The Green Transition and Social Sustainability in Africa

Roberto Vigotti
Secretary General at Res4Africa

How is Res4Africa raising awareness among European organizations and investors regarding the relevance of Africa’s energy transition and the need for European partnerships to accelerate the process?

The private sector, let that be in Africa or globally speaking, has the appetite and means to represent the engine of Africa’s sustainable economic development. Our aim is to create an enabling environment for scaling up renewable energy investments in Africa to accelerate a just and inclusive energy transition on the continent. We do this by raising awareness and leading on public-private dialogue, providing analysis, accelerating finance, and leading on capacity building, all by providing the private sector’s perspective that seeks to overcome investment hurdles and unlock Africa’s renewable energy capabilities. One of the Foundation’s flagship programs is renewAfrica, an industry-backed Initiative advocating for creating a comprehensive European de-risking programme supporting renewable energy investments in Africa.

We noticed the well-designed operational model Res4Africa utilizes to achieve positive impact: Advocate, Analyse, Train and Support. Could you explain how this methodology looks in practice and how it can enhance socio-economic spillovers?

The main project we can think of is Africa’s clean energy transition, and achieving universal access to energy will require skilling the next generation of energy professionals. Public-private partnerships show a huge potential for training, and R4A already has a vast and diversified track record in training professionals across Africa to accompany the just energy transition. Our flagship training project is the Advanced Training Course (ATC), with around 300 professionals attending this year’s ATC edition. We also feature Vocational Training, the Micro Grid Academy, to create a skilled and conscious African workforce, thus strengthening job creation and access to energy in rural communities.

In the following years, what do you see regarding Res4Africa’s evolution concerning SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth)? What will be the main challenges and opportunities?

Covid-19 showed how much energy and health are intertwined. Without energy, there is no storage of vaccines nor operations of health centres in Africa. Our initiative’ Renewables against Covid’ is one such example of raising awareness. A selected group of our students is now engaged in designing and implementing a clean energy system to power health centres. Our latest report, Towards a prosperous and sustainable Africa: Maximizing the socio-economic gains of Africa’s energy transition, explores this and has been jointly presented with UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) and IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) on 18 February during the EU Africa Business Forum online.

Inequality and poverty are significant challenges that are still impeding Africa’s progress. So how is Res4Africa using its programs to impact positively deprived communities?

Universal access to energy and poverty eradication are deeply intertwined. That is why the issue of access to energy needs to be solved – especially in peri-urban and rural communities where energy poverty is most prevalent. We started the Micro-Grid Academy to provide vocational training on-site to explore decentralized energy solutions. Approaching the challenge of energy access in Africa shows how energy can enable development and solve the overarching challenge of resources. If powered by renewable energy technologies, the approach can inspire investment cases and new businesses that account for ways in which energy can mitigate resource needs and enable sustainability in high-potential economic sectors in African markets.

Can you elaborate on the latest project of the Foundation Grids4Africa?

Sub-Saharan Africa is progressing toward universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. Launched in July 2021, Grids4Africa is a RES4Africa’s programme focused on developing Africa’s electricity networks as a key factor to achieve universal access to energy and successfully incorporate increasing amounts of intermittent renewables (renewables that have a fluctuating nature, such as solar power). Conceived and developed in collaboration with its grid-expert members, the programme aims to raise awareness and establish public-private partnerships to bring additional private sector resources.

According to your perspective, which is Africa’s role in the net-zero carbon goals and the global economy in the upcoming years?

Africa stands to gain enormously from its clean energy transition – provided there is a strong role for renewable energy investments and that this is achieved in a just and inclusive way involving  local, international private sector and investment actors. There is much potential for scaling up technologies such as solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energy resources. However, the growth of clean investments in Africa is delayed by the lack of an enabling environment that still needs to be supported and enhanced. That is why we need to address its main components.