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Wealthy Nations Are Pushing 'Dirty Energy' Projects Across Africa

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Fossil fuels need to be phased out around the world if the Paris climate agreement is to be achieved. Rather than investing in oil, gas, and coal throughout Africa, donor countries could be promoting renewable sources of energy. You can take action on this issue here.

Major donor countries are thwarting what could be a clean energy revolution in Africa by financing fossil fuel projects at three times the rate as renewable energy projects, according to a report by the energy watchdog Oil Change International.

Nearly $20 billion of international aid is spent on energy development in Africa each year, and 60% of this goes toward fossil fuels, while 18% goes toward renewables.

This disparity both undermines sustainability efforts throughout the continent and contradicts global commitments to mitigating climate change, Oil Change International argues.

It also harms the future climate prospects of countries throughout Africa, many of which are already dealing with extreme climate disruptions.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

“This report indicates that public money flowing into energy projects in Africa may not support long-term development priorities like access to energy and sustainability, and public finance institutions need to be more transparent about the kinds of projects they’re financing,” said Alex Doukas, director of the Stop Funding Fossils program at Oil Change International.

“Government-backed finance for energy in Africa mostly supports fossil fuel projects, while only a very small amount supports solutions like mini-grid and off-grid technologies that have an important role to play in delivering on the promise of universal energy access,” he added.

China, for example, has vowed to aggressively transition to clean energy, yet as the largest energy donor to Africa, it has largely failed to promote that effort abroad.

Read More: Learn More About Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100

Of the $5 billion in energy financing China sent to African countries, nearly 75% went to oil and gas extraction, and 13% went to coal-fired plants.

The other major funders of dirty energy throughout Africa are Japan, Germany, and the World Bank, according to the report.

These efforts, while seemingly misguided, are likely driven by the desire to expand access to electricity and boost economies in the process. Around 600 million people do not have access to electricity throughout Africa, the majority of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Hooking communities up to electricity means providing better access to health care, improved water and sanitation systems, more reliable telecommunications, and much more.

But clean energy advocates say areas without electricity should “leapfrog” fossil fuel ventures directly to a renewable energy.

Read More: Humanity Is About to Use Up More Resources Than the Earth Can Regenerate

And significant progress is being made on this front through the construction of decentralized solar networks, wind farms, and more. Kenya, for instance, is one of the world’s leading geothermal energy producers and recently built Africa’s largest wind farm.

Elsewhere, nonprofits are empowering communities in remote areas to add solar panels to their homes.

These projects have long-term viability because they will never threaten the environmental integrity of the region.

Fossil fuel developments, on the other hand, will have to be phased out in the future to mitigate the harms of climate change.

Read More: These 8 African Cities Pledged to Eliminate Emissions by 2050

For that reason, the authors of Oil Change International’s report are calling on donor countries to reassess how they allocate their funds.

“When deciding on energy projects in Africa, the most important question should be: Is this project in the best long-term interests of the people?” said Thuli Makama, Senior Advisor for Africa at Oil Change International.

“Governments should improve transparency around contracts, financing terms and energy planning, and engage in more meaningful dialogue with civil society to address this question,” Makama said.

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.