Balancing Climate Change Targets with Economic Development
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23 August 2022
Author :   Chiedza Juru


Why Africa should not prioritise energy transition to clean energy in the next 20 years

The subject of climate change has become pervasive as global nations grapple with its effects. Due to the climate crisis, the Paris Agreement has challenged the world’s nations to scale up efforts on cutting the greenhouse gas emissions, which have contributed significantly to global warming.

Africa, despite its negligible 2.9% contribution to the global emissions, has not only been disproportionately affected but is now burdened to follow suit with the rest of the world to transition from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy.

The question is; “is this a fair and balanced view?”

Must Africa carry the same burden with developed nations who have for many decades, built their economies using fossil fuels, which are now contributing a drastic 63% in emissions?  This is the underlying matter to the climate crisis, which African leaders must seek to address at regional and global levels. 

While there is irrefutable evidence shown through research of the devastating effects of climate change across Africa to warrant attention, the premise of my argument is that,Africa is largely under-developed and is still dealing with the preeminent challenges of acute poverty, hunger and unemployment. 

In addition, fossil fuels remain an integral source of Africa’s gross revenues particularly for nations like Angola, Nigeria and Libya. These countries and many others within the region are largely dependent on oil and gas exports. [3] 

As such, the conversation on climate change should be steered towards a commensurate contribution model, one which allows Africa to combat climate change while simultaneously being equipped to fight pre-existing challenges bedevilling the continent.Most developed nations used fossil fuels to industrialize and hence the conversation to steer Africa into prioritizing the energy transition becomes unpalatable.  

Energy security

Energy security is a critical component for Africa’s economic development and fossil fuels contribute approximately 50% of Africa’s export revenue. This coupled with inadequate financing for Africa’s transition to clean energy are the primary reasons for Africa’s failure to prioritize climate change and the energy transition. 

Over 80% of electricity generated across the continent is from fossil fuels. [3] Despite significant energy resources, over 600 million people in Africa do not have access to energy. [4] These energy challenges have hampered economic growth thus contributing to poverty and underdevelopment on the continent. [3] 


Fossil fuels remain a major source of export earnings for major oil and gas producing and exporting countries in Africa such as Libya, Nigeria and Angola. [3] Given that nearly 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s export value is composed of fossil fuels, the global energy transition may have profound effects on its economies. [5] 

With an average GDP per capita of $2,000 (compared to the global average of $10,500) and a population set to rise from 1.3 billion to 4 billion in just 80 years, Africa’s economy needs to be 16 times bigger than it is today to elevate the quality of life of its citizens to match the global average. [1]Therefore, if Africa loses the income it gets from fossil fuels, its economic growth will not match the needs of its booming population.

Capital expenditure

Despite calls by African leaders for climate finance, funding for adaptation, and drastic emission cuts from developed nations, few of their requests feature in the COP26  final agreement[7] African governments committed USD 264 billion of

domestic public resources, about 10% of the total cost USD 2.5 trillion required for Africa’s energy transition. [8] 

In view of climate justice, the largest contributors of carbon emissions should finance Africa’s transition to clean energy through paying carbon emissions tax to offset lost revenues from Africa’s early energy transition.

Carbon emissions

With Africa contributing less than 3% of global carbon emissions, climate justice requires that  drastic energy transitions be taken by the largest contributors of carbon emissions while allowing Africa to benefit from its energy resources.

However, it is evident that global momentum toward sustainability and away from fossil fuels is accelerating. [9]The high demand for electricity in many African countries has made investment in alternative energy sources such as solar and wind energy look more attractive.African countries that are not invested in fossil fuels could consider pursuing clean energy.

While this obtains, Africa has an opportunity to focus on extracting fossil fuels in carbon efficient ways. This makes allowance for energy security and revenue maximization in the short to medium term. The net effect of this is a healthier financial muscle which enables energy portfolio diversification and the gradual incorporation of clean energy.

At the next COP27 in Egypt, African leaders should unite and direct focus on achieving energy security, economic growth and addressing poverty unless developed nations fund Africa’s energy transition needs. This does not imply Africa neglects climate change, but rather focuses on funding for adaptation, investing in carbon efficient ways of extracting fossil fuels and natural means of carbon reduction such as afforestation and reforestation.

Africa should thus take a contextualised approach to climate change and develop solutions which are more applicable to the continent. African leaders should strategize before COP27  and agree on an approach that benefits the continent and not individual countries. 



Chiedza Juru is an MPA student at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has served in the youth development and education sector as Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Youth Council and Chief Operating Officer at Higher life Foundation. She writes in her personal capacity.



[1]A  Just Transition for Africa: Championing a Fair and Prosperous Pathway to Net Zero

[3]ACPC Fossil Fuels in Africa in the Context of a Carbon Constrained Future, November 2011;

[4 ]Climate Change will not be fixed without Africa;

[5]The effects of the global energy transition in Africa: Disruption and opportunity, February 12, 2021;

[6]A case for inclusion, equity, justice in energy transition drive, Femi Adekoya, 16 June 2021;

[7]Was COP26 a success of failure for Africa; Published November 15 2021;

[8]The state of climate finance in Africa: Climate finance needs of African countries; 28 June 2022;

[9]The future of African oil and gas: Positioning for the energy transition, June 8, 2022,

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