Stop Greenwashing African Sports, Pay for Climate Crisis, CSOs tell TotalEnergies

By Edu Abade

As the African Cup of Nations ends with the finals between Nigeria and host Ivory Coast with a 2-1 win in favour of the host country yesterday, African climate activists have charged TotalEnergies for continuing to mint record profits from Africa as it continues to perpetuate human rights abuses and environmental destruction on the African continent.

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Total has been the title sponsor of the month-long tournament. The climate community in Africa wants an end to its greenwashing efforts through sports sponsorships.

Following a year characterised by the highest temperatures recorded in history, TotalEnergies has announced what has been described as ‘obscene profits’ just as the French oil and gas giant recorded $23.2 billion profit in 2023, a four percent increase from 2022 and effectively the highest return in its history.

Instead of spending its billions to pay just compensations to victims of its destructive activities in Africa, clean up its mess and invest in clean and sustainable forms of energy, TotalEnerges has been engaging in greenwashing over the last month by sponsoring the Africa Cup of Nations. Seizing football for its greenwashing campaign amounts to modern-day deception and an insult to Africans.

The trail of destruction by the French multinational and other oil companies runs far and wide. It has been at the doorstep of even some of the key figures in the tournament, including Nigeria’s heroic goalkeeper Stanley Bobbi ‘Bobo’ Nwabali.

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Nwabali, who happens to come from Egbema in Rivers State, a host community of TotalEnergies, recently had their community experience a gas pipeline fire. Total has however remained silent in the face of the issue. As the world teeters on the point of 1.5 degrees limit of global warming, Total and other oil majors continue to profit from the leading causes of climate change and, as a consequence, worsening what is already a global climate emergency.

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Total continues to build new oil and gas projects in Africa, more than anywhere else in the world. It describes Africa as the ‘heart of its global strategy’. The continent accounts for 30 percent of Total’s investments and production.

In Uganda and Tanzania, where Total is building the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline, the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), more than 100,000 people will be displaced to pave the way for the pipeline. The project has been defined by unjust and delayed compensation and cases of human rights abuses.

For EACOP, a $5bn project, Total only paid out USD 28.9 million to ‘Project Affected Persons’ (PAP) in 2022. – Cumulatively, Total has paid less than $50m or less than 1 percent of the project’s cost in compensation to 13,168 people displaced by EACOP.

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Among the displaced families, the majority of them poor farmers, are some who are either yet to find alternative land to eke out a livelihood or the compensation was too little to buy productive land – EACOP will destroy key habitats, endanger wildlife and fuel climate change by generating 379 million tons of CO2e (MtCO2e) for the full value chain of emissions.

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In Mozambique, TotalEnergies has been accused of stirring up conflict in the already volatile region of Cabo Delgado with its $20 billion gas development project.

Over 500 households were displaced from TotalEnergies’ Afungi project site, denying them access to fishing grounds and cutting them out of their livelihoods-In South Africa, Total has received the green light from the government for offshore drilling for oil and gas, despite valid concerns about the impact on marine life and the environment.

Instead of heeding scientific calls to decarbonise, these corporations continue to gas Africa and use massive profits to buy a social licence to pollute dozens of communities. Ironically, this year’s tournament was a testament to the vagaries of the climate crisis for which Total and other oil majors are most responsible-the 2023 AfCON had to be pushed to 2024 due to adverse weather effects.

The winners of AFCON 2024 will pocket US$6.34 million, a significant increase from the US$5 million awarded in 2021. While this reward is handsome, it is a pittance compared to the damage wrought on the continent by climate change, which will undeniably continue to affect sports and athletics development.

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Yet Total continues to disregard its bigger responsibility to Africa: to stop its oil and gas operations that destroy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor people and in effect, future sports stars.

Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey said: “It is a shame that AfCON accepted sponsorship from TotalEnergies in total disregard of the horrors unleashed on Ugandan communities by EACOP and its related projects. The peoples’ patience has stretched into injury time and it is time for the ultimate penalty: Kick out this dangerous polluter. TotalEnergies must not be allowed to play with the future of our peoples and the planet.”

Greenpeace Africa’s Climate and Energy Campaigner, Cynthia Moyo, said: “Fossil fuels-the lifeblood of climate-wrecking companies like TotalEnergies-are poisoning the lungs of African athletes and soccer fans.

“But Total continues to displace communities for new oil drilling and spew toxins before shipping massive profits back to Europe. And yet they have been allowed to be title sponsors of AFCON. This is unacceptable. Total is turning AFCON from a celebration of African unity into a grotesque greenwashing stunt. It is time to kick TotalEnergies out of our stadiums. Our passion for football runs deep, but so does our love for a clean and healthy Africa.”

Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600,

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