Authors : African Climate Policy Centre
Affiliated organization : African Climate Policy Centre, ClimDev-Africa, African Union Commission, African Development Bank
Type of publication : Policy Brief
Date of publication : 2013
Africa has substantial reserves of fossil fuel resources. These include about 9.5% of the total global proven reserves of crude oil, 8% of natural gas reserves, and 4% of coal reserves. Much of the fossil fuel in Africa is either exported or has not yet been developed for use within Africa. Despite its huge energy resources, Africa is still faced with enormous energy challenges, including low access by many to modern energy, insufficient energy infrastructure, low efficiency, and lack of institutional and technical capacity to make use of its huge resources. Most African countries are net energy importers, as currently exploited oil reserves are concentrated in only a few countries.
As a consequence, the continent has 38 net oil-importing countries, demonstrating the high dependence of most African economies on imported fossil fuels. This exposes them to volatile world oil prices and jeopardises their balance of payments positions. For most oil-importing countries in Africa, sharp increases in the cost of imported energy, coupled with increasingly scarce traditional energy resources (e.g. fuelwood), have created what has been termed a double energy squeeze. The squeeze has eroded some of the economic gains that have been made in recent years and has exerted strong pressure on macroeconomic stability and economic growth.
- Africa has considerable fossil fuel resources and must use them to improve energy access and increase economic growth.
- Use of cleaner fossil fuel technologies must be emphasised if greenhouse gas emissions are to be kept to a minimum.
- Tradable permits and other policy instruments could be used in Africa to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
Challenges and opportunities
Africa has twin energy challenges. The first is to use its huge fossil fuel resources to improve energy access and increase economic growth, both vital to sustainable development. The second challenge is to mitigate emissions from the consumption of these resources.
Despite the challenges, substantial fossil fuel reserves provide Africa with important opportunities to improve access to energy, accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty
The imperative to improve energy access and alleviate poverty in Africa means that expansion of fossil fuel supplies will be necessary in the short to medium-term. But such expansion should be balanced with measures to develop cleaner energy solutions for the future. Therefore, focusing on technologies that improve energy efficiency and energy conservation is the best strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the combustion of fossil fuels.
Policy instruments for mitigating greenhouse gases
A number of policy instruments could be used to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the production and use of fossil fuels. These include emission taxes, targeted subsidies or their removal as appropriate, product charges, regulation, emissions trading, and provision of information.
For example, removal of subsidies or the imposition of taxes on fossil fuel use would stimulate more efficient use of fossil fuels. The equity of such policies would depend on the nature of the subsidies or taxes and/or whether they are progressive or regressive. Recent studies have found that taxes on transport fuels in some African countries are progressive, indicating that the burden of these taxes falls more heavily on rich households. How- ever, this is less so for fossil fuels such as kerosene that are used for cooking.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not the only goal, but if Africa is to assist in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, it will need support, including financial assistance, human capacity building, and technology transfer.
Policy implications and recommendations
Africa must use its considerable fossil fuel resources to improve energy access and increase economic growth. However, this must be done wisely, as greater use of fossil fuels will necessarily lead to more local, regional and global environmental impacts.
Therefore, cleaner fossil fuel technologies must be emphasised. Although a number of these technologies exist in developed countries, most African countries are faced with many challenges in the use of state-of-the-art fossil fuel technologies. The use of such advanced technologies in Africa is limited by economic and institutional barriers, including high capital and operating costs.
Policies in- tended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should also consider the trade-off between efficiency and equity
Africa lacks sufficient research and development (R&D) capacity to support decision-making on energy. The funds are simply not available in Africa for detailed studies of greenhouse gas mitigation measures. Moreover, the absence of skilled professionals and of commitments from government limits R&D on fossil fuel technologies in Africa.
Finally, further research on fossil fuels may help Africa reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable the design of appropriate policies and strategies for deploying fossil fuel technologies in Africa. For example, a need exists to investigate the role of different tax systems in the consumption of fossil fuels in Africa. There is also need to examine barriers to the adoption of different fossil fuel technologies at country level, given that the problems are country-specific. Strategies to embrace clean technologies should be based on research on consumption, production and barriers to their adoption.
Les Wathinotes sont soit des résumés de publications sélectionnées par WATHI, conformes aux résumés originaux, soit des versions modifiées des résumés originaux, soit des extraits choisis par WATHI compte tenu de leur pertinence par rapport au thème du Débat. Lorsque les publications et leurs résumés ne sont disponibles qu’en français ou en anglais, WATHI se charge de la traduction des extraits choisis dans l’autre langue. Toutes les Wathinotes renvoient aux publications originales et intégrales qui ne sont pas hébergées par le site de WATHI, et sont destinées à promouvoir la lecture de ces documents, fruit du travail de recherche d’universitaires et d’experts.
The Wathinotes are either original abstracts of publications selected by WATHI, modified original summaries or publication quotes selected for their relevance for the theme of the Debate. When publications and abstracts are only available either in French or in English, the translation is done by WATHI. All the Wathinotes link to the original and integral publications that are not hosted on the WATHI website. WATHI participates to the promotion of these documents that have been written by university professors and experts.