How Africa is making bold steps towards clean energy transition

President William Ruto and Energy Cabinet Secretary David Chirchir interact with an exhibitor from Red Rocket during the Africa Energy Forum held at KICC, Nairobi on June 20


What you need to know:

  • Africa has historically been the world’s smallest contributor to the ongoing climate change crisis.
  •  But the continent bears the disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change.

With only 16.7 percent of the total world population, Africa has historically been the world’s smallest contributor to the ongoing climate change crisis, emitting less than 2.9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the continent bears the disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change. These include adverse weather conditions such as drought, floods, and landslides, which have resulted in starvation, waterborne diseases, and massive destruction of property infrastructure and livelihoods.

No longer willing to remain silent as it suffers from the consequences of unsustainable practices, Africa has become a leading actor in voicing concerns over the climate change crisis.

For four decades now, the continent has been robustly and consistently involved in national, regional, continental, and global discourses aimed at finding effective solutions to the climate change crisis.

Speaking during the 25th edition of the Africa Energy Forum in Nairobi, Kenya’s President, Dr William Ruto  said this commitment has highlighted Africa’s unique place in the global energy mix and at the same time positioned it as the clean, green continent of the future.

"This year’s Africa Energy Forum reminds us about the history, progress, achievements and consistency of Africa’s commitment to developing a viable pathway towards energy access and effective climate action," noted President Ruto.

He invited investors to forge partnerships with local governments in order to effectively tap into the African continent, which is endowed with substantial renewable energy resources that constitute a highly attractive investment profile.

Kenya, for instance, has a proven wind energy potential of 30000 MW, tremendous geothermal energy potential currently estimated at 10000 MW, out of which less than 10 per cent has been exploited, 6000 MW of both large and small hydropower potential, 300 MW of potential for coal generation, biogas potential, and solar potential. The country plans to achieve 100 per cent clean cooking by 2028, and this also offers an opportunity for investment.

In 2021, an energy compact on clean cooking was prepared and submitted by Kenya at the high-level dialogue on energy, expressing the country’s commitment to accelerate access to clean cooking.

As part of implementing the compact, Kenya is launching an energy transition programme where all public institutions shall shift away from biomass cooking gas to cleaner and more sustainable options.

"By transitioning away from fossil fuels, we shall contribute to global efforts to mitigate climate change and protect and secure a sustainable future for ourselves and for the generations that will come after us," noted Dr Ruto.

Meanwhile, Energy Minister Davis Chirchir called upon industry stakeholders to work together in developing innovative financing mechanisms, creating favourable policy frameworks and promoting technology transfer and capacity building. He noted that doing this will help unlock the full potential of renewable energy and build a sustainable future that leaves no one behind. "Africa possesses abundant natural resources that can be harnessed to generate clean and sustainable electricity for the benefit of all. Together we can harness the power of innovation, technology, and partnership to address our energy challenges and unlock the vast potential that lies within our continent," noted Mr Chirchir.

The minister also noted that through its diverse energy mix, the continent can achieve remarkable progress in meeting its energy needs while reducing its carbon footprint and contributing to global efforts in combating climate change and creating a greener planet.

Africa is home to the world’s greatest concentration of people without access to efficient and ecologically sustainable energy, with 600 million people having no electricity at all and 900 million people without clean cooking energy. In recent years, Africa has been making remarkable strides towards a clean energy transition, recognising the importance of sustainable development and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Africa's potential for renewable energy is unparalleled. The continent boasts abundant solar radiation, vast wind resources, significant hydroelectric potential, and geothermal hotspots. Recognising this, many African countries have taken bold steps to harness these resources and increase their renewable energy capacity. Leading the way is Morocco, with its Noor Concentrated Solar Power complex, the world's largest solar power plant. South Africa has made significant investments in wind and solar projects, while Kenya has become a hub for geothermal power generation.

However, access to financing and investment remains a challenge. Despite this, international financial institutions, development banks, and impact investors are increasingly recognising the potential of Africa's clean energy sector. Initiatives such as the African Development Bank's Desert to Power and the Green Climate Fund are providing vital financial resources to scale up renewable energy infrastructure.