With a renewable energy potential that could cater to up to 50 times the predicted global electricity demand by 2040, Africa stands at the forefront of the green energy revolution. The low seasonality of its renewable resources ensures a consistent energy supply, making it a uniquely reliable source for industrial applications.
Africa is home to 3 key assets that could make the continent crucial to effective climate action
Renewable energy potential
Harnessing Renewable Energy: The Undeniable Potential of Africa
Unlike many temperate regions where energy production can be intermittent, Africa’s consistent climatic patterns offer an advantage. Combined with battery storage, these resources can deliver a 24/7 baseload for industries—a groundbreaking achievement in the renewable energy domain. For example, a solar system with battery size for ~1.5 days’ worth of storage, can reliably provide a daily baseload in Kenya that is 10 times as high as the same system in Germany, or 128% higher than that system in Spain. Or differently put: the battery size needed in Spain to reliably realise the highest possible daily baseload from this system, is 98 times the required battery size to achieve that same daily baseload in Kenya. Such dependable energy solutions not only underscore Africa’s leadership in harnessing renewable energy but also present unparalleled opportunities for global collaborations and investments in sustainable industries.
”Our renewable energy resources are not just an environmental necessity; they're the ultimate catalyst of radical socio-economic prosperity. They can fuel sustainable development, drive economic growth, create jobs, and uplift millions from energy povertyH.E. President RutoAfrica Climate Summit 2023 opening remarks
”Our youth have provided us with excellent models on how we must approach our date with an African future. By being open to possibility, bold in imagination, and willing to embrace radical and radically transformative technologies”H.E. President RutoAfrica Climate Summit 2023 closing remarks
Africa's Demographic Dividend: A Powerhouse in the Making
By 2050, one-quarter of the global workforce will be African, growing to 40% by the century’s end. With a median age of 19, Africa’s youthful and rapidly expanding workforce is poised to be the world’s engine room, especially as aging giants like China begin to slow down.
Currently, Africa boasts 11 working-age individuals for every senior citizen, a stark contrast to the EU and Japan’s ratios of 3:1 and 2:1, respectively. As the global landscape shifts by 2050, Africa’s ratio is projected to adjust to 8:1, while the EU will have 2 working-age individuals for every senior, and Japan will experience a 1:1 ratio. As China, the current “factory of the world,” faces a demographic shift with an anticipated 2:1 ratio by 2050, Africa stands ready to step in, offering both energy and labour potential.
Africa's Competitive Edge in Climate Action
Africa, endowed with vast land, a burgeoning workforce, and untapped renewable energy, is poised to become the epicenter of effective climate action. Its inherent advantages provide an attractive landscape for sustainable investments, positioning the continent as a pivotal player in the global climate initiative.
Amid the pressing socio-economic challenges, Africa presents a multitude of co-benefit opportunities. Organizations with the expertise and community ties can drive transformative actions, particularly as they adapt to reduce their reliance on philanthropic funding. Moreover, numerous activities across the continent are already capturing carbon, offering untapped potential for monetizing these efforts. For a myriad of businesses, the integration of carbon revenue can enhance product affordability, unlocking exponential growth in the mass market and advancing the global goal of a sustainable future.
”Taking the lead in the development of global standards, metrics, and market mechanisms to accurately value and compensate for the protection of nature, biodiversity, socio-economic co-benefits, and the provision of climate servicesThe African LeadersNairobi Declaration On Climate Change And Call To Action
These above assets can generate economic value and livelihoods through climate action in three viable and compelling pathways
Low-emissions consumption and production
Focused City and Building Design to Drive Industries While Reducing Energy Need
Amidst Africa’s bustling potential, mass timber construction emerges as a beacon for the continent’s sustainable future. Envisioned as an $83 billion industry, it promises to fuel 25 million job opportunities by 2050. East Africa shines distinctively in this arena, with projections of a $25 billion market that can empower 7.5 million lives with employment.
But the journey doesn’t end at construction. Integral to this vision is sustainable forest management. It’s not merely about trees; it’s about creating a circular ecosystem of $230 billion by 2030, invigorating the lives of 16 million people. Activities spanning forest planting to the innovative use of forest products lie at the heart of this transformative industry.
Urban planning, too, offers a goldmine of advantages. Embracing high-density city structures is not only aesthetically appealing but also energy-conserving. Sub-Saharan Africa could witness a plummet in energy consumption by a staggering 65% come 2050, compared to sprawling low-density designs. This compact vision isn’t just energy-smart; it’s about fostering communities that thrive on convenience and connectivity.
And speaking of energy, the future is bright—literally. Solar water heaters, paired with the intelligence of smart meters, are more than just utilities. In South Africa, they’re job magnets with the potential to create 67,500 opportunities. What’s more, they’re champions of energy conservation, paving the way for a 20% cut in household energy bills.
In essence, Africa’s vibrant future is rooted in timber, powered by the sun, and designed for sustainability. A narrative that doesn’t just promise growth, but ensures it’s green.
”Propelling Africa's economic growth and job creation in a manner that not only limits our own emissions but also aids global decarbonization efforts, by leapfrogging traditional industrial development and fostering green production and supply chains on a global scaleThe African LeadersNairobi Declaration On Climate Change And Call To Action
”Africa can ramp up her own potential to do this at scale through a combination of planned land use and ecosystem management, and investment in emerging engineered removal technologies. Already Africa’s large carbon sinks, currently store years of global emissionsH.E. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN GCONVice President, University Of Pennsylvania’s Center Of Africana Special Lecture Series On Energy Transition In Africa
The Imperative of Carbon Removal in Africa
Carbon removal strategies that cost less than $50 per ton could funnel up to $15 billion annually into Africa’s coffers, uplifting 35-86 million individuals. Furthermore, nature-based carbon removal in Africa could meet 30% of the global demand by 2050, potentially generating 67 million jobs and enhancing the lives of 19 million more Africans.
The IPCC sets forth a bold carbon removal goal of 5 to 16 billion tonnes annually by 2050. Given that some regions may not achieve net zero emissions by this milestone, it underscores the need for certain areas, like Africa, to pursue even more aggressive carbon removal strategies. Beyond the challenge of ongoing emissions, there’s a pressing need to address and eliminate emissions from the past to mitigate current climate repercussions.
Methods of carbon removal vary. Nature-based techniques harness the power of ecosystems, such as forests, to capture carbon. Engineered solutions rely on cutting-edge technologies like Direct Air Capture, while hybrid solutions might combine biological processes with technological interventions. The continent’s vast landscapes are primed for nature-centric and hybrid carbon removal techniques, and there’s a bounty of agricultural waste to fuel these hybrid endeavors. Geologically, Africa’s volcanic and fossil-rich regions also offer ideal locales for engineered carbon storage.
Producing for the world
Africa's Role in the Green Hydrogen Revolution and Redefining Climate-Smart Industrialization
Africa’s vast potential in the green hydrogen sector offers a beacon of hope for a sustainable future. As the world races to adopt cleaner energy solutions, The region is predicted to have the capability to generate an impressive 13,500 million tonnes of green hydrogen at a cost of less than $2 per kg by 2050. This potential production capacity dwarfs the anticipated global demand by up to 25 times.
Green hydrogen is emerging as a pivotal element in global efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Not only is it seen as an essential energy carrier and storage medium, but it also offers the potential to fuel our ships and planes, produce eco-friendly fertilizers, and lead the decarbonization charge in heavy industries worldwide. Despite its critical role in a sustainable future, many countries are grappling with a shortfall in renewable energy capacity to produce green hydrogen. Sub-Saharan Africa is emerging as a powerhouse in this scenario. One notable advantage for coastal regions in Africa is the ability to harness seawater for hydrogen production, eliminating the need to tap into limited freshwater resources.
Africa’s potential in sustainable industrialization shines brightly, poised to redefine global steel and aluminium production. With a predicted urban population growth driving construction, and abundant raw materials, the continent can significantly curtail carbon emissions while simultaneously boosting its economy.
Rising global consumption necessitates the growth of industries, but this doesn’t mean compromising the environment. Today, with cutting-edge technological solutions, decarbonizing industrial output isn’t just possible—it’s economically smart. The choice of production sites is evolving, and Africa is becoming an increasingly attractive hub. While it currently contributes less than 1% to global steel production, processing steel near African mining sites could slash over 110 million tonnes of CO2e yearly.
This change could spawn 239,000 jobs and add $20 billion in revenue. Similarly, locally processing the 83 million tonnes of exported bauxite using renewable energy could cut emissions by an impressive 335 million tonnes of CO2e annually. This equates to an economic surge of $37 billion in revenue and over 340,000 job opportunities. In essence, the future of industrialization is green, and Africa is at its forefront.
”We commit to advancing green industrialization across the Continent by prioritizing energy-intense industries to trigger a virtuous cycle of renewable energy deployment and economic activity, with a special emphasis on adding value to Africa's natural endowments.The African LeadersNairobi Declaration On Climate Change And Call To Action