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COP27: Will the "gas rush" benefit Africa?

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COP27 : la "ruée sur le gaz" profitera-t-elle à l'Afrique ?

The "gas rush" Western powers in the midst of an energy crisis represent a false promise of development for Africa, say activists and experts at COP27, who see the future in renewables.

The Russian invasion ofUkraine triggered a storm on the energy markets and pushed Northern countries, particularly Europe, to secure strategic supplies for their economies at all costs.

Europeans are therefore looking to African countries, some of which intend to benefit from this new race.

Senegal or Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, have recently discovered oil resources and gas plants nurturing hopes of wealth. The Mozambique is attempting to develop a giant liquefied natural gas (LNG), delayed for safety reasons.

"Europe wants to make Africa its petrol station, laments Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift AfricaThis is the concern of many African activists at this year's COP 27 climate conference on that continent, in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"But we don't need to follow the example of the rich countries that actually caused climate change", he argues.

For the NGO Climate Action TrackerThe global race for gas represents a "serious threat" for the objectives of theParis Agreementwhich aims to limit the global warming well below 2°C and if possible at +1.5°C by the year 2100 compared to the pre-industrial era.

In Africa, projects also put valuable ecosystems at risk, for example in the Congo Basin.

But some African leaders do not intend to give up a potential windfall. "We stand for a fair and just green transition instead of decisions that harm our development process"., said on the podium of the COP27 Macky SallPresident of Senegal, whose reserves are coveted by Germany which is struggling to wean itself off Russian gas.

"We have 600 million people in Africa who have no access to electricity at all. More than 900 million have no access to modern energy for cooking or heating., recalls Omar Farouk IbrahimSecretary General of theOrganization of African Petroleum Producers (APPO).

A marginal increase in emissions from Africa - which has contributed almost nothing to the climate change - "would make a fundamental difference to the life or death of people in Africa"., pleads the Nigerian.

"History shows that extraction in African countries has not translated into development or "in access to energy for people"., retorts Thuli Makama, to Oil Change International.

The Western thirst caused by the war in Ukraine will be "very short term". and African countries that have invested in new capacity will remain with "stranded assets, clean-up costs and all the devastation that comes with this industry", says the Eswatini lawyer and activist.

This notion of assets "stranded" refers to products that lose all value. Some economists believe that hydrocarbons will quickly be marginalized by clean energyleading to their devaluation.

This is a danger pointed out by a Carbon Tracker report published on Monday. Fossil fuel prices will eventually fall and Western investment will evaporate, the authors write, urging African countries to bet on the solar.

"To help tackle our energy poverty challenge, we need to harness the incredible potential in renewable energy that exists in Africa", Mohamed Adow suggests.

The continent could thus follow a different development path from that of the West and "jump" the fossil stage, as it went directly to the mobile telephony. Africa can become "a green leader, says the Kenyan expert and activist.

The room for improvement is immense: Africa captured only 0.6% of global renewable energy investment last year, according to a study BloombergNEF (BNEF), but it has enormous potential, especially for solar.

According to Carbon Tracker, the continent could jump from 14 gigawatts of solar capacity to more than 400 GW by 2050, with costs falling further.

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