Green jobs opportunities for young generations in countries depending on fossil fuels

The example of Nigeria and Angola

In the African framework, the involvement of young people in the green energy transition stage, at civil society, academic and professional levels will be critical. It will speed up the process to reach the objectives of SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy) and SDG 13, by maintaining CO2 emissions under control at a level complying with the Paris Agreement targets. This is particularly so when looking at the UN prospected scenario, according to which Africa will experience the most significant spurt of population growth, with an additional 1.3 billion people by 2050 and an expected median age of 25 by 2050 (the youngest in the world).

Nigeria, for instance, is expected to become the third most populous country in the world by 2050. Similarly, Angola will see its population to more than double by 2050, reaching 77 million from the current 35 million.

You would now question why the case of Nigeria and Angola could be extremely interesting to be scrutinized.

Despite the prospects of an auspicious clean energy transition in most of the globe, Africa is “lagging behind”. As specified in the Res4Africa Foundation publication “Connecting the dots: why only 2% of global RE in Africa?”, RE growth in recent years has been mainly scaled up by South Africa and North Africa. Algeria, Angola, Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan are highly dependent on fossil fuels as a source of revenue. Nigeria and Angola are the top oil producers in Africa, with a combined production of 2.18 million BPD (1.16 Angola and 1.02 Nigeria). When analysing these latter countries’ energy outlooks, the scenario would not appear as dramatic as it could be thought. Nigeria’s share of renewable sources in the energy supply mix is 75%, and Angola accounts for 57%, while the consumption mix is respectively 82.15% and 47. 84 %. However, the RES share of both countries is poor in diversification and exclusively composed of bioenergy and hydro. In 2019, 99% of Nigeria’s renewable energy supply was generated by bioenergy. As a matter of a fact, the RES share in the electricity mix comes down to 23%. In the electricity mix, the scenario is capsized, with Angola with a share of 74% share in the mix as a result of the electricity generated by hydro plants, which makes Angola the second great producer of hydro energy in the continent. Nonetheless, solar and wind share is not significant in both countries nor any other renewable source of new generation.

As it could be easily imagined, the majority of workers in the energy sector of Angola and Nigeria are employed directly or indirectly in the fossil fuel sector. In a context where the green transition inevitably puts at risk all the employees in the fossil energy sector, and unemployment is still a central issue (Angola 30.80%), the creation of several new green jobs will not solely be crucial for the safeguarding of the planet.

The Nigeria Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) seeks to increase the share of renewable electricity in Nigeria, from 13% of electricity generation in 2015 -mainly met by large hydro- to 23% in 2025 and 36% by 2030. According to the “Powering Jobs Census 2019: The Energy Access Workforce” report, there were 4000 people employed in the DRE sector in Nigeria in 2019, and expected to become 52,000 by 2025. An increase could be assured through the implementation of the first phase of the Siemens Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), a project destined to increase the reliability of electricity supply to 40 million people in Nigeria, by creating new 11,000 direct and indirect jobs. This couples with the fact that over recent years, a number of young jobless Nigerians has been enrolling at a range of institutes to receive training. A similar trend, with some differences, could be described in the Angolan context, whereby the government has instituted an ambitious infrastructure plan, and through the mapping studies completed by the Ministry of Energy and Water, identified potential for 16.3 GW solar power, 3.9 GW wind power, and 18 GW in hydropower throughout the country. A great project driven by Angola’s national oil company, Sonangol, aimed at ramping up the country’s solar and water capacity with solar-project developer, Sun Africa, and US-based, Africa Global in 2021.

As properly discussed in RES4Africa publication “Energy Revolution”,  “Africa is a young continent with a rapidly growing workforce, but due to its economies' low level of industrialisation, average employment rate stays below 60%”. In these two countries, where unemployment is still a central issue, the creation of new jobs as a result of the new investments in the RES and electrification field would not just bring about positive outcomes in the decarbonization pathway. That is even more critical in youth employment, where thinking these new jobs will require high specialization, addressing primarily younger generations. In this sense, trainings on the DRE sector have a paramount role.

Secondly, solutions at the governmental level must be found for the continent’s youth populations that, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, are among the primary victims of climate change effects. This choice is not solely an opportunity, but rather a no-double option choice for your young generations. Angola and Nigeria are emblematic examples of subjects expected to grow consistently in terms of population and GDP, and their contribution will be crucial to catalyse the process to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

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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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