Unlocking Africa’s potential as a global low-carbon superpower

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International financial institutions and governments must scale up investment in energy to unlock Africa’s potential as a global low-carbon superpower; this is according to the Africa Progress Panel.

Kofi Annan, Chair of the panel, said his group categorically rejected the idea that Africa had to choose between growth and low-carbon development.

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“Africa needs to utilise all of its energy assets in the short term, while building the foundations for a competitive, low-carbon energy infrastructure,” said Annan.

The Africa Progress Panel’s new report, Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, calls for a tenfold increase in power generation to provide all Africans with access to electricity by 2030.

According to the report, this would reduce poverty and inequality, boost growth, and provide the climate leadership that is sorely missing at the international level.

It is estimated that, 621 million people lack access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa and this number is rising.

“Excluding South Africa, which generates half the region’s electricity, Sub-Saharan Africa uses less electricity than Spain,” read the statement from the Panel.

“It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as an average American consumes in a single month. And over the course of one year someone boiling a kettle twice a day in the United Kingdom uses five times more electricity than an Ethiopian consumes over the same year.”

The Panel added that, power shortages diminish the region’s growth by 2-4 per cent a year, holding back efforts to create jobs and reduce poverty.

The power generation gap between Africa and other regions is widening. Nigeria is an oil exporting superpower, but 95 million of the country’s citizens rely on wood, charcoal and straw for energy.

The report reveals that households living on less than 2.50 US dollars a day collectively spend 10 billion US dollars every year on energy-related products, such as charcoal, kerosene, candles and torches.

Annan said by hedging their bets and waiting for others to move first, some governments were playing poker with the planet and future generations’ lives.

(READ MOREAfrica’s resources still plundered by corrupt officials)

“This is not a moment for prevarication, short-term self-interest, and constrained ambition, but for bold global leadership and decisive action,” he said.  

He added that countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa were emerging as front-runners in the global transition to low carbon energy.

“Africa is well positioned to expand the power generation needed to drive growth, deliver energy for all and play a leadership role in the crucial climate change negotiations.” 

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