operating stakes in Mozambique and Egypt's coveted gas blocks. Rosneft also has a 12-year LNG supply deal with Ghana. Equatorial Guinea has also indicated it is interested in purchasing Russian LNG in future.

Rosneft has also signed an agreement with Nigeria's Oranto on future cooperation in Africa on oil and gas production, refining, logistics and trading projects across Africa.

Russia currently accounts for around 6% of the global LNG market, but is aiming to increase this to 15% by 2025.

-- Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

-- Rosemary Griffin, rosemary.griffin@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com