COP27: The Africa proposal (3)

Africa’s agriculture sector, which accounts for the most jobs across the continent, remains largely rain-fed, and thus highly vulnerable to climate change. Incidents of famine and floods across Africa are rising owing to rising global temperatures, with consequences for agricultural production and food supply.

In fact, about 80 million will join the growing number of the global food insecure by 2050, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), albeit mostly in the global south. The consequences of drier lands extend beyond nutrition to security as well, as the intractable violence from terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, and civil war across an even more arid Sahelian West Africa show. Ironically, a lot of African countries are recording better progess on climate goals despite these challenges relative to their rich counterparts, which face almost none of these troubles, but do not hesitate to ask for more sacrifices for the greater good from developing countries.

In the face of these climate change threats, which are the consequences of the rich world’s industrialisation, Africa remains largely agrarian, as almost all countries in the region barring South Africa are yet to industrialise. While industrialisation and climate action are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the stage of development does matter for the pace of making the transition to greener energy sources.

 

The drift here is not about an abandonment of a green path to industrialisation for Africa, but rather a recognition that a continent so under-developed as Africa is at the moment, should not be realistically expected to make such a huge leap without due consideration for its myriad challenges and ever elusive developmental aspirations

If it took China 70 years to industrialise with fossil fuels, it can best be imagined how much longer African countries will require to do similarly after many false starts and failures with fossil fuels thus far, talk less with renewable energy sources that are still not versatile and scalable enough as yet.

The drift here is not about an abandonment of a green path to industrialisation for Africa, but rather a recognition that a continent so under-developed as Africa is at the moment, should not be realistically expected to make such a huge leap without due consideration for its myriad challenges and ever elusive developmental aspirations.

Africa’s energy transition to net zero emissions will have to be gradual and balanced – one that allows it to use its existing energy resources for development as it taps its abundant renewable energy resources in a manner and pace that lead to a sustainably rich and green future. It is thus naïve for African leaders to simply join rich countries in abandoning fossil fuels without tangible assistance from them to enable African economies successfully make the transition to net zero carbon emissions on time, nor should they have expectations that rich countries will ultimately do the heavy lifting for them.

Read also: COP27: The Africa proposal (2)

In other words, African leaders must not only own the continent’s energy agenda, they must also ultimately plan to fend for themselves as their rich counterparts are. Consequently, it is farfetched to suppose Africa will be able to transition to greener energy sources at the same pace as its developed counterparts.

The 5-year continental green recovery action plan for 2021-2027 launched by the AU Commission in July 2021, which emphasises support for renewable energy, energy sufficiency as well as a just energy transition, remains a robust framework for driving the continent’s climate action measures. There is agreement in this regard across most stakeholders in the continent’s public and private sectors, as well as civil society.

To articulate Africa’s case ahead of COP27, for instance, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation facilitated a forum of experts in May 2022 that recommended similarly as follows: Africa must negotiate to secure concessions that balance net zero emission goals, energy access, and energy security for the continent, with gas as a transition fuel in tandem with renewables. In the same vein, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Atlantic Council facilitated a forum of experts in July 2022 to discuss how to make a robust case for a just energy transition for Africa at COP 27 with similar recommendations.

An edited version was first published by the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies at Nanyang Business School, Singapore. References, figures and tables are in the

original article. See link viz. https://www.ntu.edu.sg/cas/news-events/news/details/three-proposals-that-should-be-adopted-at-cop27

Africa’s agriculture sector, which accounts for the most jobs across the continent, remains largely rain-fed, and thus highly vulnerable to climate change. Incidents of famine and floods across Africa are rising owing to rising global temperatures, with consequences for agricultural production and food supply. In fact, about 80 million will join the growing number of the global food insecure by 2050, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), albeit mostly in the global south. The consequences of drier lands extend beyond nutrition to security as well, as the intractable violence from terrorism, kidnapping, banditry, and civil war across an even more arid Sahelian West Africa show. Ironically, a lot of African countries are recording better progess on climate goals despite these challenges relative to their rich counterparts, which face almost none of these troubles, but do not hesitate to ask for more sacrifices for the greater good from developing countries. In the face of these climate change threats, which are the consequences of the rich world’s industrialisation, Africa remains largely agrarian, as almost all countries in the region barring South Africa are yet to industrialise. While industrialisation and climate action are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the stage of development does matter for the pace of making the transition to greener energy sources.  

The drift here is not about an abandonment of a green path to industrialisation for Africa, but rather a recognition that a continent so under-developed as Africa is at the moment, should not be realistically expected to make such a huge leap without due consideration for its myriad challenges and ever elusive developmental aspirations
If it took China 70 years to industrialise with fossil fuels, it can best be imagined how much longer African countries will require to do similarly after many false starts and failures with fossil fuels thus far, talk less with renewable energy sources that are still not versatile and scalable enough as yet. The drift here is not about an abandonment of a green path to industrialisation for Africa, but rather a recognition that a continent so under-developed as Africa is at the moment, should not be realistically expected to make such a huge leap without due consideration for its myriad challenges and ever elusive developmental aspirations. Africa’s energy transition to net zero emissions will have to be gradual and balanced - one that allows it to use its existing energy resources for development as it taps its abundant renewable energy resources in a manner and pace that lead to a sustainably rich and green future. It is thus naïve for African leaders to simply join rich countries in abandoning fossil fuels without tangible assistance from them to enable African economies successfully make the transition to net zero carbon emissions on time, nor should they have expectat...


Africa’s agriculture sector, which accounts for the most jobs across the continent, remains largely rain-fed, and thus highly vulnerable to climate change. Incidents of famine and floods across Africa are rising owing to rising global temperatures, with consequences for agricultural production and food supply. In fact, about 80 million will join the growing number of the global food insecure by 2050, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), albeit mostly in the global south. The consequences of drier lands extend beyond nutrition to security as well, as the...


Africa’s agriculture sector, which accounts for the most jobs across the continent, remains largely rain-fed, and thus highly vulnerable to climate change. Incidents of famine and floods across Africa are rising owing to rising global temperatures, with consequences for agricultural production and food supply. In fact, about 80 million will join the growing number of the global food insecur...


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