Can Africa Attain Economic Growth with Minimal Climate Impact?

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According to the United Nations, Africa does not significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions but is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Despite this vulnerability, opportunity abounds for economic growth and poverty reduction in the continent as the aggregated GDP of African countries vulnerable to climate change should rise by about $1 trillion to $3.46 trillion by 2024.

But the question is, can these gains be attained without further exacerbating the effects of climate change currently being experienced? The answer in some quarters is, yes, but only if the focus is on attaining sustainable growth by moving away from investing in fossil fuels to investing in delivering renewable energy and energy infrastructure. This would be Africa’s version of a ‘Green New Deal’.

More than half of the people who lack access to electricity globally live in Africa, yet global investments in energy that went to sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 was about 15%. Curious. Even more curious is the fact that between 2014 and 2016 Africa invested an estimated $11.7 billion each year on fossil fuels; essentially spending on technology that most of the world is moving away from due to its environmental unfriendliness.

Africa and Africans are ready for a change. The African Union has an Agenda 2063 that promotes inclusivity and sustainability; the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) seeks to drastically increase the use of renewable sources of energy; and there are various affordable small-scale climate-smart solutions currently being implemented. These include small solar grids providing energy to communities, small entrepreneurs driving proper waste management and recycling, and improved cook stoves being used in rural communities to reduce reliance on firewood which contributes to reducing deforestation.

Africa’s Green New Deal must therefore invest in scaling and deploying climate-smart solutions to scale as well as investing in identifying more innovative ideas. There is available investment that African countries can tap into: The World Bank will be investing about $22 billion between 2021 to 2025; and the African Bank is currently investing $25 million to improve energy generation in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, for Africa to benefit from available global investments, African countries must have strong regulatory frameworks, integrate climate change into their economic and development plans and have a strong plan for sustainable energy production.

One of the areas of our work is to providing awareness on climate change and its impacts, and facilitating access to renewable energy products in rural communities in northern Nigeria to reduce the use of firewood and emission of greenhouse gases.