China’s Odd to Drive Africa’s Energy Revolution

China has a unique opportunity to spearhead an energy revolution in Africa, but it must first address nearly two decades of neglect in green power investments on the continent, according to research from Boston University released on Tuesday.

China's Odd to Drive Africa's Energy Revolution
China’s Odd to Drive Africa’s Energy Revolution

China’s Odd to Drive Africa’s Energy Revolution

As Africa’s largest bilateral trading partner since the early 2000s, China has financed numerous large-scale infrastructure projects across the continent.

However, its commitment to green energy initiatives has been relatively minimal despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge three years ago to refrain from building new coal-fired power projects abroad.

Although Africa boasts significant potential for green energy, including solar and wind power, Chinese lending and investment have predominantly favored fossil fuels.

A report from Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center and the African Economic Research Consortium revealed that only 2% of China’s energy loans to Africa from 2000 to 2022 were allocated to renewables, while over 50% went to fossil fuel projects.

Can China Contribute to Africa’s Energy Transition?

The report emphasizes that China can contribute significantly to Africa’s energy transition through trade, finance, and foreign direct investment (FDI).

However, Chinese development finance institutions have primarily focused on investments in commodity extraction and electrification projects, rather than renewable energy initiatives.

Notably, Chinese lending has often targeted sectors that facilitate the extraction and export of oil and minerals back to China.

For instance, a considerable portion of hydropower projects financed by the Export-Import Bank of China (Chexim) are intended to support the extraction of various metals.

While these investments have generated export revenues for African economies, the continent has yet to fully benefit from renewable energy technologies.

Global Efforts to Combat Climate Change

Fossil fuels still dominate Africa’s electricity generation and energy consumption, accounting for approximately 75% and 90%, respectively, in 2022.

In light of these findings, the report underscores the need for China to redirect its investments toward supporting Africa’s energy transition, thereby unlocking the continent’s vast renewable energy potential and contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.



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