FT Summit: Osinbajo says Africa can be world’s first green industrial hub

Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, the Global Advisor of Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), making his speech as a Special Guest and speaker at the 10th anniversary of the Financial Times (FT) Africa Summit in London, on Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Nigeria’s immediate past Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, has said that Africa can be the first green industrial hub of the world because of its vast potential for renewable energy, a teeming youth population and an abundance of natural resources.

Osinbajo, the Global Advisor of Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), who was a Special Guest and speaker at the 10th anniversary of the Financial Times (FT) Africa Summit in London, on Tuesday, October 17, 2023, added the African Continent is set on the path of achieving the Climate Positive Growth Plan if given the right type of funding.

He spoke on the topic “How Africa is Navigating the Energy Transition,” to an audience of international business leaders, policymakers and speakers from Africa and around the world at the well-attended summit.

While referencing the recently concluded Africa Climate Summit which was held in September in Kenya, Prof. Osinbajo noted that the adoption of the “Nairobi Declaration” at the summit endorsed by the African Union, has the Climate Positive Growth Plan as one of its important features.

He explained that the Climate Positive Growth Plan would ensure “Africa can actually be the green industrial hub of the world. We can grow using our renewable energy which has the largest potential in the world, and we can grow without adding emissions or keeping emissions constant but actually reducing emissions.

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“We have the largest potential for renewable energy in the world; second, we have the youngest and fastest growing workforce in the world and third, we have an abundance of natural resources, and in particular, the critical minerals in the world. The real issue then is if all of these are harnessed and we get the right type of investments, Africa can actually become the green industrial hub of the world.

“Take for example, converting some of the bauxite to aluminium, if that is done using renewable energy, we control 25% of the world’s resources, and assuming that we can actually process that using renewable energy resources, we will save the world about 335million tons of CO2, and actually increase jobs at about 280,000 and earn about $37billion, just by keeping that production within Africa and using renewable energy.

“This is where the Climate Positive Growth Plan is very important and points to the solution. It will happen if we get the right type of funding.

“There is a real opportunity here and it is a commercial proposition and will make a real difference to ensure everyone will achieve net zero by 2050.”

Making the point about developed countries’ growth trajectory and how it increases carbon emissions over the years, the former Vice President noted that “economic growth has always also meant emissions growth, that is the trajectory the world has followed, but if Africa were to grow in the same way wealthier countries of the world have grown, what we would find would be that Africa would be adding a minimum of about 12 gigatons of CO2 emissions all the way up to 2050 which will make it completely impossible for the world to achieve net-zero by 2050.”

On the issue of funding for a just energy transition, Prof. Osinbajo said “The question around funding generally with funds for adaptation, mitigation and even the loss and damage fund, is that these are not economic propositions, these are basically funding that comes from the goodness of the hearts of wealthier countries.

“As you can imagine, the rate of default on these commitments is very high indeed, and that is how it will remain. Even with the loss and damage fund, it is very unlikely that we are going to find the kind of results we expect because going by the track record, this is what will turn up.”

With regards to Carbon Markets and strategies, the former VP observed that a lot of work has been done by the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative, ACMI.

According to him, ACMI, which is an initiative of the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, GEAPP, is now able “to support several countries that want to develop their carbon market activation plans. This is crucial as we go along because we find out that there is a great deal of potential here and more importantly there are several landmines on the way. What ACMI has been able to do is to help ensure that there is some planning and advice that the carbon credits have integrity and legal frameworks.”

He explained that the argument for gas as a transition fuel was simple enough. According to him, Africa struggled with energy poverty, with millions lacking access to power, and 1 in 4 deaths of women in rural areas caused by pollution from the use of firewood.

So he posited that “the question for gas-rich African countries is why should we leave this versatile and relatively low carbon fuel in the ground when it offers a cheap and available source of electricity for our domestic and industrial use and LPG clinical clean purposes?

“This is the argument of gas-rich countries, we have a situation where renewable energy even within Africa is becoming cheaper than gas and of course, it is possible by investing in renewable energy. We need to ask ourselves the question whether or not we can sustain gas as a transition fuel especially with finance becoming a problem.”

Other speakers at the 10th anniversary of the FT Africa Summit included Patrice Trovoada, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe; Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Judd B. Devermont, Special Assistant to President Joe Biden and Senior Director for African Affairs, White House; Dr Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; James Mwangi, Founder of Climate Action Platform for Africa; Olugbenga Agboola, Founder and CEO of Flutterwave, amongst others.