Africa refuses to go green, wants fossil fuels

30 May 2016, News Wires – African countries face new hurdles in their quest to turn on the lights for about 621 million people as global financiers become increasingly reluctant to fund non-renewable energy projects.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY: Commodities-oil-energy-price-US-boom-crime, Oilfield thefts on rise in Texas amid booming prices by Mira Oberman. This June 24, 2008 photo shows oil drilling rigs in Midland County, Texas. The wide open oilfields of West Texas are ripe pickings for thieves these days. Some drive up to one of the thousands of pump jacks that dot the countryside and siphon crude out of the storage tanks. Some pull up to a drill site after the crews have gone for the night and haul away tools, pipes and equipment. Others take kickbacks, file false invoices or just plain steal knowing their bosses are too busy riding the oil boom to keep a close eye on accounting. AFP PHOTO/COR (Photo credit should read MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

It is becoming increasingly difficult for African countries to obtain financing from both the public and private sectors, particularly for coal and fossil fuel projects — with international financial institutions compelling companies to protect the environment or lose financing.

European and North American advocates are pushing multilateral development banks to stop supporting fossil fuel energy investments.

For instance, recent research by the Africa Progress Panel, chaired by Kofi Annan, shows that the World Bank Group has adopted guidelines that only allow coal investment in “rare circumstances” while the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which supports companies investing in the developing countries, is effectively prohibited from investing in energy projects involving fossil fuels.

Aid agencies such as Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) and other EU donors do not provide support for coal-fired power projects.

Yet, across the continent, the deficit in power generation continues to be a major hindrance to business competitiveness, development, education and access to quality healthcare.

Worse still, restricted access to energy leaves the world’s poorest people paying some of the world’s highest prices for power.

Limited access to development finance is also seen as hampering efforts to achieve universal access to energy for all.

“It will not be possible to get out of the dark on renewable energy only within the set time-frame,” said Alex Rugamba, director for the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department at the African Development Bank, which is spearheading efforts to light up the continent through a new multi-million dollar New Energy Deal for Africa.

“Countries have different endowments and this will determine which energy sources they can exploit for both domestic and industrial use,” Mr Rugamba added.

He urged African countries to use their collective voice to engage with the developed world during this transition period when both conventional and renewable energy sources will be needed.

Double standards

Most African governments argue that prohibiting investment in coal will limit power generation in countries that do not have readily available and affordable alternatives.

They also accuse the developed world of double standards as coal fired generation still makes up a large share of the energy mix of countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States — with the share being more that the combined share of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa.


  • Berna Namata, The East African
About the Author