Forcing Green Energy on Africa Would Deepen Poverty

The developed world and Europe have relied on fossil fuel through the industrial revolution, and have ripped the benefit of cheap energy to build strong economies with a reliable energy supply. However, the situation is not the same in Africa. First, we have not completely industrialized Africa, the problem of poverty persists, and the continent is filled with developing countries with poor folks. 

For centuries, the burning of fossil fuels which include petroleum, natural gas, oil shales, bitumens, tar sand, and coal has generated the needed energy to propel cars, build businesses, and light up homes. Today, oil, coal, and gas continue to provide 80% of energy needs. Whereas Europe and developed countries enjoy the benefit, countries in Africa are yet to enjoy the full benefit of its fossil fuel. 

People on the African continent are more concerned about getting reliable, stable, and cheap electricity to light up their homes, run varying informal businesses, and increase efficiency. In rural Africa, more labor time is spent on economic and household activities. People have to spend time cooking every day because there is no refrigerator or stable electricity to help store food in the fridge. 

According to Africa Energy Outlook 2019, over 600 million people in Africa live without access to electricity. As of the year 2000, only 9 million people were gaining access to electricity, and the number doubled to 20 million between 2014 and 2018 in Africa. Though there has been some process to increase people’s access to electricity, the fact on grounds remains that most households are cut off from the national grid and not able to leave the old age darkness. The recent dynamics in the decline in the number of people without access to electricity is due to many activities in East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania) accounting for 50% of those gaining access. In Kenya, access to electricity rose from 25% in 2013 to 75% in 2018. 

In addition, 45% of the electricity access rate in Sub-Sahara Africa remains low compared to other parts of the world. The fact remains that over 600 million do not have access to electricity and the live-in population of Nigeria, Dr. Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. 

The cheap fossil fuel burned to produce electricity is not sufficient for every household in Africa. Certainly, the concern of Africa is not focused on the Green New Deal and the aggressive policies to shut down the usage of fossil fuels but on how at least every household can get access to cheap electricity. 

Many African governments are rolling out the Rural Electrification program with the support of developed partners. The 2022 budget state of Ghana presented Rural Electrification Program, Northern Ghana Rural Electricity Infrastructure Development and Access Project, and Electricity Network Infrastructure Enhancement Program to be funded by both Non-Concessional and Concessional external loans. 

Suddenly, the conversation on Green Energy is looking to diversify Africa’s energy sector. Indeed, we should worry about global warming and climate change, but, at what cost to African or developing countries? 

Africa is seen as the marketplace to dump green energy technologies on, and, it does not matter if Africa needs it, or not. It is not surprising that world leaders are calling for a ban on the financing of fossil fuel projects in Africa at the COP26, the United Nation Conference on Climate – Glasgow, Scotland. The focus of world leaders in wealthy countries is the strong, and radical commitment to cease public funding for all fossil fuel projects in less developed countries, for being responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. What puzzles the most is that these wealthy countries continue to fund hugely and including giving subsidies for fossil fuels in their own country. 

The Sudanese-British Billionaire and Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation mentioned in a recent interview with CBN News that; 

We found it a little strange, you know, that Europe is wallowing in gas, Russian gas, African gas… and when it comes to Africa, ‘No, no, no, no. We don’t fund gas there.’ You are using African gas and you deny us using African gas. I mean that’s morally indefensible.”

Mo Ibrahim

To put it simply, Europe can use its fossil fuel but Africa cannot. The U.S, U.K, European Union, Japan, and Russia altogether have the same population as Sub-Sahara Africa (1.1 billion) with 35 times more gas-powered plants and 52 times more coal plants than the Sub-region, which has about more than half of its population cut off with no access to electricity. During the Ukraine-Russia crisis, Europe now needs Africa in the search for gas suppliers, therefore, it serves no purpose if Africa does not explore its fossil fuel potential for cheap energy. 

Not funding fossil fuel projects is not only less of a solution to climate change but a complete loss to development. This is because such a radical stand would force developing countries to roll out programmes to access climate funds and not necessarily programmes that would be tailored to their developmental needs. Ghana may have already followed the path to access climate funds under the new National Alternative Employment and Livelihood Programme (NAELP) launched by President Nana Addo on 25th October 2021 which seeks to curb small-scale mining activities by providing skill training and alternative employment for youths who play activity role in mining activities. Paragraph 44 of Ghana’s 2022 budget statement provides the policy rationale which indicates that the goal is to roll out programmes just to access climate funds. The policy rationale states that:

‘This programme will help conserve our natural environment now and for future generations. It will also support efforts to leverage the natural environment as an asset to access climate finance for programmes at both the local and central levels of Government. Through our programmes to revitalise the economy, we will prioritise and finance innovations that optimise our climate advantage and drive our adoption of renewable energy technologies.’

2022 Budget Statement of Ghana

Few countries would be bold in the face of the imposition of green energy, forceful renewable energy diversity and completely ignoring the needs of the populace including rural African folks for reliable and efficient energy. It has been stated in the Wall Street Journal by the President of Uganda, Yoweri K. Museveni, that, ‘Africa can’t sacrifice its future prosperity for Western climate goals.

At this point, it is as if the conversation on Climate Change does not welcome any other thoughts. The protection of the environment is important, but it cannot be done with a false sense of urgency and holding the regenerative capacity of the environment as a variable that does not matter in the climate conversation. Africa should enjoy full access its potential and provide reliable energy to lighten the many livelihoods that luck in darkness on the continent, and certainly, shutting down fossil fuel is not the ideal solution. 

Article By

Nathaniel Dwamena

Nathaniel is a free-market policy analyst and president of the YAFO Institute. He engages in activities that promote civil liberty and economic freedom in Ghana. He was part of the team consulted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ Ghana) to undertake a study on business red tape in Ghana. He has a background in law, geography, and economics.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top