By NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber and Jude Kearney, Chairman, US/Africa Committee of the African Energy Chamber
President Joe Biden’s selection of Geoffrey Pyatt as the nominee for U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources is good news for Africa. The African Energy Chamber strongly endorses his nomination.
Pyatt is, of course, well-qualified for this important role based on an exemplary diplomatic career, including his tenures as Ambassador to Greece and Ukraine as well as his previous diplomatic posts. Importantly, he has a deep knowledge of global gas politics and energy security issues. In his ambassadorial roles, he has worked to advance the Eastern European energy security. He has consistently supported the broader agenda of energy independence, energy security and economic competence.
In regard to our focus on African energy issues, we believe that Pyatt’s background will help him work with African countries on ensuring a just energy transition, which will be especially critical going into the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP27). He appears to recognize that even as the global energy market is in the process of a fundamental reorganization, countries must make energy security a priority . He has demonstrated respect for a healthy energy mix that includes oil and gas as well as renewables, which is what Africa must cultivate if we are to avoid an energy transition that does more harm to Africans than good. In that regard, Pyatt has demonstrated he understands the importance of natural gas as a bridge to a long-term renewables future.
We believe Pyatt will understand why the African Energy Chamber has made it a top priority to wipe out African energy poverty — nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack reliable electricity, 900-million people still lack access to clean cooking technologies, with negative impacts on health, especially for women and children and the environment — because he has witnessed the devastating impacts of energy poverty and dependence. He very likely observed energy poverty during the early years of his diplomatic career in Honduras and when he was Deputy Chief of Mission in India in 2006 and 2007. Pyatt also lived in Vienna during the 2008-2009 European gas crisis. He has recalled his vivid memories of the regular reports of civilian deaths in areas of Austria that had insufficient energy to heat homes.
What’s more, Pyatt’s support of women in the energy sector signals his expansive and enlightened view of the potential of our industry. He has spoken about the importance of empowering more women to take leadership roles, which is critical to advancing Africa’s energy agenda. I’ve long been an advocate of bringing more women into our industry, and his stance on this issue is notable.
These are just a few of the reasons the African Energy Chamber strongly supports Pyatt’s nomination and encourages a speedy Senate confirmation. He has shown a commitment to helping countries realize the full socioeconomic benefits of a thriving oil and gas industry. He shares many of Africa’s values and priorities with regard to the energy transition. He understands energy poverty issues and the value of gas monetization. His nomination signals a more hopeful future for our industry and our continent.
We may of course disagree on issues at times, but Geoffrey Pyatt is a solid and practical choice for this important role in the realm of energy diplomacy. While many Western leaders and organizations have lectured and intimidated Africa on how they believe Africans should approach their energy transition (such as the non-starter of abandoning Fossil Fuels altogether and apparently all at once), African energy stakeholders would welcome the opportunity to work with a Western representative who is interested in a two-way conversation. Someone who will talk with them and not just talk to them. Someone who might foster American companies to bring their ingenuity to the task of Africa’s energy transition because America has a legacy of creating solutions as well as opportunity.
We would welcome the opportunity to work with someone open to considering African perspectives and priorities and developing a relationship based on mutual respect. We are optimistic about developing that kind of dynamic with Pyatt.