Africa must ‘look inside’ to finance and control the transition on its own terms

Senior African government officials urge the continent to turn inward to respond to difficult development agendas as they curb what they perceive to be Western interests pushing them to give up fossil fuels as quickly as possible possible.

The same week, COP26 was held in the UK last month, a group of African energy ministers gathered in Cape Town during the Africa Energy Week (AEW) event to discuss how to prepare the continent to energy transition.

The clear message from government officials and oil and gas organizations was that Africa – whose share of global greenhouse gas emissions is 3% – needs to develop its own financial and technical capacities to navigate its way in the world. transition, while continuing to exploit hydrocarbons.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, Secretary General of the African Organization of Petroleum Producers (APPO), focused on the topic of Self-Help at AEW – an event hosted by the Johannesburg-based African Energy Chamber and its president, NJ Ayuk, to replace Africa Oil Week. which, to the chagrin of many on the continent, was held this year in Dubai due to Covid-19.

While ostensibly acknowledging the reality of man-made climate change, Ibrahim said Africa is more than capable of carving its own energy transition path, but argued that the continent’s mindset must change. .

“Our mindset has been wired to believe that we cannot progress without help. But we cannot continue to depend on external aid. We have to look inside, ”Ibrahim said.

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He disagreed with the widely held view that Africa does not have the capital to go it alone, highlighting the huge windfall revenues that the continent’s oil and gas producers have made – and currently realize – when commodity prices are high.

“So what do we do when we say we don’t have money?” He asked, before saying that African elites are responsible for spending these revenues with little return to the masses.

Elite lifestyle

“It is our way of life that is holding us back,” noted Ibrahim, stressing that a first step in remedying this situation is for African elites to “moderate” their consumption so that this money can be channeled towards development. .

While APPO’s mandate is to promote cooperation in hydrocarbon development among its 15 member countries, Ibrahim recognized that African hydrocarbon-free nations will develop greener sources of energy, and these will likely be needed to the continent’s rapidly growing population, some 600 million of whom lack access to power.

Despite this, he reiterated his message that self-reliance is vital.

“With the energy transition imposed on the world, it is becoming increasingly important that Africans are able to control this industry. “

One of the reasons Ibrahim’s reluctance to accept foreign aid in the transition is that it may come with terms that increase a country’s debt.

The danger of finance abroad

“The danger is that this financial support could place a huge burden on some countries, especially oil and gas producers,” he said.

“Financial support for mitigation and adaptation, which cannot even be guaranteed, cannot compensate for Africa’s near lack of accountability to [causing] climate change.”

He called on developed countries to help Africa advance technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and direct air capture, to decarbonize its oil and gas production.

“The way forward for Africa in the transition is to make the most of its existing energy resources while creating the required infrastructure for renewable energy,” he said.

“The speed at which the rest of the world wants Africa to switch from oil and gas to renewables is simply unacceptable to us,” he told SABC News.

Redefining priorities

Advocating for the West to understand Africa’s problems, Adedapo Odulaja, Nigerian Minister of State’s Special Advisor for Petroleum, said: “The time has come for Africa to redefine its E&P priorities. It’s now or never.

“The challenges of energy poverty, climate change and development are not mutually exclusive. Approaches to deal with it should not be separate, but facilitated in a cooperative manner. “

Odulaja said: “Climate change is a big concern for everyone, but the issue of energy poverty is just as important. The battle is not between climate change and energy poverty, or between fossil fuels and renewables, or between the energy rich and the energy poor.

“It is about creating a win-win environment and giving a human face to the actions and proposals that are put forward. An unjust world cannot be a peaceful world.

Congo-Brazzaville’s Hydrocarbons Minister Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua said abandoning Africa’s fossil fuels would be tantamount to suppressing its engine of growth, although he stressed that the continent could be a powerhouse of ‘renewable energy.

“For me there is no opposition between renewables and oil and gas which can be produced in a clean and green way,” he said.

“It is not one form of energy that is green and good, and the other is black and bad,” he said.

“We have to show the world how it should have done things before.

“The technology is there, the young people are there, and the continent is in dire need of energy.”

Guinean Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Gabriel Obiang Lima, added that “we care about our planet and climate change”, while stressing that the continent has been a relatively small contributor of greenhouse gases.

“Until we have built all of our infrastructure, our roads … and my people can develop, only then can I have my electric cars,” he said.

“It’s a matter of priorities, not philosophies.”

“The curse of the transition”

Ghana’s Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Amin Adam said “there is no doubt” that the energy transition will disrupt the economies of Africa and its oil producers, with effects ranging from losses of income from underinvestment in hydrocarbons.

He described the switch to renewables as “the curse of the transition that will ensure Africa is left behind by the rest of the world.”

Adam called for African natural gas to be declared a transitional fuel longer than elsewhere to allow these reserves to be used to replace coal, for example, and provide electricity to hundreds of millions of people.

“The transition should not be dissociated from the need to fight energy poverty,” he said.

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