Editorial: Energy transition impinges on Africa’s development agenda


Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has thrown her weight behind calls for a just energy transition framework for African countries, saying balance must be sought between the desire for a cleaner, more sustainable environment and the continent’s need for development.

Africa, she notes, accounts for less than four percent of global carbon emissions – and cannot be expected to phase-out fossil fuels at the same pace as regions which have historically contributed more to global pollution.

She made the remark during a session hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra with the theme ‘Making Globalisation Work for Africa’.

With issues of climate change becoming the most topical news items in recent years, the developed world is pushing toward net-zero emissions of carbon from cleaner forms of energy.

The economist stated that the issue remains a matter of urgency, as despite the continent’s limited contribution to global emissions it continues to suffer the impact of climate change disproportionately – saying that most casualties from the adverse effects of climate change have been in developing regions.

Over the last 50 years, drought-related hazards have resulted in the loss of more than half a million lives and caused economic damage worth over US$70billion on the continent.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala called for a transition period of 20 years or more for African countries – which will extend beyond the strict 2050 deadline for net zero.

She suggested that African countries should be allowed to use gas for a reasonable period of time, but not coal, and should invest in renewables simultaneously; while calling for nations that have developed through the use of fossil fuels to fund Africa’s energy transition.

Sustainable, renewable energy is fundamental to Africa’s future.

A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and AfDB (African Development Bank) estimate the continent’s solar photovoltaic (PV) technical potential at 7,900 GW – suggesting Africa possesses some of the globe’s greatest potential for solar power generation.

This is in addition to sizeable, additional potential for hydropower (1,753 GW) and wind energy (461 GW), as well as in some parts of Africa geothermal and modern bioenergy.

Without rapidly scaling-up energy transition investments, the world will not be able to meet global sustainable development and climate commitments.

Energy development is intrinsically related to core socio-economic issues in Africa. Africa is extraordinarily diverse, and no single approach will advance its energy future.

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