Solar energy, critical minerals, and green hydrogen could offer strong economic and social development © Photo by Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images
Solar energy, critical minerals, and green hydrogen could offer strong economic and social development © Photo by Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

'Invest $25bn a year to end African energy poverty'

23 June 2022

Spiking energy prices underline the need for Africa to accelerate its introduction of renewable sources of energy, a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found.

The Africa Energy Outlook 2022 said price rises were affecting the continent when it was already facing more severe effects from climate change than most other parts of the world.

And it said renewable energy offered Africa the chance of boosting economic and social development.

Solar energy, critical minerals, and green hydrogen could offer particularly strong growth potential, the report found.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said: “The immediate and absolute priority for Africa and the international community is to bring modern and affordable energy to all Africans.

“Our new report shows this can be achieved by the end of this decade through annual investment of $25bn, the same amount needed to build just one new LNG terminal a year.”

Birol described the failure to resolve energy poverty in Africa as “morally unacceptable” given that it was within the means of developed countries to do so.

And he pointed out that Africa bears less responsibility than any other part of the world for rising CO2 emissions.

“Africa has had the raw end of the deal from the fossil fuel-based economy, receiving the smallest benefits and the biggest drawbacks, as underlined by the current energy crisis,” Birol said.

“The new global energy economy that is emerging offers a more hopeful future for Africa, with huge potential for solar and other renewables to power its development – and new industrial opportunities in critical minerals and green hydrogen.”

The report said fast-growing demand for energy made increasing supply an urgent priority.

Improved energy efficiency would help achieve this goal by reducing fuel imports, easing strains on existing infrastructure and keeping consumer bills affordable.

At present, 22 African countries use renewables as their main source of electricity, according to think tank the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, but the concept is controversial in many African capitals.

Generation sources vary, with countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo enjoying strong hydropower potential, while others with large desert areas like Namibia can benefit from wind and solar power.

However, many politicians in African countries complain that they are being forced towards development using exclusively renewable power by western countries that have benefited extensively from fossil fuels.

They argue that renewable energy is not a reasonable solution for creating manufacturing industries. 

“No one in the world has yet been able to industrialise using renewable energy,” Nigerian vice president Yemi Osinbajo said recently.

And many African countries have expressed anger that the World Bank and other international institutions have stopped financing natural gas projects in Africa as part of moves to reduce CO2 emissions.

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