After years of delays the sixth summit of European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) heads of state and government happens in Brussels, Belgium on 17 and 18 February, under the joint chairmanships of the host country and Senegal.
The summit is important owing to its potential to reset the Europe–Africa relationship in the changed context of post-Covid-19 green recovery, and the entire question of climate change as a looming emergency. It is coming in a year in which both continents seek to extend their geopolitical roles and create economic transformation of their peoples after suffering the consequences of the pandemic.
It therefore a crucial event to reorient Europe-Africa relations and to create a coherent, encompassing, and truly collaborative strategy that builds on previous successes, through Renewable Energy (RE) innovation and implementation of strategies and issues agreed on in past events.
Africa can use the summit to demonstrate global leadership on climate, doing so by bringing adaptation to the heart of the discussions and help Europe form a more well-rounded international climate strategy. At the same time, Africa can take advantage of Europe’s expertise in clean energy transition, technology and innovation, and financial instruments.
Not surprisingly climate change and energy transition are a key agenda at the event, and are of great importance to both continents. It is on this agenda that both sides can start rebuilding trust by demonstrating willingness to move from words to action. Africa can firmly assert its own transition priorities and link them to its development goals.
In this regard several areas of collaborations emerge including in increasing clean energy transition and access, by taking advantage of Africa’s untapped RE potential. Africa has the world’s largest RE resources, enough to meet a quarter of its energy needs by 2030, create jobs and offer unlimited benefits. This is critical on a continent where 580 million people have no access to power and almost literally live are living in darkness.
Collaborations are critical in climate adaptation, resilience, in developing a robust and equitable trade between the continents, and in leadership in climate innovation with a focus on Green Hydrogen, an area in which Africa could become a leader.
With the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta as Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) during the recent 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, calls have been made on him to take the responsibility and lead governments through “concrete actions” to overcome the climate crisis facing the continent.
Greenpeace Africa for example has asked the CAHOSCC to lead efforts in utilising our huge RE potential, to up the continent’s push in tackling climate emergency, pleading with African governments to halt new investment in fossil fuels and shift to safer, more sustainable energy including wind and solar. Sadly 60% of international public finance for energy funds fossil fuels, compared to 18% for clean energy projects.
It has always been the position of Power Shift Africa that a switch from dirty fossil fuels to RE has a huge potential in building resilience for communities against impacts of climate change, driving inclusive economic growth while creating jobs.
Lastly the summit is an opportunity for Africans to seek an update on clean energy initiatives such as the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), an ambitious multimillion dollar programme conceived during the COP20 in 2015 in Paris, France.
With financing from the EU, this initiative had set the goal of achieving 10 gigawatts of RE by 2020, and have Africa produce 330 gigawatts of energy by 2030.
By Mohamed Adow
Adow (@mohadow) is the Director of Power Shift Africa, a Nairobi-based Energy and Climate Think Tank, and can be reached on email@example.com