African Leaders' Visits Highlights Need for Responsible Energy Management

The US Trade and Development Agency and Department of Energy are currently co-hosting the African Leaders’ Visit: Energy in Houston as a prelude to the African Leaders Summit. Energy representatives from Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania are present to tour natural gas infrastructure sites in the area. These particular countries’ hold recently-discovered reserves of natural gas, and this visit is an attempt to expose the representatives to the technologies, equipment, and management strategies for natural gas development. This discovery has piqued investors’ interest in the region, and the US government has facilitated networking between the African representatives and major US corporate players in natural gas.

At the upcoming Africa Leaders Summit, energy will be a big topic of discussion for its economic development abilities. Currently, over two-thirds of Africans live without access to electricity, and it would take an investment of $300 billion for universal electricity access by 2030. Those living without electricity are forced to use costly, and often unhealthy, methods to generate any type of power. For instance, may use wood: an already scarce resource. To businesses, the lack of reliable power is a deterrent from investing and developing their sectors in Africa. Therefore developing energy is key to Africa’s future on economic and human rights level.

President Obama initiated Project Africa last year to develop geothermal, hydro, wind, solar power, and responsible natural gas energy. This will increase Africa’s energy security and help to alleviate poverty. Of the eight initial African partner countries, the aforementioned Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania will work with the US to create responsible natural gas energy practices. The US is committing more than $7 billion over the next 5 years to all of these energy forms, which has been leveraged by the private sector in over $14 billion in financing.

The theme of the upcoming summit is to “balance idealism and commerce.” Therefore the potential natural gas development plans, and hence that African nation’s economy, must be paired with responsible practices. The US has called for transparent natural resource management and plans to collaborate with the countries to create better governance so the benefits go to strengthening the country’s economy and people.  

There are many examples of intolerable energy management in Africa. For instance, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equatorial New Guinea, has enjoyed the spoils of his oil-rich country as a now multi-millionaire. 8 out of 10 of his citizens still live below the poverty line despite his personal wealth. Furthermore, international investments from countries like China have tapped into Africa’s natural resources but have left the countries without the economic gain. As Obama said, “My advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one: that they’re hiring African workers; number two: that the roads don’t just lead from the mine, to the port, to Shanghai.”

Climate change will have serious effects on Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, so it is imperative that these nations think in a holistic way about their citizen’s human rights, their economy, and their natural resources. By growing Africa’s energy through green technologies as well as natural gas, these nations can build towards a sustainable future. Earth Day Network looks forward to the energy discussions at the African Leaders Summit and hopes that transparent natural resource use can be achieved.

Author: Johanna Bouzwa, EDN Intern