Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Energy transition must be equitable for Africa

© Shutterstock / Kelly27For the energy transition to succeed in Africa it must involve all parties, from governments and financiers through to consumers.
Mpumalanga/ South Africa - October 2018: Kusile Power Station; Shutterstock ID 1531596254

Tackling Africa’s energy access problems requires those involved to think of the entire system, rather than focusing simply on renewables.

“Economic uncertainty is the challenge around the world but particularly in Africa. There are concerns about supply and security, while affordability is the critical priority. That has to be thought of as not just the price of generation – such as wind or solar – but the cost of energy delivered,” the World Energy Council’s secretary-general Dr Angela Wilkinson said.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the continent’s energy problems, although Wilkinson was keen to highlight the differences between different countries. In 2020, the number of people with access to power will actually fall, reversing a multi-year trend.

Wilkinson noted that the question of energy access is not just about having enough power to charge a mobile phone or turn on a light.

“It can’t just be mini-grids and solar photovoltaics. That will not create manufacturing jobs in Africa. There’s a quality of access conversation,” she said, speaking on the launch of the World Energy Issues Monitor 2021.

There is a need for investments in transmission and molecules, rather than just “mini-grids and decentralisation”. In order to tackle this problem, the continent will need to use gas and LPG.

Wilkinson acknowledged the challenges around this, with capital markets becoming increasingly sceptical about fossil fuels.

“If you don’t help the developing economies, they will go back to coal. There’s a need for a bridging conversation. There isn’t the capacity in the world to build renewables fast enough,” she said. “How do we get capital markets working for the 90%?”

Wilkinson went on to note that the question of “energy justice” was an issue across the world. “The emergence of a ‘gilet jaune’ movement in the energy sector would be a disaster. Doubly so for Africa.”


There are some uniquely African opportunities, though, that the World Energy Council report highlighted. Digital pay-as-you-go technologies have become widespread, giving consumers fast access to domestic solar panels.

Local content is another area of strength – although with more room to run. Wilkinson highlighted this as a new priority post COVID-19 of increasing local reliability.

The World Energy Issues Monitor also raised the possibility of supplies for the energy transition. The continent is “waking up to hydrogen”, Wilkinson said. “The question is how to enable not just green but also blue hydrogen.”

She also noted raw materials, such as lithium and cobalt, which have an important part to play in new renewable and storage technologies.

The traditional model of exports, as has been seen with oil and gas, is unlikely to chime with ESG requirements. Companies considering development must also think through how to “facilitate domestic energy opportunities”, Wilkinson said.

“Leadership is increasingly distributed. Capital markets, governments, companies and users all have a part to play. When no one is in charge, you have to work together.”

Recommended for you

More from Energy Voice

Latest Posts