Affiliated organization: Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Africa-Europe Foundation, Friends of Europe
Site of publication: africaeuropefoundation.org
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: January 20th, 2022
COP 26 decisions have left unsatisfied both climate activists and African stakeholders keen to address the key challenge of insufficient access to energy on their own continent.
Extended report of the discussion
In 2019, the entire population of the EU, accounting for just under 445 million people, had access to electricity, while just over half (54.7%) of the 1.3 billion people living in Africa had access. Almost 600 million Africans remain off-grid, more than 1.3 times the population of the EU. There are also stark inequalities within the African continent.
It is also important to underline that this injustice could also adversely affect Africa current and future contribution to not only Africa’s energy security but also Europe’s energy security and diversity of energy supply
“There is a gap between how Africans look at the joint issues of climate and energy and how our European friends look at them. We need to close that gap if we want to make progress” said Mo Ibrahim.
Stephen Karekezi, African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN/ FWD), commented:
“It is also important to underline that this injustice could also adversely affect Africa current and future contribution to not only Africa’s energy security but also Europe’s energy security and diversity of energy supply”.
Responding to the concerns raised about Europe refusing to fund gas projects in Africa, he said that the EU considers that “gas can be a bridge to climate neutrality, but only if it replaces coal and if investments are hydrogen ready”.
European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton highlighted the key role of private sector, stating that technological innovation will be needed, and that Africa may require €100 billion a year to fund electrification.
We are talking about asking countries to go on an energy transition – that is a full electrification of the entire economy – when these countries still want to achieve access to energy, industrialisation, and a better future for their people. For that to happen, gas has to be part of the transition
Hilary Barry, LadyAgri, added: “Without energy to transform our sustainable food systems, create jobs for women and youth, Europe will pay a very high price. We need less talk and more action in Europe…. China and Russia are in the field and advancing quickly, working and financing agri-industry, mining, infrastructure”.
A key focus of the debate was around subsidising fossil fuels, specifically gas, in Africa. But it also highlighted the need to identify “just” energy transition pathways, compatible with climate, but also with the need to fight poverty and inequality. It also noted the need to include health dimensions – such as the women and children death-toll from “unclean” cooking solutions.
Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) said: “We are talking about asking countries to go on an energy transition – that is a full electrification of the entire economy – when these countries still want to achieve access to energy, industrialisation, and a better future for their people. For that to happen, gas has to be part of the transition.’’
“Poverty is the biggest threat that is facing Africa today. And poverty is also the biggest threat to climate in Africa. It is not the pursuit of access to energy,” noted Benedict O. Oramah, the President of Afreximbank. “If we want to attain the SDGs for Africa, we need to double electricity generation by 2030 and fivefold by 2050.” To achieve net-zero, Africa requires $2.8 trillion.
He highlighted that “one third of African countries depend on fossil fuels for their foreign exchange revenues, fiscal revenues, and a significant portion of employment. So, if you just cut financing to fossil fuels, we are going to see many countries go up in flames”.
According to Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation: “There is a wonderful economic opportunity for Africa to go in the green direction but based on African countries’ own discussions on what they want their energy transition to look like.”
Wanjira Mathai, Vice-President and Regional Director for Africa at the World Resource Institute (WRI), recalled that ‘‘activists are defining what a just transition means for Africa – what does it mean politically to develop and implement a just transition agenda in Africa’s hydrocarbon agriculture and mining dependent economies?”
“Is it just for global industries to decarbonise in the name of the green economy while remaining profitable through the continued exploitation of workers in vulnerable countries?” she asked.
Ambroise Fayolle, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), recalled that there is “a massive need to support more infrastructure resilience, including in the energy sector, and of course this is linked to the question of adaptation.”
He listed three challenges when it comes to financing energy access projects in Africa – supporting more infrastructure resilience in the energy sector, ensuring the private sector is participating as much as possible, and reinforcing the focus on access to energy through decentralised energy production.
A climate justice approach is a people-centred approach
Ziad Hamoui, Borderless Alliance, added: “Why do we talk about nationwide electrification, as if it’s an all-or-nothing package? Why can’t we decentralize the process by looking at deploying cost-effective renewable energy solutions at far-flung border communities? This proposition also has the potential of reducing post-harvest loss and enhancing food security”.
Irène Kamanzi, PGI Invest, challenged: “We would like to present [green energy] opportunities to the Euro-African financial institutions in order to have a support in the debt financing part and a co-investment in the equity part’’.
Jeffree Rugare, Global SolarLtd, commented: “We in Africa private sector we have the figures and the business models: give us the investments.”.
Ambroise Fayolle (EIB) called for more blending: “Public investments are very important, but we need also to try to make sure that the private sector is participating as much as possible and to maximise that.
“A climate justice approach is a people-centred approach,” stated Mary Robinson, Co-honorary President of the Africa-Europe Foundation and former President of Ireland.
She said: “I would like the EU and AU to operationalise the COP 26 outcomes in the EU-Africa partnership. This means cooperating more closely on climate diplomacy, especially around loss and damage in the COP 27 in Africa”.
Johan van den Berg, Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), commented: “Climate and energy have been converging and the well-established energy partnership between the continents can now leverage on existing relationships and learnings to step up collaboration for the next ten years, and to ensure a partnership of equals with bi-directional benefits and flows.”
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