Africa must have a wholistic plan to tackle the impacts of climate change. It needs to move from intention to planning and implementation if it is to gain the attention of the rest of the world as it approaches crunch time to deliver on climate objectives.
Ejiro Gray, director governance and sustainability at Sahara Group in a presentation at the Green Energy Africa Summit in Cape Town Africa on Friday, said that for the energy transition to gain traction in these parts, “we need to have problem solvers at the table, from across the continent, policy makers and implementers alike.”
She said areas of collaboration must be explored between countries with similar energy needs on the one hand, and public-private partnerships on the other hand.
“We must also address human capital development to harness the green energy opportunities, and One cannot do so without addressing the brain drain in much of sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.
The Green Energy Summit held in South Africa from October 4-5, is a global platform for stimulating deals and transactions across the African Energy Industry.
The event brings together governments, national regulators and utility companies, independent power players, investors, financial institutions and service providers to facilitate deals that will enable energy access and solutions for the continent.
One key issue raised at this year’s event was how close the energy access gap is using gas. While gas is more efficient to power industry and drive commerce, the use of renewable energy is heavily promoted on the continent through solar home systems.
However, renewable energy can complement gas to provide more jobs sorely needed on the continent aiding human capital development, industrialisation and comes with other social economic development gains.
The challenge for Africa is that there is not enough time to adjust in view of the climate emergency. This means that time is running out to utilize the continent’s resources for its development as well develop internal capacity in renewable energy space.
Many African countries have policies that do not align with their capacity to deliver. Failure to de-risk investment sector for renewable energy ends up tightening access to funds for local participants and local investors. Where funding is available, cost of capital is too high, Gray said.
This situation is complicated by the penchant of extractive countries on the continent to unduly focus on exporting minerals required for renewable energy such as lithium-ion, without consideration for the need to develop and battery storage and the electric vehicle value chain in Africa.
“Leaving no one behind as we push for energy transition appears to be the most daunting task ahead,” said Gray.
Therefore he called the inclusion of youths, especially the disadvantaged in poor countries, that are heavily reliant on revenues from fossil fuel production and development as the main driver of economic activity.
This also includes women, especially in those who live in remote areas in sub-Saharan Africa, who are bearing the brunt of climate change in agrarian communities.
“It the responsibility of all – private sector, govt, civil society – to speak for them,” she said.
Global platforms like Green Energy Africa Summit can be leveraged upon to discuss issues requiring global attention. But lawmakers across the continent must be willing to be part of these fora, and should take ownership actions required in their constituencies to implement decisions.
An informed populace would be empowered to hold their political representatives accountable to them for these issues.
However, most of all, economic empowerment is needed to reduce dependence on the political goodwill to resolve personal matters which seems to be the bane of the constituent-representative relationship in some parts of the continent.
Gray said poverty has a way of disenfranchising the disadvantaged in society, who tend to take on a personal interest-first, short-term approach over the collective long-term benefits.
Much of Africa is in dire need of three things- time to adjust to the transition, policy development, interpretation and implementation support, as well as financial aid.
Since some countries operate a mono-cultural economy, a sudden and drastic shift would leave several economies in dire straits, but failure to gain traction will also put these countries at risk of being stranded due to radical changes in policy direction and demand for our main export commodities, as demand patterns for fossil fuels starts to change.
The real issue, Gray said, is how to strike a balance between forging ahead and navigating an ever-evolving landscape, without losing sight of the equally important development agenda.
What Africa requires from the international community for the energy transition agenda, can be compared to the role of the GPS navigator in a vehicle. The GPS provides direction and pointers as to the shortest possible route to arrive at the desired destination. But ultimately, the destination and the
speed of the vehicle are determined by the driver, not the GPS.
“Africa is the driver; the international community is the GPS,” she said.