Committee on Development (DEVE)

This time for Africa:  Despite Africa currently facing escalating issues due to global warming and pollution, the continent’s natural resources have the potential to support sustainable infrastructure projects as well as producing clean energy in the long run. What stance should the EU take towards aiding climate change mitigation and sustainable development in African countries?


Key terms: Sustainability, renewable energy, energy poverty, economical benefits, increasing development, jobs opportunities, carbon production and trade barriers. 


by Jack Nassri (SE)


1.Background and relevance 

The African population is constantly increasing. According to estimations, by 2050, two in every five newborns will be African, accounting for around 54% of the global birth rate. African economies are also on the rise, with their Gross domestic product (GDP) growing at a rate of up to 10%  in some countries such as Nigeria, and up to 40% in Libya, due to their oil production. These statistics highlight that the growing population will produce more economic activities and energy consumption, leading to an increasing demand for existing resources in Africa. While these developments are promising, it is important to consider the need for sustainable development in Africa, as climate change is still preventing the continent from using its natural wealth.


Africa will need to satisfy the need for energy for its rapidly-increasing population. This could be achieved through the utilisation of renewable resources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. However,if these types of energy are not being used from the very beginning, the developing continent will have released a great amount of greenhouse gas into the air during its process of growing economically and transitioning to renewable energy sources. To prevent this, how could Africa promote the sustainable use of resources in its industries that have recently started gaining momentum?


Promoting the use of renewable resources is essential for the social and economic development of Africa. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cost of solar electricity has reduced by about 75% since 2010, while other renewable resources such as wind and geothermal energy have shown to be less expensive than electricity generated from fossil fuels. Africa is expected to profit greatly from the savings generated by such renewable resources. Moreover, renewable natural resources constitute a significant source of new employment areas. According to IRENA, the sector employed 0.8 million workers as coordinators, managers, and technicians. Most crucially, renewable resources are a victory against the recent harmful consequences of climate change, as sun, wind, and biomass all provide clean energy that reduces waste and pollution. 


Even though Africa striving for a sustainable tomorrow will take a long time to achieve its targets, youth entrepreneurs should be fostered in order to generate new ideas and solutions. However, most African governments are found to be uninterested in young entrepreneurship. Newly created or developing enterprises can be supported by receiving financial support to back up their ideas because after all, the youth are the future of any country. Competitions and challenges should be promoted in order to help small-scale enterprises expand from the micro to the macro level. Creating a system of small-scale, youth-driven creative ideas will establish a conduit for the promotion of renewable energy consumption.


2. Key stakeholders 



Here is the link for the Miro board 


The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that helps countries transition to sustainable energy. With the help of the Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA), the IRENA evaluates the conditions in different countries for the development and deployment of renewable energy, working to enhance such conditions through various projects and assistance in policy-making.


The African Population is significantly affected by climate change and energy deficiencies through growing food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources.  East Africa is facing the worst food crisis in the 21st century, with 12 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia being in need of food due to a significant decrease in waterfall.  


African Union (AU) economy, especially the countries in relatively hot climates, are greatly affected by climate change. The increasing temperatures and sea levels, unstable weather patterns, and unexpected weather conditions threaten the socio-economic standards in African by undermining food and water security as well as agriculture and related sectors. According to African Policy Centre, the continent’s overall GDP is expected to decrease by 2.25% to 12.12%. The diminishing production is estimated to reflect on foreign trade.


The European Commission is the executive branch of the EU,  and one of its responsibilities is upholding the EU treaties. After the expiration of the Cotonou Agreement, which was the framework for the EU’s relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, the post-Cotonou era aims to develop a mutual relationship with Africa based on green transition, clean energy, sustainable development, and infrastructure. The 2021 EU-Africa Summit will address the sustainable and inclusive development of this partnership.  The Commission's departments such as the Directorate General for international partnership (DG INTPA) operate under the authority of the Commission and manage the EU development policies and development of international partnerships. Additionally, the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) strives to rescue and preserve life, as well as  protect the integrity and dignity of people affected by natural disasters and man-made crises such as climate change.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a United Nations intergovernmental body devoted to providing scientific information on the risk of human-induced climate change and its political and economic repercussions. 


3.Challenges and measures in place 

The African continent is gifted with renewable energy sources. The potential of power generation, according to the African Development Bank, is 1000 Gigawatt (GW) for solar, 350 GW for hydroelectric, 110 GW for wind, and 15 GW for geothermal energies. So what is preventing Africa from developing in a sustainable manner? 


Mismanagement of Energy Resources

Africa's energy-generating ability is hard to maintain. Utilities have been mismanaged, resulting in an energy system that is reliant on expensive oil and gas which suffers from the variable pricing attached to them.  A large proportion of the population, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa lacks a consistent supply of electricity and affordable modern cooking fuels due to insufficient power generation capacity, difficulties in managing energy infrastructure, and hardship in attracting investments in the sector. Population growth, urbanisation, and economic development will lead to an increase in energy use. The region is also largely reliant on hydropower, which has become increasingly unreliable asit is leading to droughts across huge areas due to the shifting climate and rainfall patterns.


The African Adaptation Initiative (AAI) mandated by the AU and backed by African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) aims to produce at least 10 GW of new and increased renewable energy generating capacity by 2020, and at least 300 GW by 2030, which can be achieved through the use of Regional Power Pools. Power Pools are a regional network and market for trading and transferring electrical power among utilities in African countries. Its goal is to provide an integrated power transmission grid and energy market across countries that can create and exploit economies of scale in the generation, transmission, and distribution. 


Climate change effects 

Previously, more than one-third of the continent relied on hydropower, which has been the most common renewable energy source in Africa. However, as a result of climate change, hydropower generation has become very unpredictable, as droughts have significantly been prominent on the continent, particularly in the Sahel area. The cost of renewable technologies has recently decreased considerably. Furthermore, researchers are discovering that there is more potential solar and wind power on the continent than previously thought—up to 3,700 times the continent's current total electricity usage. All these factors have increased the interest in green power and potential locations for renewable energy projects such as solar and wind farms. Governments are also collaborating with foreign development agencies to make the market more appealing to private firms which can create job opportunities in the long run. The National Framework of Sustainable Development (NFSD) is a proactive strategy that regards sustainable development as a long-term commitment, combining environmental protection, social equity and economic efficiency with the vision and values in South Africa specifically.


Diplomatic implications for EU - Africa relations

In the aspect of pollution and climate change, the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) comes forward as part of the European Green Deal that may affect the EU-Africa trade relationships. As the EU aims to reach certain environmental standards through the Green Deal, the CBAM imposes a tax on trade partners of the EU that produce high levels of greenhouse gas. Because of the current dependence of Africa on rather non-renewable energy sources, the significant resulting carbon release may generate conflict within EU-Africa relations. 


The CBAM policies theoretically aim to reduce the effects of climate change by reaching a consensus with major companies. Hence, it encourages Member States not to re-establish trade with countries that are less strict about their emissions, placing Europe at a loss of not being able to  reduce global emissions. The final design of the CBAM will disable companies from moving their intensive carbon production offshore. Companies have already begun to show their concerns about the introduction of a CBAM, claiming that it will disadvantage them against the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) criteria while also pressuring them into completing the EU’s green targets. However, the importance of balancing the ‘most-favoured-nation’ treatment was emphasised, meaning that if European trade focuses mainly on countries with lower emission percentages, it will leave at a disadvantage due to their carbon footprint. 


Even if the CBAM challenges EU-Africa relations, the European Commission’s ‘Towards a comprehensive strategy with Africa’ comes into the picture. The strategy aims at building partnerships in five key areas to tackle the challenges of the 21st century such as climate change and low carbon energy. Even though the EU’s standards for climate change are set, the motivation to support Africa with their sustainable development through some action plans might benefit the green transition and minimise the environmental threats. The strategy also aims to help Africa to attract investors by giving support to the policy implementation as well as to the learning capacities of women and youth. 

4. Further questions 

  • How could the post-Cotonou relations between the EU and Africa be shaped to support Africa for its sustainable development and the production of clean energy? 

  • Is it possible to ensure collaborations between the EU and non-EU actors in helping the African continent with renewable energy production, and consequently providing new job areas to the population? 

  • How would Africa benefit from clean and sustainable energy production? 

  • What sustainable infrastructure projects can be supported in Africa? 


5.Faces of Sustainability 


Even though the tipping point of climate change was reached in 2021, the carbon emissions fell by 6.4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a temporary effect, and society has to think about carbon leakage and the sustainable production of energy. For Africa, decreasing carbon production will require a shift towards more sustainable energies. If those are not used, the power production will contribute to high carbon emissions and therefore affect the Africa-EU trade. 


6.Material for further research


Essential Engagement 

  • Read this article about Africa’s bumpy way to sustainable energy,

  • Read this article about Africa’s renewable energies in the face of climate change, 

  • This is a study on Africa’s development dynamics,

  • Watch this form on the sustainable development of Africa.


Additional Engagement

  • This is a Mix collection of articles, research papers, and videos on energy in Africa,

  • Listen to this podcast on the role Africa has in sustainable development,

  • This podcast talks about the energy transition in South Africa.