Collaborations needed for Africa to actualize its clean energy dream

A high angle shot of private houses with solar panels on the roofs. [Getty Images]

Africa is, in many ways, at the sharp end of the global climate challenge. African nations are among the most affected by rising temperatures and increasingly irregular weather patterns.

At the same time, amid global economic slowdown, they are faced with heavy decarbonisation requirements and ambitions to accelerate energy access.

Time and again, we hear same messages of reassurance for Africa. The energy transition is an opportunity for Africa. Money is on the way. Help is on the way. But this support has yet to materialise. The commitment struck at COP15 in 2009 to deliver $100 billion of climate finance to developing economies by 2020 has still not been met.

And, as Masdar's chairman and COP28 President-Designate Dr Sultan Al Jaber - who was in Nairobi last week - has said repeatedly over the last few months, this finance is not available or enough.

In my discussions with leaders in business, government and, civil society in Africa, the message is clear. Africa is a land of opportunity, and it is possible for rapid economic development to take place alongside a sustainable energy transition - but we need investment.

In the UAE, we have seen first-hand opportunities available in Africa, and the mutual benefit of major investments. We have a proud history of being a first-mover in the clean energy landscape, and a record of acting when we see opportunity. I am incredibly proud of the fact that Masdar - under Dr Sultan's leadership - is the largest owner-operator of renewables in Africa, most notably through our Infinity Power platform.

Our projects in Africa demonstrate potential for green transformation. From our 16.6MW rural electrification project in Mauritania, 14MW Red Sea solar power plants in Egypt, 143MW Loeriesfontein 2 wind farm in South Africa and our 252MW West Bakr wind farm in Egypt, they are turning the prospect of Africa as a global clean energy powerhouse into reality.

In total, we have over 25 projects in development or operational across the continent, including what will become Africa's largest wind project, a 10GW development in Egypt. Through the Etihad 7 initiative for Africa, Masdar projects in Angola, Uganda, Zambia, and beyond, will provide clean electricity to over 100 million people across Africa by 2035. These projects, as significant as they are, only scratch the surface as to the scale of investment required to provide universal access to clean energy to Africa.

With only 2 per cent of global investment in renewables so far making it to African markets, this must change. Rapidly growing economies and populations in Africa will mean energy demands will grow exponentially. Already, there are 570 million people on the continent without access to electricity. This is unacceptable and if investment is not ramped up in the coming decade, the problem will worsen.

With the Global Stocktake set to take place at year's COP28 in the UAE, the consequences of not rising to this challenge are immense - that we are off track in meeting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

The consequences of failing to keep global warming below the 1.5 degree target will be devastating, and the COP28 Presidency team has made it clear that a massive course correction is needed.

This must include Africa, it must include greater investment in electrification, in renewables, in clean energy - investments which meet needs of African states and their population in terms of their climate ambitions, in terms of economic development, standard of living, and job creation.

But there is also cause for optimism. With greater collaboration between the public and private sectors, and international finance institutions we can unlock immense opportunities for investors, and pave the way to prosperity for African energy.

The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Masdar