Africa Pushes Gas as Transitional Energy Source, Insisting Climate Goals Cannot Hamper Economic Progress
Solar panels in the Egyptian desert.

The US government committed itself to supporting Nigeria’s transition away from fossil fuels during a meeting between US vice-president Kamala Harris and Nigeria’s vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, last Friday.

However, despite global commitments to reduce fossil fuel reliance to address climate change, a number of African countries have recently committed to expanding their oil and coal production, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa. 

African leaders have also asserted that achieving global climate goals cannot come at the price of economic development on the continent – and they intend to invest in gas as a transitional form of energy on the continent’s path to renewable energy.

Nigeria launched its Energy Transition Plan on 24 August, mapping out how the country intends to achieve carbon emission neutrality by 2060, including by transitioning from petrol to gas – but the continent’s most populous nation needs over $400 billion to implement the plan and many western countries have moratoriums on financing hydrocarbon projects.


During last week’s meeting, Harris welcomed Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan and applauded Osinbajo’s leadership for just energy transitions in Africa and “the two leaders committed to working closely to support Nigeria’s energy access and energy security goals, as well as our shared global climate goals”, according to a White House statement

Continued investment in oil

But some African countries’ actions are not in line with the globally set climate goals. The Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to issue 30 new licenses for oil rigs that could threaten some parts of the country’s rainforest.

“We had concerns about the announcement of the auction of these oil and gas exploration blocks, some of the blocks infringe on sensitive rainforest and peatland areas, including in the Virunga National Park and Salonga National Park,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken during a recent visit to the DRC.

Meanwhile in Kenya, in early August President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the Kipevu terminal, a large new oil storage facility at the Mombasa port intended to store large volumes of oil for the country’s development. 

In August 2021, the government of Ghana revealed plans to invest $1.65 billion to accelerate oil and gas exploration via the acquisition and development of oil and gas assets.

Following an EU ban on coal importation from Russia, South Africa’s coal sales to Europe rose eight-fold during the first half of 2022 compared with last year.

‘Moral and economic madness’

After the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reported that the expansion of coal, oil and gas production is a great risk to global climate goals, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, described the expansion as “moral and economic madness”. 

But many African governments are getting behind the gas transition, arguing that moving immediately to renewable energy will hamper the continent’s economy and development.

In May, 10 countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – adopted a seven-point communique urging the international community to support gas “as a transition fuel and the long-term displacement of gas by renewable energy and green hydrogen for industrial development, if financially and technically sustainable”.

In Senegal, $5 billion is projected to be spent on the second phase of the country’s liquefied natural gas project. President Macky Sall is a firm critic of what he described as the hypocrisy of western governments that guzzle gas at home but have declared a virtual moratorium on financing hydrocarbon projects abroad.

“You cannot tell us that renewables alone can develop a continent — it has never been the case anywhere else and it cannot be the case in Africa,” Sall said.

Egypt to host COP27

In November, Egypt’s “green city” of Sharm El Sheikh will host the 27th United Nations climate change conference, COP27, and this will offer an opportunity to show what the continent is doing to align with global climate goals including net zero carbon emissions by 2060 and mainstreaming renewable energies.

Egypt has described the provision, mobilization and delivery of climate finance for developing countries as an urgent priority — particularly in light of current financial crises, debt challenges and increasing interest rates. 

“It is imperative to make appropriate financial flows that are based on needs identified through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other vehicles, with a focus on concessional finance instruments, and grants as appropriate, while providing a clear revision of the definition of bankable projects that takes into consideration climate benefits and not only risks, and achieving cross-cutting impacts,” Egypt said on its website for COP27.

At COP26, a major talking point among African delegates and climate activists was the need for richer countries, who are also the world’s majornpolluters, to provide sufficient funds for developing countries to fight the crisis.

During COP26, South Africa, the European Union, France, Germany, the UK and the US launched an ambitious long-term Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) to support the South Africa’s decarbonisation efforts in order to move its economy towards more reliance on renewable energy resources. The JETP aims to mobilise $8.5 billion for South Africa, and Nigeria hopes to achieve similar support for its energy transition plan.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.