Africa should be aiming for green energy, and leapfrog some of the dirty processes used to become prosperous.
At the same time, even though it contributes very little to the pollution of our world, it will pay the highest price for it.
This is how former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Prize laureate Kofi Annan frames the current landscape of Africa’s path to renewable energy, while maintaining the continent is a clean canvass full of possibilities and flexibility.
Annan has become an influential voice in the discourse on Africa’s energy resources, and he’s a member of the Africa Progress Panel, an entity that promotes equitable and sustainable development for the continent.
In that capacity he has recently called for a boost in investment in Africa’s energy to unlock its potential as a global low-carbon superpower.
The latest Progress report from the APP suggests that a ten-fold increase in power generation could provide all Africans with access to electricity by 2030.
And while Annan reckons that reliance on a traditional mix of resources will be inevitable in the short term, he believes that by turning to green energy, Africa could provide a significant contribution to the global fight against climate change.
Speaking to CNN’s Rosie Tomkins, Annan laid out his ideas and suggestions for Africa’s energy future.An edited version of the interview follows below.
Kofi Annan: I believe that we should debunk the idea that you cannot have green energy and development at the same time. Greening the economy can have an impact as important as the industrial revolution. Africa does have a rich mix of energy resources and should make a judicious judgment as we go forward. I think in the short term they should be able to use a mix of oil, gas, coal – if you wish – to thermal and hydro but in the longer term they should be aiming for green energy. But we also need help from our international partners.
CNN: That is of course your new area and greatest challenge, to get a binding agreement globally.
KA: Africa has done very little to pollute our world, but we will pay the highest price. Therefore, we have a critical interest in a solid viable agreement that will help us contain CO2 emissions. I think the African leaders are aware of this and I hope for the sake of justice, or climate justice, all the leaders realize this and understand that it is not only them but those at the other end who are at greater peril.
CNN: What is going to be the key in Africa particularly? Solar is obvious but expensive, with huge upfront costs to get it off the ground.
KA: I think geothermal is taking hold. However, given the size of the continent and the size of its needs, I think that hydro is also viable. But solar is becoming cheaper and cheaper; it can be a very effective solution. And you can imagine a situation where Africa succeeds in moving in the path of green and renewable energy.
CNN: When it comes to business and industries are there forerunners and pioneers in terms of renewables, because there is an amazing energy for this?
KA: You have young entrepreneurs, small and medium sized business, who are really doing this. Offering solar energy to villages to deliver electricity, even making it possible to charge their cell-phones. What would be exciting is an innovation or development in the area of energy that creates a disruptive device, a bit like the cellphone, where you don’t need landlines, you leapfrog that. I’m positive by the way things are going that we will be able to have developments or innovation that will not require that everything goes via the grid and you can generate electricity for large communities in a steady manner, and that will make a lot of difference in the lives of the people we’re talking about.
Watch the complete interview in the video above.