- The background music coming out of the recent COP26 climate change conference shows quite clearly that Africa will struggle to exploit its resources.
- Despite the fact that Africa only produces four percent of global carbon emissions, the continent may now have to “phase out” its industrial revolution.
Although fossil fuels are now considered public enemy number one, much of the world has much to be thankful for, due to the presence of this oldest resource on earth.
For example, since the start of Britain’s industrial revolution in 1750 and today, its GDP has grown 50 times. Each generation of Britons since 1750 has been a third better off than the last. Coal, and later oil, made this possible, putting food on people’s plates and improving health, longevity, and prosperity for many.
Kenya and several other African states have significant deposits of gas and other natural resources that could have a similar transformational effect for the continent.
But the background music coming out of the recent COP26 climate change conference makes it quite clear that Africa will struggle to harness its resources and improve the situation of its people 50 times.
Despite the fact that Africa produces only four percent of global carbon emissions, the continent may now, in the words of the COP, have to “phase out” its industrial revolution due to the need to clean up the consequences. of the economic boom in the global North.
Attracting investment in fossil fuels will be difficult and costly on the part of global capital markets led by an ESG (environment, social and governance) program. Improving Africa’s standard of living – more food, more people connected to uninterrupted electricity, more access to finance, better paying jobs – may well go underground, literally. Similar headwinds are blowing from COP26 to challenge Africa’s agricultural revolution as well.
Africa can certainly prosper from the climate emergency. For example, attracting investment in renewable energy projects to make the most of the abundance of sun and wind in many parts of the continent.
But it would be preferable if Africa could be allowed to simultaneously develop these new technologies, while exploiting its natural carbon resources, to create economic and social development.