Innovation must drive energy transition

The energy transition in Africa must be gradual, inclusive and suited to the continent’s unique circumstances, according the 2024 Economic Report on Africa launched this week.


This article is sponsored by UN ECA

The continent will also need to better leverage its vast natural resources to mobilise the funds it needs to finance the transition, it says.

The report, titled Investing in a Just and Sustainable Transition in Africa, was produced by the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

Claver Gatete, UN Under-Secretary-General and ECA Executive Secretary, who delivered the opening remarks, stressed the need for an urgent response as crises become more frequent and African countries contend with rising debt and low investment. 

The report, he said, “will help us better understand the scale of the challenges and what we need to do and what the ECA is doing”. 

Presenting the highlights, Zuzana Schwidrowski, Director of ECA’s Macroeconomics and Governance Division, said a just and sustainable transition can only be achieved with structural and fundamental changes in how the continent approaches development. 

Being at a relatively early stage of development, however, means that the continent has the potential to leapfrog and build low-carbon, resource-efficient economies. 

The report singles out renewable energy, the battery and electric value chain, carbon markets, sustainable infrastructure and circular economies as areas that African countries must invest in as they approach the transition.

To close the funding gap, the report recommends enhanced private sector participation, a greater role for multilateral development banks, innovative national and regional funding mechanisms, reforms to the global financial architecture and responsible investment by countries.  

Mothae Anthony Maruping, Chairman of the African Risk Capacity Group’s governing board and former AU Commissioner for Economic Affairs, said while there is no shortage of good ideas in Africa, implementation is critical to the delivery of solutions. 

He charged policymakers to devise innovative financing strategies, make use of data and employ rigorous monitoring and evaluation systems. 

Rebekah Shirley, Deputy Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, said Africa has a chance to show climate leadership and leverage its vast resources to build thriving sustainable economies while helping the rest of the world to decarbonise. 

“A just and sustainable transition is an ambitious and inspirational vision but it will require tectonic change in the structures of governance to enable us achieve it,” she noted.