Premiere Of The Climate Africa Warsha Organised By GEAPP

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I am particularly honored to have been asked to speak to this distinguished audience of journalists and communications experts at this GEAPP Climate Africa Warsha. And, if like me, you were wondering what a Warsha is, Jabri Ibrahim has explained that it is a Swahili word for workshop or seminar for advanced or specialized learning. And the timing is excellent, today is World Press Freedom Day and the theme: “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of Environmental Crisis,” recognizes one of the most important global concerns in our generation, the climate crisis, and the energy transition and the crucial role of the press as interlocutors, explainers and interrogators of the global journey to net zero.


I must commend Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, GEAPP, for this convening but more importantly, its leadership in driving green energy initiatives across Africa. By bringing together governments, the private sector, and communities, GEAPP is catalysing transformative change that promises prosperity, innovation, and sustainable livelihoods.


The press in Africa has been that one institution that has been at the forefront of every significant battle that the peoples of our continent have fought, whether it is decolonization, human rights, civil and political rights or epidemics, it has been at the barricades, especially because its own origins and raison d’tre are grounded in freedom, and egalitarianism.


But despite the existential nature of the climate crisis, we have not seen the same enthusiasm or sustained focus around the climate crisis. Perhaps because of the way the core issues have been framed mostly around technical themes. But there has been some excellent work done and we must applaud Zeynab Wandati who is present here today and many of you who have paved the way with award-winning stories that have shifted conversations in Africa’s sustainability, energy and climate space.


So one of the crucial challenges I am going to be throwing to you is: how can we frame the issues that directly concern Africa in the climate crisis correctly? The issues around fighting energy poverty and its wider implication for extreme poverty. Why is greening energy and industry in Africa crucial for global ambitions for net-zero?


How do we attain a just, equitable and inclusive energy transition? How can we challenge governments, institutions, the private and non-governmental sectors to be a strong part of Africa’s pivotal role in the green energy journey and achieving the global goal of tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling efficiency by 2030?


Africa is the least emitter of dangerous gases but Africa is warming faster than any other continent, we are experiencing the extreme consequences of climate change, flooding, drought, excessive heat and rising sea levels, and we are probably the least equipped planet to deal with the devastation of the crisis. We all know that the major cause of the climate crisis is emission of green house gases mostly from fossil fuels, and that fossil fuels have been the major source of generation of power and electricity.


The wealthiest countries in the world have used fossil fuels to develop their economies and this has resulted in the climate crisis. But African countries have a dilemma, we need more, we are energy poor. Over 600 million Africans have no access to electricity. Another 150million have irregular access. This means lack of electricity for cooking, industry, small businesses, cooling, etc. This is one of the main reasons why economic growth and job creation are slow and we have the huge poverty problem. So unlike the developed world that is only battling with the climate crisis, Africa has a twin crisis, we are also battling with lack of energy. Now that introduces a very difficult question.


If Africa wants to develop like the wealthier countries, then we must use the same carbon-intensive methods that they used, fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas, etc. But if we do so and grow to upper-middle-income status with the same carbon intensity as current countries in that income bracket, we would add 9 Gigatones of CO2e emissions annually by 2050, and we would be responsible for 75% of global emissions by then.


One thing is certain if we go that way, if Africa were to develop in the same way that the wealthy countries of the world have developed, it would be impossible for the world to achieve net zero by 2050. So Africa can be the nemesis of the world or the solution to the climate crisis. Africa can be the solution if we pursue a climate-positive or carbon-negative pathway to growth. And yes we can!


Africa is home to 40% of the world’s best solar resources and in addition, has abundant wind, geothermal, and hydro potential. Its untapped renewable energy potential is 50 times the anticipated global demand for electricity in 2040.


In addition Africa has 30% of critical minerals and other natural resources and the youngest and largest workforce in the world. We can become the world’s first truly green industrial civilization and in the process, create millions of jobs and opportunities. Indeed, we are the best positioned to contribute to achieving the Global Goal of Tripling Renewable Energy and Doubling Energy Efficiency by 2030.


But the wealthier world has to recognize the sacrifice that Africa is making by not pursuing the same carbon-intensive pathway by which they developed, this is why we emphasize the notion of a just energy transition.

The transition from the use of fossil fuels and other pollutants to develop to the use of clean energy. That transition must be fair to all especially Africa, the continent that bears the brunt of the burden of the climate crisis and will also be the guinea pig for climate-positive growth!


Two ways by which the wealthy countries can support, first is investment in renewable energy in Africa, and second is opening up markets for green products coming from Africa.


I have laid this background to enable you as journalists appreciate some of the real issues in the climate crisis and the energy transition journey, especially as they concern Africa and African countries. You have to be not just the chroniclers, but also the catalysts of many aspects of the energy transition journey.


Climate change is full of jargon and technicalities and is sometimes difficult for even policy makers to fully understand , but it is your business to simplify the issues and make them accessible to everyone, not just the experts. For example, why do we insist on a just transition, Germany, one of the most developed economies in the world has 248 MW of power for its 68 million people while Africa’s 1.3 billion people have an installed capacity of only 244 MW.


So to grow our power using only renewable energy we must have substantial investments from the wealthier countries. You must give life to the stories behind the statistics, the real women who suffer death and illness on account of using firewood and kerosene for cooking. You must hold governments to account about policies for increasing investments in renewable energy, about what they are doing about climate positive growth and the great opportunities this paradigm offers.


For example, credible studies show that by aggressively deploying its renewable energy resources, Africa can provide energy to all Africans, 600 million of whom currently do not have access to energy and 150 million of whom have unreliable access to energy, at a 30% lower cost and with over 90% lower emissions per kwh, compared to the current stated policy.


Indeed, Africa’s renewable energy is not only abundant but also has very low seasonality, or intermittency which makes it possible to reliably provide renewable baseload, to power continuous industrial production.


Strikingly, the lowest cost set up of solar, wind, and battery storage to get reliable baseload to power industry is twice as expensive in Germany as it is in Nigeria. Solar PV in Nigeria and in Kenya vastly outperform Europe’s industry Centre and even Europe’s top PV spot. The same battery supported PV system in Nigeria will enable a baseload that is 8 times as large as Germany. In Spain 1.8 times larger. We must tell these compelling stories of the collaborative work being done by governments, private sector and non governmental entities to deploy renewable energy more effectively.


GEAPP has done and is doing extensive work on Battery Energy Storage Systems to expand the capacity of renewable energy sources, work on distributed renewable energy, deploying minigrids in places that once had no power and for irrigation purposes.


The narrative of Africa as a victim of climate change is true but it is a small part of the story. Africa is also the new powerhouse of the world with its abundance of renewable energy sources. Africa might well hold the balance if the world is to avoid the looming climate disaster. On our part, we must seek to attain critical mass in our numbers and efforts in climate journalism especially regarding the crucial role journalists must play in informing, communicating, challenging and catalyzing policy and implementation of Africa’s green energy initiatives. Today there is a surfeit of platforms for communicating information and a wide variety of genres.


Cartoons and photographs for example have been shown to attract far more attention than prose. Very few people pay attention to graphs and statistics, however important the information they contain may be. And there are plenty of them in climate change discourse. A new study by the University of Wisconsin and EcoAgriculture Partners found that using art to convey environmental data eased political perceptions about climate change. Humanizing data is therefore important.


Ladies and gentlemen, given the existential nature of the Environmental Crisis especially for Africa we certainly need “A Press for the Planet: Journalism must come to the rescue.” You are the credible, informed, patriotic, storytellers of Africa’s historic journey to becoming the world’s first truly green civilization.