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The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its newly released Africa Energy Outlook 2022, has stated that crippling spikes in energy prices underscore the urgency and the benefits for African countries of accelerating the scale up of cheaper and cleaner sources of energy

AdobeStock 333050118Africa is home to 60% of the best solar resources worldwide. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

According to the IEA, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent food, energy and other prices soaring which has increased strains on African economies (which have already been hit hard by the pandemic). The crises are affecting many parts of Africa’s energy systems which has reversed positive trends in improving access to modern energy – 25 million more people on the continent are living without electricity compared to before the pandemic. 

These issues have of course been exacerbated by the effects of climate change with Africa suffering more than most despite contributing less than 3% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions. 

Despite these challenges, the IEA report finds that the global clean energy transition holds new promise for Africa’s economic and social development, with solar, other renewables and emerging areas such as critical minerals and green hydrogen offering strong growth potential if managed well.  Increased international ambitions for cutting emissions are helping set a new course for the global energy sector amid declining clean technology costs and shifting global investment patterns. African countries are poised to benefit from these trends and attract increasing flows of climate finance.

Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, commented. “Africa has had the raw end of the deal from the fossil fuel-based economy, receiving the smallest benefits and the biggest drawbacks, as underlined by the current energy crisis. The new global energy economy that is emerging offers a more hopeful future for Africa, with huge potential for solar and other renewables to power its development – and new industrial opportunities in critical minerals and green hydrogen.”

“The immediate and absolute priority for Africa and the international community is to bring modern and affordable energy to all Africans – and our new report shows this can be achieved by the end of this decade through annual investment of US$25bn, the same amount needed to build just one new LNG terminal a year. It is morally unacceptable that the ongoing injustice of energy poverty in Africa isn’t being resolved when it is so clearly well within our means to do so.”

The Africa Energy Outlook 2022 explores a Sustainable Africa Scenario in which all African energy-related development goals are achieved on time and in full. This includes universal access to modern energy services by 2030 and the full implementation of all African climate pledges. 

The backbone of this is expanded and improved electricity grids to be increasingly powered by renewables. With Africa home to 60% of the best solar resources worldwide but only 1% of solar PV capacity, this is an opportunity currently being missed. 

The IEA also noted that the continent’s industrialisation relies in in part on expanding natural gas use as more than 5,000 billion cu/m have been discovered to date in Africa but have not yet been approved for development. These recources could provide an additional 90bn cu/m of gas per year bu 2030 which could be vital for Africa’s domestic industries. 

Finally, a number of low-carbon hydrogen projects are underway, touching upon the huge potential of the continent to produce hydrogen using its rich renewable resources. 

Birol stated, “Multilateral development banks must take urgent action to increase financial flows to Africa for both developing its energy sector and adapting to climate change. The continent’s energy future requires stronger efforts on the ground that are backed by global support. The COP27 Climate Change Conference in Egypt in late 2022 provides a crucial platform for African leaders to set the agenda for the coming years. This decade is critical not only for global climate action but also for the foundational investments that will allow Africa – home to the world’s youngest population – to flourish in the decades to come.”

Read the Africa Energy Outlook 2022 report at IEA’s website here: