Navigate the opportunities and risks of the European Green Deal for Africa

On July 14, 2021, the European Commission adopted a set of proposals that constitute the European Green Deal (EGD). EGD is a set of policy initiatives that define the EU’s climate strategy and aim to make Europe a pioneer in international climate policy. Its main objective is to reduce the EU’s net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. To achieve this objective, the EGD provides a roadmap for a low-carbon future and the building blocks of a green economic growth strategy.

The potential global fallout from EGD will reach Africa given the strong economic and historical ties between the two continents. EGD opportunities and risks for African countries abound in at least seven areas: agriculture, biodiversity, energy, critical raw materials (CRMs), circular economy, new technologies and finance .1

Recommendations for EU policymakers

  1. Forge real partnerships in the sourcing of CRM and energy supplies in Africa by strengthening industrial capacities, localizing value chains and sharing technologies. Clean energy hardware industries, such as battery factories and photovoltaic solar panels, can be set up in mineral-rich countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the EU moves away from chains Chinese supplies.
  2. Align areas of EGD that directly affect Africa with the continent’s stated development priorities. These African priorities are described in continental, sub-regional or national policy documents. These include the AU’s Global African Agricultural Development Program on Agroecological Threats, Adaptation of New Standards and the Pan-African Agenda on Ecosystem Restoration for Increased Resilience on Biodiversity Protection, and African mining vision on mineral resources. Overall, Europe should not use its financial might or technological standards to impose its foreign policy and geopolitical interests at the expense of Africa’s own development aspirations.
  3. Match the EU’s principles for sustainability with actual volumes of climate finance in Africa. This climate finance should be separated from official development assistance and provided either in the form of grants or at very concessional rates to avoid weighing on poor countries with unsustainable debt. Funding should also be rebalanced from its current strong focus on climate change mitigation towards climate change adaptation and resilience.

Recommendations for African policymakers

To harness the opportunities presented by EGD and mitigate potential risks, African countries need to clearly articulate and affirm their own climate transition programs. They should, individually and collectively, set their own climate change priorities, taking into account their resource endowments, historical legacy, development strategies and geopolitical interests, while presenting clear demands from the community. ‘EU regarding specific aspects of EGD. These bridging programs could include the following:

  1. Update geological studies of their endowments of fossil fuels, RCMs and renewable resources to help attract FDI. The mapping of resources will help African countries to conquer a market share for the supply of green hydrogen in Europe and investments estimated at 75.6 billion euros (90 billion dollars).
  2. Strengthen market-creating instruments updating local content laws, policies and regulations to reflect the low carbon transition and cover the specifics of CRMs. This should aim to achieve, among other objectives, the transfer of knowledge, skills and technology; the location of jobs; and backward and forward linkages with the rest of the economy.
  3. Work closely with local private sectors to take advantage of new financial instruments emerge in the context of EGD towards job creation, skills upgrading, technology adoption and R&D investments to stimulate local innovation.
  4. Develop their own comprehensive climate action strategy by finalizing the African Union climate action plan; update sector strategies in areas such as mining, biodiversity, circular economy and agriculture; and develop common positions in global forums on the management of the energy transition, in particular the various aspects of the obsolescence of fossil fuels to come in Europe.

Knowledge gaps for research communities

  1. Generate better data and perform in-depth forecasting. This would involve quantifying and modeling the impacts of EGD at continental, sub-regional and national levels in order to help policy makers understand what is at stake. Specific topics may include modeling the impacts of CBAM on l agriculture, oil and gas, and merchandise exports from African countries to the EU; generate better data on climate finance; and quantify the evolution of investment flows in hydrocarbons and CRM projects due to the evolution of European demand.
  2. Conceptualize a just transition for Africa. African academics and policymakers should design a just climate transition adapted to the realities of the continent in order to provide a framework for national policies and relations with external partners like the EU. Such a conceptualization would embrace Africa’s development needs around quality jobs, sustained growth, economic transformation as well as the fight against climate change.
  3. Avoid new technological dependencies. Further research is needed to examine how to avoid replicating the technological dominance and dependence of the oil and gas era, particularly around hydrogen and RCMs.
  4. Advocate for transparency on the allocation of EU climate finance. More information is needed on how the EU will allocate climate finance across industries, sectors and countries in relation to commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. In-depth risk and risk assessments Eurobond opportunities for African countries will also be needed, and how to reduce the risks of African economies to attract investment in carbon-free gas and green hydrogen projects, among others.


EGD is primarily a set of internal EU policy instruments, but its potential impacts will reach African countries. These effects will be felt in the market for agriculture, fossil fuels and other natural resources. The impacts will also occur through the channels of Europe’s financial strength, technologies and standards. However, no outcome is predetermined. In fact, the transition envisioned in the EGD offers the promise of an overhaul of EU-Africa relations from a donor-recipient orientation of the past to a mutually beneficial partnership in the 21st century if the right steps are taken now.


1 These recommendations are taken from “What Does the European Green Deal Mean for Africa? », Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 18, 2021, -green-deal-mean-for-africa-pub-85570.

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