07/07/2020 | News

How fair is the en­er­gy sys­tem trans­for­ma­ti­on in Af­ri­ca?

Forecasts estimate that the energy needs of African countries will triple between 2015 and 2030. Often, the opportunity is pointed out to avoid the dependency of fossil fuels and to focus directly on renewable energies. Nevertheless, how do the Renewable Energy transitionswork on the African continent and how fair are they?

Image: Glocalpower.
Forms of energy system transformation in Africa.

The BMBF’s „Glocalpower“ junior research group at the Kassel University in cooperation with the Hamburg University is investigating this question. The participating researchers analyse in their new study the energy transition process based on a comparative mapping of African renewable energy policies in 34 African countries.

Same goal, different paths

"Basically all African countries that we have studied have the goal of high energy sovereignty - but there are different ideas about the right way to achieve this," says Dr. Simone Claar, head of the BMBF's junior research group.

For example, South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda, were quickly open to the development of renewable energies. In other countries, however, there are obstacles. "Resource-rich countries like Angola in particular have little interest in change. They rely on oil," says Claar.

The researchers from Kassel University mapped 34 African countries on the basis of policy papers and published a freely accessible database. The researchers identified policies, ownership, donor orientation and energy justice as the determining factor for energy sovereignty.

African countries are intensively promoting energy transition

The figures are impressive: while the analysed countries invested 1.2 trillion US dollars in 2006, expenditures have risen to 19 trillion by 2017. "These figures show us that public and private investment has increased in many countries," says Dr. Claar. "Overall, the study shows that governments are predominantly market-oriented. In South Africa, tendering processes have enabled lower prices for the generation of renewable energies and generated around six gigawatts of additional electricity.”There are plenty of examples of the different paths of energy transition:

Rwanda's national energy strategy combines various instruments. Among other things, the country relies on microfinance, clean cooking programs, the blending of biofuels, and the offsetting up capacity-building programmes for more female expertise in renewable energy technology.

Cape Verde's main policies draw on donor assistance. The country receives financial support from the African Development Funds and the Portuguese and Luxembourg development aid agencies. In 2010, the government developed a renewable energy policy programme with the support of the consulting firm Gesto Energia S. A.

In the context of the Global Energy Transfer Feed-in Tariff, among others Uganda's government has worked with the German development bank KfW, Deutsche Bank, the Norwegian and British governments. In parallel, the World Bank has issued guarantees to private investors to hedge risks.

Criteria for energy justice

However, the establishment of renewable energies in the countries alone would not suffice. "There must also be a 'Just Transition', i.e. a fair structural change," says Claar. "This means that as many people as possible must not only be given access to energy, as formulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7.” As an example, she cites the construction of wind turbines: "When a large wind farm is built, the residents should not only receive the energy, but should also be involved in the whole process and benefit from a transfer of knowledge so that new jobs can be created".

The countries studied differ, sometimes considerably. " We want to provide a building block for learning from other countries through best-practice examples and thus support the energy transition in African countries," says Dr. Claar.

The project: Glocalpower

Glocalpower is funded by the BMBF. On March 1, the project became a joint project between the University of Kassel and the University of Hamburg. The German scientists are researching the topic together with local partners in Zambia, Ghana and South Africa. Joint workshops are planned on-site from the end of 2021.

The junior research group has published the research results in an OpenAccess article in Energy Research and Social Science.


Available to the public at:

The research for this article was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research [Grant number: FKZ 01LN1707A].


Contact us:

Dr. Simone Claar

Head of BMBF project "Glocalpower”

Kassel University

Department of Globalization and Politics

Phone: 0561 804 - 3931

e-mail: sclaar[at]uni-kassel[dot]de