Climate change will hit Africa hard

Climate change will hit Africa hard

The continent is particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the World Energy Council’s latest monitor advises that strong action is needed. Affordable and…


As Africa becomes more conscious of the effects of climate change on energy production, it should tap into its abundant undeveloped energy resources, including renewable and clean energy sources.

Commenting on the launch of the World Energy Council (WEC) 2014 World Energy Issues Monitor at the Africa Energy Indaba in Sandton on 18 February, WEC’s vice-chair for Africa, Bonang Mohale, said the climate framework had become a critical issue for African national governments and regional institutions.

“Africa is dramatically vulnerable to climate change, and Africans are becoming more aware that climate change is an urgent and real issue rather than something that only countries with large emissions should worry about,” he said, referring to the Africa survey part of the report.

The World Energy Africa Indaba brings together international and continental experts to share their insights and solutions to Africa’s energy crisis, while simultaneously exploring the vast energy development opportunities on the continent. The indaba took place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 18 to 20 February.

The WEC report captures the views of over 800 energy leaders worldwide, including ministers, chief executives and the heads of the WEC’s national members committee, covering 84 countries. It notes that Africa could suffer more than any other world regions because of the difficulty of adapting and responding to the effects of climate change with insufficient resources. Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, and the frequency and severity of extreme events such as drought will likely affect how much energy is produced, delivered, and consumed. And on a continent such as Africa, where most people use traditional biofuels for cooking, such climate changes can have severe consequences.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that about 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity. Furthermore, 2.7 billion people continue to rely on solid fuels such as traditional biomass and coal for cooking and heating, and this is expected to rise to 2.8 billion by 2030.

Electricity supply in Africa remains a huge concern, “with growing demand, lack of required investment and increasing power shortages across the continent”. With this in mind, the report states that “national governments and regional institutions on the continent are seeing stronger interest in energy efficiency, and consequently are taking actions, in terms of policy measures, to encourage energy-efficiency improvements”.

Renewable energy remains a high priority for Africa, with huge potential and opportunities. “Access to affordable and clean energy is essential to accelerating Africa’s economic development and enhancing its population’s living standards. Much effort should be contributed to create universal energy access, with a focus on enhancing the abundant undeveloped energy resources, including renewable and clean energy sources.”

China and India are increasingly focusing trade and investment attention on Africa, and good prospects are arising from the hydrocarbon sector. With these benefits in mind, Africa should focus on realising necessary infrastructure developments to complement regional interconnection. “Only with a focus on these issues will further progress around sustainable development for the continent be a possibility,” the report notes.

Certain factors, however, continue to act as headwinds against Africa’s economic development. The global recession continues to have an impact on economic growth on the continent, despite most of its countries recording favourable growth in gross domestic product compared to their developed counterparts. High energy and commodity prices also negatively affect the well-being and living standards of Africa’s population. And renewable sources on the continent are becoming uncertain. The report advises that “strong action” should be taken by governments to address the issue.

The report also flags the lack of skilled energy personnel in Africa, alongside energy poverty, as one of the unresolved issues that should be addressed by African leaders. Other notable issues in the report include US foreign aid policy, which is gaining “substantial ground” on the continent. In June 2013, President Barack Obama announced his government’s new Power Africa initiative which aims, over the next five years, to address access to electrical power in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is supported by an investment fund leveraged from private US investments.


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