Africa cannot continue to act slowly, in addressing her development needs, the continent must move faster like the leopard, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has said.
Speaking at a press conference on the first day of the Annual Meetings of the Bank in Lusaka, Zambia, Monday May 23, 2016, he said “everything that’s good for Africa must not happen in the future,” adding that there are too many projects at pilot stage on the continent and there is the need to go beyond pilots “to flying planes,” he said.
Speaking on the conference theme of energy and climate change, he said so far the AfDB has invested about $100 million in renewable energy, but he noted that beyond financing, the Bank is helping African countries to figure out their own energy mix.
Dr. Adesina indicated that Africa has 350 gigawatts of solar potential, 150 gigawatts of wind potential and cited South Africa’s geothermal potential as well, but was quick to add that economies can’t be powered with potential.
“Africa needs energy for three things; to light up the continent, to power industry and for clean cooking. The continent needs both green based power and off-grid, and we are helping countries in terms of reforms and finance,” he said.
The importance of energy to economic development can’t be underestimated, but in Africa, the continent that produces more than 60 metal and mineral products and is a major producer of several of the world’s most important minerals and metals including gold, PGE’s, diamonds, uranium, manganese, chromium, nickel, bauxite and cobalt, there is a huge energy deficit.
Although Africa hosts about 30 per cent of the planet’s mineral reserves, including 40 per cent of gold, 60 per cent of cobalt and 90 per cent of the world’s PGM reserves – making it a truly strategic producer of these precious metals – more than 100 years after the light bulb was invented, most of the continent is still in the dark! Inadvertently, the continent is fueling development and creating wealth in the West!
The World Bank states that some 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are facing a crisis evidenced by rolling blackouts.
At the beginning of 2016, over 645 million Africans – some two-thirds of the people on the continent – had no access to energy, and unless something is done about the situation, this would continue till 2030.
The availability of energy would not only light up homes and communities, it would power industries, spur technological growth and generate more jobs.
A real threat to the environment and human life, climate change is staring the continent in the face – both a danger and opportunity.
The World Bank warned that there could be at least 100 million more people in poverty by 2030 due to climate change and its impact on agriculture, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the most vulnerable region.
However, Africa is the least contributor of any continent to climate change. According to the US Department of Energy’s International Energy Annual 2002, each year Africa produces an average of just over one metric ton of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per person.
South Africa which is one of the most industrialized countries in Africa, generates 8.44 metric tons per person, and the least developed countries such as Mali, generate less than a tenth of a metric ton per person. It is estimated that by comparison, each American generates almost 16 metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per year. That reportedly adds up to the United States alone generating 5.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – which is about 23 per cent of the world total, making it the leading producer.
Meanwhile, Africa as a whole contributes only 918.49 million metric tons (less than 4 per cent).
Yet the crude facts of climate change shows that Africa would bear the harshest burden when things do not get better.
However, climate change also offers the continent some opportunities such as in renewable energy and smart grids, energy efficiency, cutting pollution and climate-proofing infrastructure – these have some benefits for homes and industry, government, business and citizens: leading to cutting down costs, improving health, protecting livelihoods and investments and generating new green jobs.
For instance it is projected that the demand for power in Africa is expected to grow, driving the projected worth of the continent’s renewable energy sector to $57 billion by the year 2020.