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Africa’s Energy Transition: A Deep Dive into Opportunities and Challenges

In the midst of a global shift towards sustainability, Africa’s energy transition presents both unparalleled opportunities and formidable challenges. As the continent stands poised at the epicentre of this transformation, understanding its trajectory becomes essential.

Africa’s Burgeoning Renewable Energy Potential

Undoubtedly, Africa is replete with resources vital for the green energy revolution. With its sun-drenched lands, the continent boasts a massive solar potential. However, a significant hindrance is the overwhelming debts bogging down many African governments.

Andrew Steer, CEO of Bezos Earth Fund, at the Reuters IMPACT conference, highlighted Africa’s evolving stance. Instead of simply making requests at climate summits, the continent is now making lucrative offers, a shift that bodes well for future collaborations.

It’s noteworthy that while Africa contributes a scant 4% to global greenhouse emissions, it disproportionately faces climate calamities. This discrepancy underscores the urgent need for equitable climate action. Droughts and cyclones in recent years, including the devastating Cyclone Freddy, stand as testimony to the continent’s vulnerability.

Financial Roadblocks and International Climate Commitments

The international commitment to address the environmental challenges in developing countries was rekindled at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. Nations globally vowed to introduce a “loss and damage” funding mechanism to support these regions. Yet, pledges often remain on paper, with tangible contributions still awaited.

Tom Mitchell, a renowned expert from the International Institute for Environment and Development, accentuated this funding disparity at the London conference. Developing countries, he opined, are ensnared in a vicious cycle. They are repaying debts to affluent nations at rates that overshadow any climate finance or support they might receive.

Continuing on this trajectory has dire implications. Gupta warns of cataclysmic consequences, especially for Africa’s marginalized communities. Without timely interventions, these vulnerable groups face threats that could escalate to catastrophic dimensions.

Seizing the Moment: Africa’s Green Resource Potential

A closer look at Africa’s green assets reveals an impressive repository. The continent is abundant in essential minerals, particularly cobalt, a crucial component for electric vehicle batteries.

Moreover, it’s home to 60% of the world’s premier solar resources, making it a potential powerhouse for solar energy generation. Such an endowment, however, contrasts sharply with global investment patterns. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a mere 2% of global clean energy expenditure is directed towards Africa.

Cristina Gamboa, of the World Green Building Council, presents an optimistic viewpoint. She states that the bulk of Africa’s infrastructure envisioned for 2050 remains unbuilt. This scenario opens a window of opportunity. By integrating green energy solutions into this impending infrastructural boom, Africa can position itself as a forerunner in the clean energy transition.

However, the tug-of-war between green energy and fossil fuels is palpable. Gupta from AFC elucidates that an outright fossil fuel ban is untenable, given Africa’s monumental developmental needs. He reiterates the importance of a diversified energy mix, emphasizing that global energy security remains paramount.

The Fossil Fuel Conundrum

While green energy initiatives are commendable, the gravitational pull of fossil fuels is hard to deny. A recent report by ActionAid offers a perspective on this. It reveals that since the 2015 Paris climate accord, international banks have funnelled a whopping $3.2 trillion into the fossil fuel sector, predominantly in Global South countries.

Such investments spotlight the complexity of the energy debate. While the world collectively commits to curbing global warming, economic imperatives, especially in developing nations, occasionally steer the ship in a different direction.


Africa’s energy transition embodies a blend of promise and challenge. The continent is poised to leapfrog into a sustainable future, leveraging its renewable riches. Yet, the journey is fraught with financial and infrastructural roadblocks. As global stakeholders, it’s imperative to foster collaboration, channel investments, and drive policies to ensure Africa realizes its green energy potential.

Feel free to contact the Energy Transition Centre today with questions. 

·  Julius Moerder, Head of Energy Transition Centre [email protected]

·  Oneyka Ojogbo, Head of Energy Transition Centre, Nigeria & West Africa [email protected]

·  Leon van Der Merwe, Head of Energy Transition Centre, South Africa [email protected]

Author: Memoona Tawfiq