Deliberate actions must ensure inclusive and people-centred shift from fossil to renewable energy in Africa, climate activists coalescing under the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA said in a meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya.
Speaking at the launch of the Kenyan chapter of the “Ensuring a People-Centered Energy Transition in Africa through Civil Society Engagement” project, climate activists warned about the danger of the big shift from fossil fuel such as petroleum, and coal could still be controlled by the big conglomerate, leaving the poor and vulnerable African communities behind.
“For transition to be just, vulnerable people cannot be kept out of the decision-making table. Civil Society should and must be at the frontline to ensure a frank and inclusive engagement of people on the ground,” said Dr Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director, PACJA.
He said the problem of access to energy normally manifests around the daily lives of women, specifically, the rural women who have to walk miles from home in search of fuelwood which poses risks to their lives.
According to Dr Augustine Ndjamnshi, the Chair of the Technical and Political Committee of the PACJA, the choice of the Kenyan launch was informed by the fact that the Kenyan energy sector is poised to be one of the most progressive on the continent.
He said the project strengthens African CSOs to work towards Just transition and promoting access to energy through an inclusive agenda and to secure a just process of transition for everyone on the African continent.
To be implemented in five countries including Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria, Morocco, and Botswana, the GermanWatch-supported project will ensure a move towards renewable energy is inclusive and people-centred.
Currently, the sector has an installed power capacity of 2,732MW with KenGen contributing 61% (1,630MW) and IPPs contributing the difference.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global energy poverty is now concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Currently, around 580 million in the Africa, roughly 75% of the global total, have no electricity. And a staggering 80% of the population (about 800 million people) lacks access to modern energy and relies on biomass products such as wood, charcoal, and dung to cook.
The IEA note that this acute energy poverty affects many developments and environmental outcomes negatively; notably health, household income, quality of life, access to modern services such as ICTs, as well as human capital development, productive land use, and sustainable forest management.
Across Africa, lack of access to energy is preventing women and children from leading more productive lives, expanding inequality gaps, and fomenting a wide range of social injustices. “It is lowering the region’s chance of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063”, according to the African Coalition of Sustainable Energy Access.
Access to clean, sustainable and modern energy services is needed to meet basic human needs and for economic and social development across Africa. Increased access to energy, ‘can unlock sustainable economic growth, improve human health and well-being and enable women and children to lead more productive lives.
Beyond direct economic and social benefits, clean energy access will raise human security and build resilience in states and communities to help limit the risk of large-scale migration across the African continent as well as accelerate the attainment of SDGs, Agenda 2063 goals and climate commitments under the Paris Agreement’.
Dan Marangu, director, renewable energy in the Ministry of Energy (MoE) said the government has adequate policies to guide the development of renewable energy from the green sources.
He said the country has also embarked on a number of reforms meant to open access for the transmission and distribution systems, creation of consolidated fund and creation of the net metering regulatory framework, among others for the stakeholders and consumers to actively engage and meet the growing demand respectively.
However, Mithika said statistics have increasingly shown limited involvement of key stakeholders – especially the non-state actors – in driving a people responsive, environmentally just and climate resilient energy systems – especially drawing the conclusions from the sector report launched by the president in 20211.
He added that to address these gaps, civil society engagement is crucial to facilitate and push for renewable energy initiatives and an energy transition that is sustainable and people-oriented.
Ndjamnshi said the civil society participation has the potential to ensure buy-in, prevent external interests from driving renewable energy development, and guarantee that development is designed with a thorough understanding of the local context, social norms, values, and customs.
He noted that this will be achieved by building a critical mass of the non-state-actors that will interrogate renewable energy investments against a set of minimum criteria and ensure initiatives prioritize decentralised small-scale investments that meet the needs of the people.