In the midst of the worldwide push for net-zero carbon emissions, African leaders are debating whether it is viable to industrialize exclusively on renewable energy. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 22 African countries already rely on renewable energy as their primary source of power.
According to Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), renewable energy, which includes hydro, wind, and solar power, as well as geothermal power, accounts for 75 percent of Kenya's electricity generation. Kenya's success story presents an important question for African and developing-world countries. Is it possible for a developing country to raise its living standards without relying heavily on fossil fuels?
Many African leaders argue that Africa cannot industrialize with green energy alone and clearly, not every African country has the same resources as Kenya. They argue that renewable energy, even trendy off-grid solar used to light communities, is simply no alternative to the hydrocarbon energy intensity required to manufacture steel, operate companies, and create jobs for a quickly rising metropolitan population. Africa's population will nearly treble to 2.5 billion people by 2050.
Africa has almost 600 million people without electricity, and with its rapidly rising population and industrialization ambitions, the region will require more energy by 2050 than it currently consumes. Without fossil fuels, this will be impossible.
No one has been able to industrialize with renewable energy so far, and a country’s development can be measured by the amount of gas it has emitted. According to Mo Ibrahim, "there is a strong correlation between the amount of emissions and a country’s living standards."
Many African politicians, scientists, and energy executives believe it is blatant dishonesty to demand that Africans freeze the use of fossil fuels. They argue that doing so would be comparable to asking a continent to remain in poverty indefinitely.
Analysts argue that wealthy countries can not suggest solutions that keep impoverished countries poor. Millions of people crossing the Mediterranean in quest of a carbon-intensive lifestyle would be the predictable and catastrophic effect of such unjust notions.
“Africa Unfairly Suffering"
Except for South Africa and a few nations such as Algeria and Egypt, Africans consume a fraction of the energy and emit a fraction of the carbon that their western counterparts do. According to the World Bank, Nigerians produce 0.7 tons of carbon per capita, less than one-twentieth of what is required to maintain a normal American lifestyle. Africa accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions, excluding agriculture and deforestation. Despite this, it bears a disproportionate amount of the brunt of climate change.
A majority of African leaders have argued that last year's COP 26 in the United Kingdom was widely regarded as advancing a western-biased agenda. However, COP 27 will be convened on African soil in Egypt in November this year, offering African leaders the opportunity to address this issue.
The Hypocrisy of the West
After the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, Europeans have changed their stance on gas, classifying it as a transition fuel alongside nuclear power in their new classification system. After planning to get rid of gas at COP26, any residual opposition to it has crumbled after the invasion of Ukraine and it is no longer a topic of discussion. They are, on the contrary, desperately hunting for new gas sources.
Europe has been exploring the globe for alternate energy supplies, particularly Africa, as it moves to ban the purchase of Russian oil. Botswana claims it has been swamped with demands for coal supply from European countries, in an apparent U-turn that many African experts believe exposes the European attitude towards fossil fuels as hypocritical.
African energy authorities have stated that Africa has enough fossil fuels if Europe wants them. Mozambique has uncovered a slew of gas discoveries that can be liquefied and transported by ship. Recent large-scale oil and gas finds off the coasts of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania have piqued European interest. Nigeria also has the ability to increase oil exports to Europe.
Opportunities for Green Energy
African entrepreneurs have argued that African countries should become green, not out of a sense of moral obligation but as a pragmatic response to new billion-dollar opportunities. There are a lot of investment opportunities for Africans to profit from green businesses as well as contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.