Africa’s energy future must be renewable

This article was first published in ECO, the daily NGO Newsletter printed at COP by Climate Action Network.


As the sun rises above Egypt on Energy Day at COP27, let’s consider our host country’s proud symbol: the mysterious Sphinx, which devoured all those who failed to solve its riddle.

Esteemed delegates, like the Sphinx, ECO has a riddle for you today. Get it right and unveil the secret to a clean and just energy transition. But answer wrong, and lose yet another chance to follow promises with real action.

Here’s the riddle: Which continent has the world’s highest solar energy potential, and yet is home to 600 million people living without access to electricity? Which continent is highly vulnerable to climate impacts, but is seeing more foreign money flowing into fossil fuels than supporting climate action?

ECO’s here to help the confused (looking at you, esteemed rich countries’ delegates). The answer: Africa.

So far at COP27, ECO’s heard two different versions of the story of Africa’s energy future. In one version, some African countries are turning to 100% renewable energy, as businesses and civil society promote real solutions to energy access and poverty. In another, European countries are frantically negotiating new deals for African fossil oil and gas, and finding willing partners in some African governments, ready to drill in the name of economic development.

Wearily, ECO would like to remind all delegates that fossil gas is, in fact, a fossil fuel, and as such must stay in the ground. And the argument that foreign-funded oil and gas extraction will benefit African people and improve the continent’s access to electricity, we rebut with: EACOP.

The story of the East African Crude Energy Pipeline has become COP27’s symbol of everything that’s wrong with the current picture of Africa’s energy development. EACOP will displace thousands of families in Uganda and Tanzania, destroy precious nature, and threaten access to water for approximately 40 million people – not to mention the gigantic carbon dioxide emissions. 

Inevitably, EACOP will leave East African countries and their people with a hefty bill to pay, while the crude oil is barreled and shipped through the Suez canal to drive TotalEnergies’ billion-dollar profits. It won’t improve access to electricity for the energy poor across the continent, or bring economic development to its host countries. Unless stopped, it will become yet another story of neocolonial exploitation of resources that leaves local communities behind.

When you hear Africans protest against EACOP, or chant “Don’t gas Africa”, it’s not another riddle. Africa’s people want massive investment into clean renewable energy. We don’t want high-interest loans or fossil fuel lock-ins. We don’t want rich countries’ blind dash for fossil oil and gas to take away our chance for a clean and just renewable energy transition. 

This COP27 can still find the right answer to the riddle that is Africa’s energy future. Delegates, that future must be equitable, grants-based finance for the energy transition. In massively scaled-up investments into solar and wind energy, and modern transmission networks. And critically, in a swift, just, complete fossil fuel phase-out.



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