Empowering a people-centred clean energy transition in Africa and beyond

image is Clean Energy

Enabling the multiplier effect of a clean energy transition requires an ecosystem approach, where collaborative efforts are made to harness and utilise the potential of women as the driving force behind Africa’s success in the energy sector and beyond. Picture used for illustrative purpose.

The supply-demand gap for critical minerals is expanding significantly, driven by the surge in clean energy technologies, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest report on the state of critical minerals globally.

Projections indicate that the overall demand for these minerals could soar up to six times by 2040, with specific minerals like lithium, graphite, cobalt, and nickel seeing demand spikes between 24 to 50 times under certain scenarios. Concurrently, annual production is expected to grow five to six times, potentially exceeding US $250 billion by 2040, thus outpacing the annual production value of coal, according to the report.

This imbalance is underscored by the substantial price increases of cobalt and lithium, which have surged by 3x and 12x respectively between 2020 and 2022, highlighting the growing strain on supply chains.

Landmark decisions from G7 summit

This price surge follows a G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy, and Environment last year, which adopted key decisions to combat climate change and promote sustainability. These included achieving a fully or predominantly decarbonised power sector by 2035, ensuring that nearly all light duty vehicle (LDV) sales are zero emission vehicles (ZEV) by 2035, and reaching 100% electrification in new passenger car sales by the same year.

Additionally, the G7 committed to reducing CO2 emissions from their vehicle stock by at least 50% by 2035, relative to 2000 levels, as a significant step towards net-zero goals. It stressed the need for responsible and resilient supply chains for critical minerals, advocating for open, transparent, and market-based trade with traceability, while opposing market-distorting measures and monopolistic policies.

Without mining there’s no net zero

A third factor to consider is the indispensable role of mining in achieving net zero. Achieving net zero by 2050 entails a complete phase-out of fossil fuels within the next 30 years, a feat unattainable without the extensive use of copper. On this path, electricity is our primary tool, with copper and other critical minerals forming the backbone of our electrical system, highlighting their crucial importance in the transition to a sustainable, carbon-neutral future.


With this context, let’s look at Africa.

African countries face significant challenges in lifting their populations out of poverty and achieving a decent standard of living without access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity.

Lacking access to clean and affordable energy

Currently, 600 million people in Africa lack access to clean and affordable energy, and 900 million people do not have access to clean cooking energy. To provide universal access to modern energy by 2030, the continent must connect 90 million people to electricity annually and transition 130 million people from using dirty cooking fuels each year.

This task is further complicated by rapid population growth and urbanisation; according to a McKinsey report from June 2023, Africa is the fastest-urbanising region globally, with over 500 million people expected to move from rural areas to cities by 2040. However, inadequate investment in electricity grids and utilities hampers the energy transition and delays universal access to electricity, underscoring the urgent need for substantial infrastructure investments.

An inclusive clean energy transition

A people-centered clean energy transition that leaves no one behind requires placing women, youth, and persons with disabilities at the forefront, ensuring their dignified economic participation across all sectors.

Women, in particular, play a catalytic role in economic development, serving not only as consumers of various forms of energy but also as entrepreneurs and policy architects. Their deep contextual understanding of local conditions and communities enables them to contribute significantly to policy design, strategy formulation, and execution. Moreover, women's access to and consumption of energy drives productivity and growth across multiple sectors, highlighting their pivotal role in fostering sustainable economic development. Achieving this inclusive transition necessitates a comprehensive reframing of our outlook and convictions to embrace and empower all members of society.

Immense potential of women in driving growth

African women represent a vast reservoir of entrepreneurial potential, talent, and resilience that remains largely untapped. Leaders must recognise the immense potential women hold in driving economic growth across multiple indicators.

Enabling this multiplier effect requires an ecosystem approach, where collaborative efforts are made to harness and utilise this potential as the driving force behind Africa’s success. Women constitute 58% of self-employment in Africa and contribute approximately 13% to the continent's GDP, highlighting their significant economic impact.

Despite their substantial contributions, women entrepreneurs face a daunting gender funding gap, estimated at $42 billion. Addressing this gap is crucial for unlocking the full economic potential of African women and driving sustainable development across the continent.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is clear! The question is how to create the catalysts for change. In terms of access to finance:

  • Networks of industry associations for: women, youth, and persons with disability,  NPC, NPO, and NGOs, must be empowered with market-related operating financial resources to act as execution arms of both the public and private sector’s socio-economic development initiatives.
  • We need capacity-building interventions for these entities to strengthen their governance structures to receive Climate Impact Financing without incurring high administrative costs and consultant costs to apply for these resources.
  • Global powers must designate real finance for real impact for these entities to deliver wide-reaching initiatives across domestic markets and regions is an immediate priority.

Here are some examples of Initiatives that can be deployed through these networks for continental impact:

  • Educational initiatives to teach the construct of existing and emerging value chains across clean energy products, services, solutions, and systems in local languages and using methodologies applicable to domestic markets.
  • Producing dictionaries of value chains in the clean energy transition in local languages.
  • Delivering tailored African Engendered Just Energy Transition Skills Development programmes: entrepreneurs, utilities and community leadership.
  • Reviewing and supporting Basic Education Ecosystems with finance and human resources to review curricula and include value chains for clean energy and other forms of transitions, setting the foundation for Just transitions.

The pathways to secure access to clean technology must include supporting initiatives that create operations and maintenance capacity in domestic markets for all imported technologies, machinery, solutions, and systems in Clean Energy. It is also okay to import products, but it is not okay to disrupt and displace local labour markets. Let's work collaboratively to build local skills alongside the transition, and afford local populations a fair chance to participate in existing and emerging value chains.

Advancing marginalised groups and mainstreaming them is beyond a moral obligation. It is a business and an economic imperative. Let's do things differently now, so that we do not spend revenues generated in the future, correcting the failures of today’s decisions.

  • The Global Energy Transition Congress & Exhibition (GET) in Milan, Italy, brings together thought leaders, innovators, and industry experts from the energy, hard-to-abate sectors, finance, and start-ups to address the critical challenges and opportunities to decarbonise industry and accelerate the global energy transition. Click here to register and be a part of the inaugural GET Congress and Exhibition. 


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