Africa now conduit pipe, crude from Russian rises 1,172.7% to 420bpd in March

Russia has increased its crude oil sales through Africa following sanctions from Western nations.

Russia’s refined product exports to Africa have skyrocketed since the invasion of Ukraine, increasing 14-fold in just over a year, following a diplomatic onslaught on the continent by Russian officials.

Prior to the war, Russia exported 33,000 b/d of refined products to Africa, much of it gasoline.

By March 2023, that had soared to 420,000 b/d. Illustrating the geopolitics at play, shipments to countries such as Nigeria, Tunisia, and Libya jumped sharply in February, when the European Union placed an embargo on Russian products.

The embargo followed independent decisions from many Western countries to halt imports of Russian oil.

These sanctions have forced Russia to redirect significant oil export volumes to alternative markets, including Africa. India, China, and Turkey are also becoming increasingly important export markets.

Experts say a new “scramble for Africa” has gathered pace since the invasion began early last year, with Russia, China, the US, Turkey, Gulf states, and former colonial powers Britain and France all vying for influence on the world’s fastest-growing continent.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, visited seven African countries in the space of a month last year in a bid to firm up ties with key countries and open up new markets for Russian oil products, independent Russia analyst Timur Kulakhmetov told S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Meanwhile, Russian mercenaries with the Wagner Group have provided security for African rulers in return for lucrative mining contracts, and Russian energy companies have eyed investments on the continent. At the United Nations General Assembly in March, 22 African countries refused to condemn Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of strengthened ties is in Russian refined product exports since an EU embargo on imports of most Russian oil products came into force Feb. 5. A G7, EU, and Australia price cap of $100/b on Russian products that typically trade at a premium to crude including gasoline and gasoil was introduced at the same time.

This left Moscow “struggling to keep a foothold in the raw materials ladder, by seeking new markets for commodity exports,” Kulakhmetov said.

A lower price cap of $45/b on petroleum products traded at a discount to crude oil came into force on the same date.