Masiyiwa: Green investment is the only bet

By Strive Masiyiwa
Posted on Thursday, 10 November 2016 11:40

But every entrepreneur needs investment, and that’s where things often get tough in Africa. Investment is hard to come by, whether you’re a small trader trying to open a bank account or a company trying to get a loan so it can grow.

African countries need investment, too. Right now, in particular, they need investment so they can adapt to the effects of climate change and play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change adds urgency to the investment needs that were already there — for infrastructure, agriculture, health and education.

The historic Paris Agreement that was reached at the COP21 climate talks last year provides for such investment. Developed countries have committed to providing $100bn a year between 2020 and 2025, and to set a new, higher goal for the period thereafter.

At this year’s global climate talks, COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November, it’s crucial that developed countries finalise the “roadmap” towards meeting that annual $100bn goal. Above all, that means the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases: the United States (15% in 2014), the European Union (9.6%), Russia (5%) and Japan (3.6%).

There’s a catch when it comes to the $100bn. The definition of “developed countries” goes back to 1992, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed. So it doesn’t include China — now by far the world’s largest emitter (29.6%). China, Brazil and other emerging economies should be making their own significant contributions to climate finance, and stepping up to meet other global climate obligations.

The $100bn is called climate finance, but it’s really climate investment. Partner countries need to make sure that they invest in Africa to protect the progress that they have already helped to build. China, a major investor in many African countries, bears a particular responsibility to safeguard its investments.

On a global scale, climate finance for Africa is an investment in the future. Africa may contribute little to total emissions now, but almost all of the world’s population gains over the next 50 years will happen in Africa. Africa and its climate finance partners need to make sure that growth is low-carbon growth.

Africa, for its part, is far from being a passive recipient of rich countries’ money. Africa has the potential to become a global climate leader. The Africa Progress Panel, of which I am a member, demonstrated this powerfully in its recent report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities.

African countries know that their 21st century growth needs to be driven by renewable energy, and they are making astonishing leaps. Delegates at COP22 need look no farther than Ouarzazate, where Morocco is building the world’s largest concentrated solar power station. Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa have also built huge solar and wind power stations.

The continent needs low-carbon energy not just to climate-proof African growth, but to expand access to modern energy: two-thirds of Africans do not have electricity. It takes a long time to design, finance and build big power stations, and to extend grid access to remote areas. That’s why many Africans are turning to off-grid solutions, especially solar. Off-grid household or mini-grid systems are expected to supply 70% of the 315m people who will gain access to electricity in rural Africa by 2040.

That scenario will still leave at least 300 million people without electricity in 2040, however. And only 3% of international climate finance is being channelled towards such “decentralised renewables”.

That gap illustrates starkly the triple challenge delegates must address at COP22. We need to increase our ambition, to act urgently, and to think long-term.

• Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless. He is also member of the Africa Progress Panel

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