African and European Ministers met in a closed-door high-level session on Energy Day at COP27, 15 November 2022, in Sharm El-Sheikh. The two continents listened to each other and strategized on how to accelerate Africa’s race towards a just and equitable energy transition while working together. This first cross-continental closed-door meeting, was organized jointly between Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), and the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF). It builds on SEforALL African Ministerial roundtables that took place earlier in 2022, both in Kigali (SEforALL Forum) and New York (United Nations General Assembly).
Marking an important next step for closer energy cooperation between Africa and Europe, this dialogue was expanded to include Ministers from Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the European Commission’s Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans. The meeting was co-chaired by Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO & Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Mary Robinson, Honorary President of the Africa-Europe Foundation.
The narrative that emerged demonstrated that Africa and Europe should work together on issues of self-interest that overlap and act on those. The futures of both continents are fundamentally interlinked, and Europe cannot prosper if Africa does not prosper.
African countries are making difficult strategic choices that require EU and the global community’s support
African Ministers and senior representatives from Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda all described the journey that their governments are taking to achieve a just and equitable energy transition. Ministers outlined several priorities and opportunities, including addressing universal access to electricity and clean cooking, economic development and industrialization, establishing local value chains for renewables, and the use of critical minerals for low-carbon technologies.
African governments are on-board with the energy transition, but the level of finance mobilization for transition plans and renewables from the international community remains a key bottleneck. Consequently, African governments are turning to Europe for delivering climate finance (including concessional finance), technical expertise and technologies to make this a reality. Otherwise, there is a growing risk for Africa to be unable to finance its transition plans, diversification strategies, and thus lead to continued depletion of African forests for firewood and charcoal for cooking. Even existing renewable energy, such as hydropower resources, are becoming less reliable and affordable in certain parts of Africa due to climate change, and require massive grid (distribution and transmission) and storage investments.
Europe looks for win-win cooperation through big renewable energy projects
European leaders expressed their willingness to work in a Team Europe approach, and reiterated their interest to extend support for countries to achieve energy access and increase their share of renewables, as well as to find projects of scale that could help Europe decarbonize its industrial sector. There is an appetite from Europe to identify large investments, similar to the ambitious example of Egypt’s National Green Projects Platform (NWFE) that has attracted a USD 500 million funding package to decommission carbon intensive power plants and add renewables for climate action.
To this end, Europe has already identified several promising partnerships with Namibia, Mauritania, Morocco and Mozambique on green hydrogen generation, which could make a significant addition to the renewable energy mix of both Africa and Europe. It also includes building sustainable raw material value chains that make sense for both Europe and Africa and ultimately allow Africa to produce green steel, cement, ammonia and fertilizers.
Building an Africa-Europe Energy Leaders’ Group, involving business and finance
Given that urgency and finance are two major bottlenecks for decisive and transformative action, there was recognition by African and European Ministers of the importance of involving the private sector for the race towards energy access and to make progress towards an energy transition at the speed that is needed, in keeping with Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goal 7.
Major investors, including multi-lateral development banks, African and European development banks, and philanthropy need to be part of future Africa-EU high-level ministerial roundtables on sustainable energy cooperation.
As momentum continues to build after COP27 and following the African-Union European-Union Summit of February 2022, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) and the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF) will continue to play a role of facilitators, and aim to establish an ‘Africa-Europe Energy Leaders’ Group’, whereby the two continents will work jointly to identify feasible energy pathways and the finance required to transition towards a just and equitable future in a way which is compatible with global climate goals.