Why continent should lead the Green Revolution

Tuesday March 08 2022
Solar power system.

A solar power system in Rwanda. Fossil fuels are the past. We have more wind and solar resources in Africa than anywhere else and yet our people are some of the most energy starved in the world. PHOTO | FILE


It was billed as the summit that would reset ties between Africa and Europe. Only time will tell if this relationship, traditionally seen to have colonial undertones, can finally move to a mutual one.

The AU-EU Summit happened after years of cancellations, with only half of African heads of state attending. Top on the agenda was the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccine inequity, trade protocols and energy transition. The EU pledged to support Africa with its transition to a renewable path.

The continent is aware it needs to embrace the energy of the future, but it needs financial help in order to achieve this. Fossil fuels are the past. We have more wind and solar resources in Africa than anywhere else and yet our people are some of the most energy starved in the world. This is a perverse reality, one which should be a global priority to fix.

Historic European greenhouse gas emissions have helped to create the climate crisis now being suffered most acutely by Africans. It is only right that European leaders commit to funding the renewable energy revolution in Africa so that we can create a prosperous and safe world for all.

At the summit, the EU promised a €150 billion ($167 billion) package to support health, education and energy transition among other issues close to Africa’s heart. But the details of how this will be implemented are still missing. If Europe and Africa are to rebuild trust, it is crucial to have transparency at the centre of all discussions and the modalities of implementing such a package should be properly laid out.

Africa’s trust has been tested time and again when it comes to climate finance. Previous promises by the Global North to provide $100 billion annually to the countries most affected by climate change are yet to be fulfilled. Europe can avoid a repeat of history by creating an honest relationship with Africa, from which the rest of the Global North can learn.


The money pledged by the EU has the potential to help Africa transition to green energy. Shunning dirty fossil fuels and embracing the widely available renewable resources will create thousands of jobs, fuel economic growth, and accelerate efforts to get more than 600 million Africans out of darkness by connecting them to electricity and putting energy ownership in their hands.

A full transition will, of course, require far more resources, but this could be a critical start. As we wait for the leadership of the two continents to spell out ways in which this funding will be implemented, time is of the essence. The planet continues heating, exposing millions of people to starvation, weather-related catastrophes, loss of shelter, and diseases.

In the battle to tackle the climate crisis, Europe and Africa have shown they can work together. This comes at a time when Africa could use an ally as it hosts this year’s COP27 in Egypt. In the year of the African COP, the EU needs to be a partner.

While Africa has much to gain from the green transition, it also has much to offer, including renewable energy supplies, which are key in the production of green hydrogen as well as high quality goods and raw materials.

Africa can show climate leadership by creating its own transition priorities and linking them to its development goals.

Mohamed Adow is the Director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based energy and climate think tank.