[Column] Bob Koigi: Opportunities for Africa in the just energy transition process
Nairobi is hosting thousands of delegates among them heads of states, business heads, development partners and the international community for the inaugural Africa Climate Summit.
As participants within the continent and beyond deliberate on a common front to tackle the climate crisis while finding innovative ways to adapt, there needs to be more emphasis on the untapped natural resources in the continent and its innovative and vibrant young generation that have potential to leapfrog it towards a clean and sustainable future.
In the wake of the global energy transition numerous opportunities abound for the continent that not only promises to light up Africa but to also propel it to the global league of top producers of cheap clean and green energy.
It is estimated that over 600 million Africans have no access to energy, yet the continent has some of the most elaborate energy sources spanning solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, biomass, coal, hydrocarbons, among others. It is home to one-sixth of the global population yet, it accounts for less than 6% of global energy consumption.
Tapping into the numerous energy opportunities stimulate the continent’s economic growth, gives it a chance to address energy poverty, reduces the cost of doing business and allows it to attain sustainable development goals.
Yet, a burgeoning African population, poised to reach more than 2 billion by 2050, urbanization and the appetite for economic development will all require intensive energy investment.
The magic lies in striking a balance between fossil fuels and renewable energy even as it we aim for net zero emissions by 2050.
For the longest time, the continent has not benefitted from the fossil-based economy which has seen it receive the smallest benefits while being exposed to the biggest setbacks as has been experienced in the current energy crisis.
Now the shift to the new global energy economy is opening up a world of opportunities for a more energy-vibrant Africa capable of powering its development while presenting new industrial frontiers in key minerals and green hydrogen if managed well.
The growing global ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions is shaping a new course for the global energy sector in the wake of dwindling clean technology costs and changing global investment trends. These developments offer African countries the perfect chance while attracting growing flows of climate finance.
Increasing energy efficiency is crucial if Africa is to manage and handle its energy needs because it eases strains on existing infrastructure, tames fuel imports and ensure consumer bills are affordable.
To tap into the plethora of opportunities that the energy mix offers Africa, governments across the continent and international investors must step up their resolve to improve structural reforms in the power utilities while supporting pro-poor subsidies, removing red tapes and bureaucracies that inhibit investment in the sector and enhance a smooth financial assistance regime. In the end, a robust African ecosystem must be enhanced by stronger efforts on the ground which are backed by global support.