Africa poised for just transition to renewable energy, new report says

Sustainable development presents Africa with both opportunities and challenges. [iStackphoto]

Africa has the potential to abandon fossil fuels and adopt sustainable renewable energy systems.

This is despite over 600 million Africans lacking access to reliable energy sources, according to a new report.

A new report, titled "Just Transition: A Climate, Energy, and Development Vision for Africa," authored by a collective of independent climate and energy experts, highlights the potential for Africa to bypass fossil fuel-dependent development and embrace cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy.

The report warns against the Global North’s tragic obsession with dirty energy, which has left Africans at the mercy of the impacts of the climate crisis.

“By pooling African energy networks and prioritizing renewables, the continent can become a clean energy superpower while avoiding the trap of old, centralised fossil fuel infrastructure that worsens the climate crisis," read the report in part.

According to the report, sustainable development presents Africa with both opportunities and challenges.

The report, which draws on Africa's diverse economies, resources, ecosystems, and cultures, underscores the urgency to address ongoing challenges such as energy poverty, regional conflict, economic insecurity and patriarchal oppression.

It argues that Africa has the potential to become a global leader in renewable energy and sustainable development, much like its successful transition from landline to mobile telephone technology.

President William Ruto, in the report's foreword, expressed optimism about Africa's future.

He stated, "Opportunity beckons for Africa to make this century, the African Century," endorsing the report's vision for climate, energy, and development.

Ruto emphasized the need to avoid development traps and outlined the core pillars of a new way forward, including achieving food sovereignty, 100 per cent renewable energy sovereignty, and promoting collaboration and resource control among African nations through an Afrocentric industrial policy.

Kenya has taken on a bold green growth initiative that aims to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, President William Ruto indicated.

Ruto said this comprehensive plan also includes promoting green manufacturing, sustainable agriculture, eco-friendly urbanization, and green transportation. Currently, Kenya’s grid is 92 per cent renewable.

Nevertheless, the Head of State said that in order for Kenya and the rest of the continent to achieve green industrialization based on renewables, investment, and financing are needed.

The report emphasizes the need for a shift from export-oriented, cash-crop agriculture towards community-based agroecological systems that promote food sovereignty, climate resilience, and secure livelihoods.

It also calls for a Pan-African industrial policy that focuses on developing African resources, expanding internal markets, and generating employment opportunities for Africans.

Dr. Youba Sokona, Vice-Chair of the IPCC, highlighted Africa's pivotal position at an energy crossroads. He stated, "We must establish policies that prioritise renewables and leave fossil fuels in the ground. Development in the 21st Century can be different from that of the 20th Century."

The report also stresses the importance of renewable energy in powering resilient agricultural and industrial systems. It urges Africa to seize the opportunity to leapfrog outdated and polluting energy infrastructure and adopt modern, people-centered, and decentralised renewable energy systems.

Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, emphasized the potential benefits of renewable energy for Africa. He urged African leaders to take a Pan-African approach and work together to capitalise on the global race for renewable energy leadership.

Adow stated, "To be able to capitalize on this opportunity, however, African leaders must take a Pan-African approach by working together."

Ali Mohamed, Climate Change Envoy from Kenya, highlighted the need for a unified approach to tackle Africa's developmental challenges. He called for African leaders to maximise the continent's possibilities and cement its place in the global arena.

Mohamed stated, "By securing the first-ever loss and damage fund to support Global South communities driven into destitution by effects of the climate crisis, African leaders attending last year’s COP27 in Egypt demonstrated their profound unity of purpose."

The report also emphasizes the importance of responsible mining and infrastructure development, ensuring adherence to human rights, social, and environmental standards.

It warns against the appropriation of the "just transition" narrative by polluters or foreign interests.

As Africa stands on the brink of an energy revolution, the report underscores the need for African leaders to develop a pan-African support plan for accelerating the clean energy transition.

Other countries, such as the US, EU, and China, have already announced packages of support for green industries. African leaders must seize the moment and establish a unified approach to drive Africa's development and benefit from the abundant and increasingly affordable renewable energy sources available on the continent.

Africa has the potential to lead the world in renewable energy and demonstrate a new development model for the 21st Century.

By embracing renewable energy, Africa can address energy poverty, achieve food security, and contribute to global climate goals while securing a brighter future for its people.