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Climate Change and Economic Development in Africa

June 6, 2023 Category: Climate Work Area: Energy Access

African countries face a dual challenge of building broad-based prosperity for their citizens amidst the threat of climate change and the recognition of the need for global greenhouse gas emissions reductions. While these two issues are increasingly discussed in tandem in policy circles, the research has typically considered them separately, resulting in energy decarbonization plans that fail to consider critical development needs and contribute to persistent energy poverty.

This paper reviews the state of knowledge on energy transition modeling and projections in Africa, with special attention to development imperatives and the commitment to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. We analyzed 156 peer-reviewed research papers that cover part or the whole of Africa, concerned with the issue of the energy transition and that are model-based or scenario-based. Our analysis revealed that:

  • Energy transition modeling is a recent but fast-growing phenomenon in Africa, with over 90% of papers completed after the Paris Agreement in 2015
  • Despite the complexities involved, only a handful of scenarios are often presented, largely focused on 2030 or 2050 time horizons, with little to no considerations of social and political considerations that may hinder implementation
  • Projections of energy mix and emissions pathways are the key objectives in general, with only 10% of the papers reviewed considering development as a central outcome
  • Technologies such as carbon capture, nuclear, hydrogen, or electrofuels, that stand to play a vital role toward a low or zero carbon transition are among the least considered
  • Nearly two-thirds of the research was produced without an author based on the African continent

We discuss the significance of these findings and reflect on ways to further enhance knowledge leadership to guide a more practical approach to tackling climate change and promoting socio-economic development in Africa.