FEEM Research Seminar on “The Evolving Geopolitics of North Africa and its Impact on Energy”
12:30 - 14:00
Over the last five years, North Africa has profoundly changed. After the so-called Arab Springs, the widespread instability engendered a deep power vacuum, which has been filled mainly by jihadism. At the same time, the emergence of the Islamic State as a regional actor fostered the process of transnationalization of the jihadist networks. Despite widespread concerns, the effects on oil and gas markets of the turmoil in the MENA region in general and North Africa in particular have been less dramatic than feared. This has happened for a fundamental reason, which underlies both the political and economic points of view: the rulers who conserved power (Algeria, Morocco), new rulers (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya), and more generally national institutions, proved to have same interests, objectives and perspectives as before.
The relationships national power/energy and international relations/energy did not changed, as the examples of Egyptian and Libyan production clearly demonstrate. A momentous ideological shift in the way of perceiving energy did not occur, and this made it possible for energy markets and North African countries to deploy a sufficient level of resilience after the turmoil. Here lies the most significant difference between the Arab Springs and the jihadi expansion: if the former phenomenon did not imply a radical change, the latter is very likely to reverse the attitudes towards energy. With the current jihadi expansion, the rational-choice behaviour as we used to know it disappears. In the jihadi worldview, the forma mentis and the vision of the State deeply differ from those of the standard rulers and this is likely to affect the energy sector. This fundamental shift emerges both from the trends in terroristic attacks on energy targets and in the ideological and doctrinal constructions created by the jihadi galaxy to justify these operations. In this scenario, new relationship between geopolitics and energy may appear, and terrorism is likely to exploit energy in unprecedented ways that require in-depth analyses.