IRENA, AfDB say energy transition central to Africa’s economic future

Energy transition

Report suggests the need for a comprehensive policy framework towards an African Green Deal to overcome structural dependencies, raise gross domestic product (GDP) by 6.4% and create 26 million jobs by 2050.

Specifically, an integrated policy framework built around the energy transition could bring a wave of new sustainable energy investment to Africa, growing the region’s economy by 6.4% by 2050.

This is a part of the results of an analysis published on Thursday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The report, “Renewable Energy Market Analysis: Africa and its Regions,” shows that Africa is prospering significantly from development enabled by renewables, while greatly improving energy access and offering profound welfare and environmental benefits to people across the continent.

Its vision for an energy transition in Africa aligned with global climate ambition, shows the continent generating 26 million more economy-wide jobs by 2050 than is anticipated under a business as usual scenario plan.

Jobs created through the energy transition in Africa would outstrip fossil fuel related job losses by a factor of four, presenting a significant net gain to regional economies. Around two million people currently work in the fossil fuel industry in Africa.

Power generation

Commenting on the findings of the report, IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said: “Africa’s governments and people are too often asked to rely on unsustainable fossil fuels to power their development when renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions offer economically attractive and socially beneficial alternatives.

“The transition offers a unique opportunity for Africa to meet its development imperatives. Through tailored policy packages, African countries can harness their strengths and resources to overcome long-established structural dependencies.”

Also contributing, Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate & Green Growth, AfDB, Dr. Kevin Kariuki, said: “Africa is endowed with abundant renewable energy sources, upon which it can sustainably base its ambitious socio-economic development. However, this requires strong political commitment, a just and equitable energy transition framework, and massive investments.

“The African Development Bank is committed to supporting the continent’s energy transition, by facilitating increased private sector investments through its expanding range of green finance instruments, including the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.”

Already, coal, natural gas and oil together account for about 70% of Africa’s total electricity generation today and conventional power attracts far more funding than renewables in Africa, owing to an established process that favours less capital-intensive thermal generation, the report notes.

Enabling African countries, which have contributed little to historic greenhouse gas emissions, to develop, while recognising the need to address the climate emergency is imperative.

Energy transition spend

Therefore, energy transition finance must become more readily accessible. Coordinated efforts should be made to ensure public spending – the dominant source of energy transition finance in Africa – clearly prioritises renewables.

Of the $2.8 trillion invested in renewables globally between 2000 and 2020, only two per cent went to Africa, despite the continent’s enormous renewable energy potential and its need to bring modern energy to billions of citizens still lacking access.

While the rate of access to energy in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 33 per cent to 46 per cent over the last decade, rapid population growth meant 570 million people still lacked electricity access in 2019 – 20 million more than 10 years ago.

Also, about 160 million more people lacked access to clean cooking over the same period.

“Enabling African countries, which have contributed little to historic greenhouse gas emissions, to develop, while recognising the need to address the climate emergency is imperative,” said La Camera.

“International cooperation, including South-South cooperation, will be key to mobilising resources and know-how at the scale and speed proportionate to the needs of Africa’s economies, its communities and its people.”

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