LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria and Morocco have agreed to build a pipeline to carry Nigerian natural gas to North Africa and Europe in a major initiative to boost energy production across West Africa and create industrial hubs to attract foreign investment, a joint statement said Wednesday.
The two countries' sovereign wealth funds will jointly develop the pipeline to run about 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) along the West African coast from Nigeria to Morocco on a route yet to be decided, it said. Coastal countries include Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania.
The coastline then runs through the disputed territory of Western Sahara before reaching Morocco.
"The Trans-African Pipeline will improve access to energy across West Africa ... helping address one of the region's most significant barriers to development ... (and) will strengthen energy exports to Europe, linking Nigerian gas to the European energy market through Morocco," the statement said.
The agreement was signed during a visit to Nigeria this week by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who has been on a charm offensive in sub-Saharan Africa since his country in September asked to be re-admitted to the African Union. Morocco left the 53-state continental body in 1984 when the AU recognized Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Morocco claims Western Sahara, while a United Nations resolution has called for a referendum to decide its fate. Oil companies have abandoned exploration there, and European fishing companies have withdrawn fleets because of tensions.
Nigeria has the world's ninth highest proven gas reserves but suffers a massive shortage of power, in part because oil companies continue to flare off a significant amount of gas. In addition, militants regularly attack gas pipelines to protest production that has destroyed agricultural land and fishing areas.
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