The socio-economic benefits expected as a result of the rapid deployment of renewable energy and other clean energy technologies in Africa are monumental. According to IRENA forecasts, pursuing the transformation of African energy sectors in alignment with the 1.5 C° climate target will result in the creation of more than 16 million jobs in clean energy technologies and services by 2050, of which about 6 million will be in the renewable energy sector. IRENA’s Energy Transition Welfare Index shows a positive impact on the general welfare of African societies by about 24 per cent compared to the stated policy scenario. At the same time, countries, notably oil and gas exporters, will need to adjust to the reduction of international and local demand for fossil fuels and manage the phase-out of carbon intensive technologies. Then, if from one side the social dimension of the Africa’s energy transition represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity, from the other side it also entails challenges.

The private renewable energy industry is uniquely positioned to drive this transition and has an extraordinary opportunity, and responsibility, to contribute to the achievement of Africa’s development goals and aspirations. In a global context of accelerating the fight against climate change before it’s too late, as articulated in the COP-26 discussions and outcomes, we must not forget the socioeconomic implications of our commitments and actions, especially in developing economies.

Achieving climate goals and maximising local development to support Africa’s socio-economic progress requires dedicated efforts to capitalise on the opportunities of clean energy transitions. Renewable energy companies need to enhance their commitments towards the expansion of electricity access. Renewable technologies and products, coupled with digital innovation and financing solutions, provide viable options to provide reliable, affordable, and sustainable access to energy to all in Africa. Their delivery to current and new markets, both on- and off-grid, is a fundamental contribution towards ending poverty and the electrification of Africa will be the backbone of its future economic growth and prosperity.

To maximise the positive impact of the energy transition on local communities, the renewable energy industry should find a skilled workforce prepared to implement projects at scale. To match the needs of the industry with the skill-set and competencies of a growing young labour force, dedicated efforts to upskill African human capital are required. Renewable energy businesses have the capacity and knowledge to contribute to building-up Africa’s educational and training infrastructure and transfer vital know-how. This is key to ensure that no one will be left behind the notable employment opportunities emerging from the energy transition. Private-led initiatives in re-skilling of the local workforce, as well as vocational and technical training programs, are fundamental components of successful energy transition strategies. In this regard, the industry is showing a growing commitment. A fruitful collaboration between private and public institutions will contribute to closing the gap between available competencies and future needs of the job market, enabling Africa to benefit from the green energy revolution.

Succeeding in this transformative process would have a great impact on the empowerment of African youth. Africa is the youngest continent on Earth and its youth is the protagonist of its future prosperity. The youth is the most engaged in pushing the world towards sustainable growth pathways and climate resilience. The youth are drivers of energy transition choices, they are also enablers of innovation and creativity and it is our duty to put them in a position to lead changes in pursuit of sustainable development goals.

Aware of these opportunities and of the challenges we will face ahead, the RES4Africa Foundation, its members, and partners are convinced that the future prosperity of the continent depends on the ability to leverage its immense renewable energy potential towards a sustainable transformation of its energy and productive systems. Realizing this process requires considerable effort but, unlike other times in human history, Africa can count on the technologies, processes and knowledge capable of activating virtuous sustainable development cycles. The renewable energy industry is ready to cooperate and work together with international development partners, national and local authorities, and all interested stakeholders to succeed in making this century the one of Africa’s sustainable prosperity.

Salvatore BernabeiCEO of Enel Green Power and President of RES4Africa Foundation.

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Africa is a continent in continuous transformation, with a sustained economic and population growth, a fast-paced urbanization and a young generation of talents who is leading its business revolution. This transformation requires energy and will require it even more in the next decades.
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