The African Energy Chamber (AEC) has said that Africa needs a pragmatic approach to its energy transition not necessarily following Europe’s path to net zero emissions.
Speaking during the Oxford Business Africa Forum on March 10, NJ Ayuk, executive chairman of AEC said natural gas is the best way forward in view of Africa’s energy poverty. This should be followed by a strategy that would enable the continent to transition to a cleaner energy future, but not at the risk of socioeconomic development.
With over 600 million people without access to energy in Africa, it only makes sense that the continent harnesses all of its natural resources to alleviate energy poverty he said.
“Natural gas, affordable and abundant in Africa, can spark significant job creation and capacity-building opportunities, economic diversification and growth. Why shouldn’t Africa capitalise on those opportunities?”
Climate crisis represents a major global challenge. Africa faces the worst impacts of the crisis, with environmental disasters threatening the livelihoods of populations. “However, immediately transitioning away from oil and gas will not bring the economic relief the continent needs,” he said.
“I am not saying that African nations should continue oil and gas operations indefinitely, with no movement towards renewable energy sources. I am saying that we should set the timetable for our transition and decide how it’s carried out.”
According to Ayuk, instead of Western pressure to bring African oil and gas activities to an abrupt halt, it should be a cooperative effort with partnerships and relationships rooted in respect, open communications and empathy.
“A comprehensive approach to battling energy poverty, including gas-to-power initiatives, is necessary. And we see movement in that direction. More than a dozen African countries are already using natural gas they produce themselves or import from other countries to generate electricity,” he said.
“And new projects are on the way. Ghana, for example, is preparing to launch sub-Saharan Africa’s first LNG-to-power plant before the end of the year. Cameroon plans to convert an oil-fired power plant at Limbé to a natural gas-fired facility and expand production capacity. In Ivory Coast, a new combined cycle power plant is coming to Jaqueville.”
Ayuk says these projects will change African lives for the better. Reversing direction now would be a serious mistake.
According to AEC, while renewable energy resources have and will continue to play a role in electrifying the continent – particularly across remote areas where the grid connection is not feasible – oil and gas are the only way to kick start industrialisation.
In this scenario, Ayuk proposes an alternative solution to the trend evident in investing in Africa. Rather than continue with financial aid, Ayuk said that investment and partnerships represent the only way of addressing energy poverty and driving economic progress.
“We do not need help or quick fixes. We do not need aid. We need partners and investors. We need free-market solutions that contribute to long-term stability and economic growth. Strategically harnessing our oil and gas resources, natural gas in particular, puts those objectives within our reach,” he said.
“The idea is to use our natural gas as a feedstock to create other value-added products, like petrochemicals, from fertilizers to ammonia. Then we take the revenues to build infrastructure, from pipelines to ports and roadways. And we open the door to economic diversification.”
He made a strong case for an African-focused approach to the energy transition, citing energy poverty, economic development and investment as primary concerns. By establishing its path to transition, Africa will be well equipped to end energy poverty, and mitigate climate change while at the same time driving long-term and sustainable socioeconomic growth.
Ayuk said: “Why not set aside a portion of fossil fuel revenues to help fund the infrastructure we need? Why not continue investing in African oil and gas projects, particularly natural gas projects, to move Africa closer to achieving a successful energy transition?
“And why not share your technologies with us, so we can employ solutions like carbon capture to keep carbon emissions to a minimum? Africa needs an energy transition that takes a pragmatic approach to resolve energy poverty by making our natural gas resources part of the solution.”