4 weeks ago

Africa Needs A Socially Just Approach To Energy Transition

By Faith Lumonya, Economic Justice and Climate Action Lead, Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)

As Global leaders convened in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt for the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) summit discuss the energy transition this week, African feminists, climate justice advocates, and civil society are demanding[1] socially just and inclusive approach to energy transition. 

Central to negotiations on this agenda is the reduction of carbon emissions and a shift to greener economies. Whereas the concept of energy transition within developed countries is firmly rooted in reducing carbon emissions as the main objective, in developing countries and particularly Africa, energy transition is less about reducing what currently exists in limited access and more about ensuring that those at the margins of society have increased access to affordable and sustainable energy resources. This shift must not be an equally shared responsibility across the globe because poor regions like Africa already contend with intersecting development challenges. Hence, all assumptions that what may be appropriate in developed countries in terms of energy transition, can also be applied in our context must be challenged. 

Currently, more than 600 million people in Africa lack access to electricity[2]. Almost 60% of medical clinics on the continent lack regular flow of power[3], while roughly four out of every five primary and secondary schools in African countries lack access to electricity[4]. In West Africa, only about 42% of the total population, and 8% of rural residents, have access to electricity – representing the lowest rates world over[5]

Moreover, women and girls face the brunt of this energy poverty. They carry the responsibility of collecting cooking fuels, and ensuring that children have lighting to study, among others. Women also significantly bear the burden when health care centers are not adequately supplied with power as they are the ones often responsible for providing unpaid care to sick people. 

Surprisingly, while the Global North and parts of Asia are disproportionately responsible for 92% of excess global carbon emissions[6], their current levels of capital spending on renewable energy like solar and wind energy are still far from sufficient to tackle the energy and climate crises. In 2021, the Glasgow summit challenged world leaders[10] to become more proactive rather than reactive in their responses to keeping global warming below 1.5° Celsius. 

Many of us also called for ending of fossil fuel expansion and rapidly investing in accelerating a just and inclusive energy transition. This also means prioritizing rolling back on privatization of renewable and regenerative energy resources and its supply to ensure enhanced affordability, accessibility, availability and adaptability. It also means decentralizing and democratizing ownership of these energy alternatives; and investing in community-owned solar and wind, public green utilities and nationalized renewable energy industries.

Emerging neoliberal influences of the energy transition however requires that African states are more conscious as this influence could potentially limit their pursuance of their development interests. As negotiations progress in Sharm El Sheikh, African states must apply an intersectional lens in their analysis and decision making in order to advance the needs and interests of those at the margins of their societies. African states must stand their ground especially as developing countries remain adamant about committing to capping their emissions both at home and abroad, including halting investments in fossil fuels and nuclear energy. They must ensure that COP 27 delivers a clear, targeted, and urgent agenda to shift from fossil fuel-based economies in a just and inclusive way, while delivering sustainable, and ecologically just economies that focus on uplifting the most marginalized people and the planet. The fear though is whether this is attainable in a COP with 636 fossil fuel lobbyists, of which 200 of them are on government badges. 


[1] African Women’s & Girls’ Demands for COP27, https://www.akinamamawaafrika.org/african-womens-girls-demands-for-cop27/

[2] Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai (2022). 970 Million People Do Not Have Access to Clean Cooking, 600 Million Do Not Have Access to Electricity in Africa, https://cleantechnica.com/2022/08/10/more-than-970-million-people-still-do-not-have-access-to-clean-cooking-600-million-still-do-not-have-access-to-electricity-in-africa/

[3] The Power Partnership (2021). A Healthcare Facility with Unreliable Electricity Access Is As Good As One With No Electricity Access At All, https://www.thepowerpartnership.org/blog/proven-success

[4] UNDESA (2014). Electricity and education, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/1608Electricity%20and%20Education.pdf

[5] Riccardo Puliti (2022). Putting Africa on the path to universal electricity access, https://blogs.worldbank.org/energy/putting-africa-path-universal-electricity-access 

[6] Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 4, Issue 9

[7] IEA (2021). World Energy Outlook Report, https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2021

[8] IPCC (2022). Climate change 2022: mitigation of climate change, 2022, p14-72 & p14-81, https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ipcc.ch%2Freport%2Far6%2Fwg3%2F&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AOvVaw25TbcTd-zZLZo5UrEQnal8

[9] Oliver Moldenhauer and Nico Schmidt (2021). ECT data analysis: Results and Methods,  https://www.investigate-europe.eu/en/2021/ect-data/

[10] COP 26 must guarantee an Ecofeminist future for the planet, https://www.akinamamawaafrika.org/cop-26-must-guarantee-an-ecofeminist-future-for-the-planet/

[11] African Women’s & Girls’ Demands for COP27, https://www.akinamamawaafrika.org/african-womens-girls-demands-for-cop27/


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