The African Union Commission has made a strong case for a green transition as the most sustainable pathway to development in a post-Covid-19 era.
Covid-19 stalled economic growth across the globe, and the African Union now believes that instead of using the same polluting fuels to power growth in the wake of the pandemic, Africa needs to transition to a low-carbon pathway to power its economic development.
During the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, top officials of the AU Commission met with the business and financial world at a high-level roundtable to review progress on the implementation of the AU’s flagship program, the Green Recovery Action Plan, GRAP,
Officials said it was critical to get the requisite funding to foster such a transition.
The GRAP spans six years, from 2021 to 2027. It will be built along three major axes: ‘strengthen collaboration on a broad range of shared priorities in support of the African Union’s objectives for the Continent’s sustainable recovery from Covid-19 and support the realization of a shared vision for a prosperous, secure, inclusive and innovative future for Africa.’
The plan also means emboldening action on such priority areas as Climate finance, supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency and national Just Transition programmes, a focus on biodiversity through sustainable land management, forestry and eco-tourism, resilient agriculture, as well as green and resilient cities.
The scope of the challenge means international partners; Pan-African Institutions, Regional Economic Communities and AU member States need to be mobilized to provide the required financial, institutional, and political support the continent needs to transition through a green recovery pathway.
In a world that continues to warm, a green transition, according to the officials, has become a moral imperative.
“We are in this together,” said the Zambian Minister of Green Economy and Environment, Collins Nzovu.
“Temperatures will rise not only in Zambia, but also in the UK,” he said to demonstrate the truly global impacts of climate change, and the need for developed countries to support Africa’s transition towards a green development pathway.
He spoke about the financial stress Africa was going through, triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, and worsened by climate change, and expressed discomfort at the fact that climate financing is “more expensive” for African countries.
It’s a huge problem for a continent that requires 1.26 trillion dollars to transition to green growth over the next ten years.
“And we are still not getting the resources to transition to green growth,” said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, the AU’s commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment.
The experts told donors that Africa won’t be taking more loans; rather, the continent will prefer grants that would truly help in its transformational agenda.
“The more loans we get, the less the efficiency of our projects,” said Selwin Charles Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action and Just Transition.
He said it wasn’t Africa’s choice to live through “the horrible devastation and disasters of climate change in our generation, let alone that of our children and grandchildren.” It was a veiled reference to the fact that although third-world countries contribute only 4% to Green House Gas emissions responsible for climate change, the continent suffers the most from the scourge
“Let us work collectively as a global community to achieve results for future generations,” he said and pledged accountability for whatever resources the AUC would receive.
He said Africa can lead the world in a new growth pathway, only if the continent could tap into its abundant renewable energy resources.
“60% of all renewable energy capacity globally is in Africa, yet only 1% of installed solar capacity is in Africa.
Admitting that African countries share part of the blame for the failure to develop such potential, the official expressed discomfort at the fact that “the cost of capital in Africa was seven times higher than in the industrialized world.”
“Same technology, the same type of investment, and yet the cost is seven times higher,” he said and characterized it as typical of the inequalities that exist in the world today.
“We need to fundamentally change this situation; we need to fundamentally adjust these systemic inequalities that pose significant barriers to countries in Africa to fully realize their developmental and social potential.”
Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, FARA, said his institution would be providing the needed scientific backing to help in the continent’s transition to green growth.
“You cannot have a transition if you don’t have science,” he said.
“FARA will be providing science,” he added.
Officials said the transition to green growth has become a more urgent issue, especially with seven countries in Africa- Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Senegal, Malawi, and Zambia predicted to be in the world’s top ten fastest-growing economies.
This means there will be an increase in energy demand from households, industry, transport, and power generation.
With the costs of renewable energy falling, (solar panel prices have dropped by 80% in the last decade and wind energy prices by 40%) officials believe investing in green energy to power the continent’s growth is the right way to go.
According to the United Nations, the annual investment gap for renewable energy infrastructure is between $380 billion and $680 billion.
Officials say it’s a sacrifice worth making, given that transitioning to a green economy would create newer jobs as well as bring in more investment Africa-crucial for a continent where 70 % of the population is under 30, and so continuously swell the ranks of those unemployed.
This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.