/ 10 November 2021

The continent is not yet ready to abandon fossil fuels, say African leaders

Fifteen thousand South Africans are dying every year because of an economy based on burning fossil fuels.
Global greenhouse-gas emissions should have their numbers dwindle if we remain faithful to emerging technologies. Photo: Supplied

Energy ministers and key players on the African continent say the region is not ready to shift completely from fossil fuel energy.

This was echoed by minister after minister during the opening of the inaugural Africa Energy Week conference that started on Tuesday in Cape Town.

During his address at the conference that seeks to unite energy stakeholders on the continent, drive industry growth and development, and to promote Africa as a destination for Africa-focused events, the secretary general of the African Petroleum Producers’ Organisation, Omar Farouk Ibrahim, said the historical background of Africa’s position should be considered when calls for a transition from fossil fuel energy are made.

He said the current emissions made by the continent did not warrant the pressure that has been put on it to move away from producing fossil fuel energy. “With 17% of the world’s population, Africa’s total contribution to greenhouse gasses, the main culprit for climate change, is just around 3%. 

“It is only fair that the world, especially the parts with the necessary technology works with the African continent, to finance fossil fuels in the most sustainable manner, especially as it is a fact that technologies exist to make fossil fuel environmentally friendly,” he added.

Ibrahim said the financing of fossil fuel energy in a sustainable manner would reduce the pressure and pricing of the migration to renewable energy.

“The way forward for Africa in the transition is to make the most of its existing energy resources. Abandoning fossil fuels at this time is tantamount to abandoning our guaranteed source of energy that is needed for the continent’s development,” Ibrahim said.

Sharing the same views that Africa should not be pressured to abandon the use of fossil fuel energy, South Africa’s minerals and energy resources minister, Gwede Mantashe, said Africa needed to unite to deal with the pressure put on it to abandon the use of fossil fuel energy.

“We have noticed with interest the fact that when Britain, China, India, Australia, ran into an energy crisis, they all agreed to coal generation. We noticed that when they talk to us they say stop using coal immediately, that is an issue that we must discuss without fear,” he said.    

Mantashe noted that these countries had been postponing their deadlines on when they would shut down their coal mines, oil and gas industries, yet emerging economies, whose economic development depended on fossil fuels, were being compelled to move away from fossil fuels.

“Africa must get together and these programmes give us the opportunity to develop a strategy to deal with this clearly. We must position Africa as the best at the forefront of global energy growth,” he said.

The conference will run until Friday with delegates being expected to discuss among others, energy transition on the continent, work towards renewable energy solutions, opportunities for and problems with investment on the continent, as well as creating an enabling environment.