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New Report on Africa's future!

A report by the Independent Expert Group on Just Transition and Development

The world is undergoing major changes

In the midst of climate crisis, financial turmoil, pandemics and wars, the world’s economic and geopolitical map is reshaping with risks, uncertainties, and opportunities for Africa. Africa cannot remain passive during this process of structural shifts in the global economy.

This report by independent experts invites all relevant stakeholders – African leaders, government officials and negotiators, civil society, academics, private entities, media, and international partners – to re-envisage a framework for African resilience and prosperity that can simultaneously tackle climate, energy, and development challenges on the continent.

Watch the launch webinar

The Report was presented and discussed at a webinar on 29 May 2023 by several co-authors and discussants, moderated by Tasneem Essop, CAN-International. Versions available in English as well as French and Portuguese translations.



Africa faces numerous intertwined challenges across climate, energy and development


Africa can choose to formulate another development vision that builds on the rich tradition of African collective, endogenous cultures, breaks dependencies and indebtedness, and fosters enhanced self-reliance


African countries can succeed with their Just transition if they unite and re-embrace a truly pan-African vision


Energy and food sovereignty reduce dependence on foreign imports, cater to genuine, basic needs, and build productive capacity


African societies can set out a new model of value-added industrialisation – with renewable energy technology production to meet domestic needs at the core


People-centred, smart, renewable energy systems can foster more democratic societies, power thriving local economic development, and lay the ground for social services and social protection for all


Africa can go from food importer to food sovereignty providing healthy and environmentally friendly food for all while cutting external dependency


Africa has agency and can invest considerable resources in agroecology, renweable energy, and social protection through their own means and currencies


Remaining investment needs must be made possible through international support and reparations, in accordance with principles of equity and fair shares


A just transition requires both rapid and equitable phase out of fossil fuels as well as a renewable energy revolution that does not cause harm to communities or ecosystems


Africa can inspire questioning of the mainstream development paradigm also on other continents. The set of intertwined, existential crises all societies face calls for a deep reset of the very meaning of ‘development’ and progress, everywhere


There are no ‘developed’ countries — all societies need to embark on a quest to define new, genuine people-centred and sustainable development

“I believe by becoming more assertive and pursuing a climate and development agenda through unified approaches of the kind outlined in this report, Africa will be able to mitigate the climate emergency and propel itself to prosperity.”

William S. Ruto

President of the Republic of Kenya, Chair of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

Summary of the report

Addressing intertwined challenges

With over a billion people and 55 countries, Africa is home to diverse economies, resources, ecosystems and cultures. Yet decades after independence African countries continue to face famine, energy poverty, regional conflict, patriarchal oppression, economic insecurity, indebtedness and a host of other impediments.

These and other structural development crises are increasingly compounded by climate change. Underpinning both are challenges relating to energy. Africa must scale up energy production and access, while leapfrogging outmoded dirty-energy systems to modern, affordable, renewable energy systems.

Addressing structural deficiencies

African economies suffer at least three structural deficiencies that constrain development potential:

    • a lack of food sovereignty;
    • a lack of energy sovereignty; and
    • low-value-added content of exports relative to imports.

These deficiencies in turn contribute to structural trade deficits, weakened African currencies and pressure to issue debt denominated in foreign currencies, resulting in more indebtedness.

Faced with depreciating currencies and rising import prices, African governments typically resort to subsidising necessities and artificially maintaining exchange rates by accumulating more debt. The vicious cycle deepens.

Rooting our vision in history

Africa’s structural crises are rooted in its history. Colonialism moulded Africa’s economies and societies to meet the labour and material needs of Western industrialisation and development. 

Post-colonial efforts to correct these imbalances, increase independence and nurture infant industries were curbed by energy crises, indebtedness and structural adjustment policies.

Today African countries continue to depend on exporting primary products, resulting in economies that are fragile, vulnerable to shocks, and highly dependent on external factors. 

More resilient food, energy and industrial systems

Access by every citizen to nutritious, abundant, affordable and culturally appropriate food is a central objective of development. Africans can achieve food sovereignty by shifting away from export-oriented, cash-crop, industrial agriculture that has left Africa hungry, towards community-based agro-ecological systems that provide nutritious food, sustained yields, secure livelihoods, and climate resilience.

A second step is to escape the post-colonial trap of prioritising extractive industries, assembly-line manufacturing and low-value-added exports through a pan-African industrial policy that develops African resources and human capacities, expands internal markets and economies of scale, and prioritises strategic investments, planning and partnerships that enhance opportunity, generate employment, and secure a greater share of the benefits for Africans.

More resilient agriculture and industrial systems must be powered with energy, and Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to leapfrog the dirty and obsolete energy systems of the past towards more modern, people-centred, decentralised renewable energy systems.

A renewal of Africa’s vision

To break free from these traps, and manage a rapidly changing external context, Africa needs a renaissance of endogenous ideas and leadership.

Building on existing plans, such as Agenda 2063, can renew a vision of genuine people-centred development, framed in terms of African values and cultures, focused on meeting the needs of every African, and centred on social justice, feminist values, and meaningful progress.

Africa’s vision for itself can be complemented by a more assertive international role, including South-South collaboration and self-reliance, more robust engagement in geopolitics, and systematic reform of the international architecture to address African and global challenges.

Ensuring a just energy transition

Energy plays a fundamental role across multiple sectors. The choices Africa makes about energy systems will determine many other aspects of development. Fit for purpose, modern and low-carbon, a new model of energy provision must address a number of important factors.

The system must provide accessible, affordable, reliable and sustainable energy to around 600 million Africans that currently lack access to electricity as an overriding priority for development.

To achieve this goal, Africa will need to move away from outmoded models based on centralised infrastructure, towards more modern, integrated energy solutions that take advantage of Africa’s massive renewable energy potential.

The new energy system will embody a number of key principles and approaches that underpin a new African energy vision, including:

    • Ensuring African ownership and agency in energy initiatives and plans
    • Integrating energy systems design into wider development objectives and planning
    • Establishing clear policy priorities, such as support for clean cooking and diversification of energy generation and ownership
    • Provide scope for the delivery of energy as a common good and to genuinely foster energy democratisation
    • Ensuring stakeholder participation, equity and sufficiency in terms of energy use

Avoiding misguided development policies

Many mainstream “development policies” masquerade as solutions to these problems, but are in fact structural traps that exacerbate the crisis.

Measures to increase low-value-added exports, increase tourism or encourage foreign investment often increase importation of costly food, fuel, intermediate inputs and capital equipment. Outbound immigration to increase remittances worsens the brain-drain. Liberalisation of financial services invites speculation and instability. Privatisation generates revenues for foreign entities that are repatriated abroad.

Government subsidies, tax-cuts and weak regulations to attract transnational corporations, in turn, result in a race to the bottom for African and other developing countries. Compounded by tax evasion, the result is a deluge of wealth transfer from Global South to North — upwards of USD two trillion per year.

Added to these development traps are a host of new false solutions framed as responses to the climate and energy crisis — carbon markets, carbon capture and storage, geo-engineering.

Africa can fund the transition through domestic and international sources

The scale of resources required is unprecedented. The dominant narrative is that Africa lacks the resources, and so will need to borrow more to fund the transition.

In fact, as well as addressing the highlighted structural traps, African governments have a range of tools at hand to enhance the generation of domestic resources over time. One is to address the lack productive capacity — such as skilled labour, technical know-how, capital equipment — to begin scaling up domestic production without adding to the need for external inputs and debt.

African currencies

Complementing this is the creation of more accountable markets and institutions, by addressing market concentration and abusive practices that misallocate resources and corrupt institutions.

While addressing internal factors, African countries can act in concert to address a range of external factors by calling for:

    • Scaling up of finance through existing mechanisms such as multilateral climate funds
    • Initiating new measures such as global programs to support renewable energy deployment
    • Deploying innovative financial sources such as financial transaction taxes, redirection of subsidies and special drawing rights (SDRs)
    • The systematic cancellation of unfair and odious debts
    • Improved regulation of transnational corporations and tax evasion
    • Reform of imbalanced and unfair international rules on trade, investment and technology
    • Reform of the international financial architecture, drawing on historical processes such as the New International Economic Order, and new ones such as the Bridgetown Initiative
    • Reparations for colonial atrocities, biopiracy and the appropriation of cultural heritage

Quotes about the report

"Africa is at an energy crossroads. Will the continent follow in the footsteps of its former colonisers who burned millions of tonnes of fossil fuel that polluted the planet? Or will it follow a different path? We can show the world that development in the 21st Century can be different from that of the 20th Century. We must establish policies that prioritize renewables and leave fossil fuels in the ground."

Youba Sokona

“African countries need to pool their physical and technical resources together. Building and sharing knowledge is key. They must also unite in holding the Global North to account on their pledge to provide climate finance, and challenge the global finance architecture. Collectively, they must push for greater reforms of international financial institutions in a bid to unlock a wave of infrastructural developments in Africa.”

Yacob Mulugettea

‘‘Due to their high dependence on agroecosystems for livelihoods and inadequate infrastructure, communities across Africa are vulnerable to climate shocks and stresses. Building resilience and meeting these challenges depends on countries’ ability to strengthen their food and energy systems and to promote an inclusive and equitable development path. However, this demands countries projecting a vision of a just transition that is pro-people and built on the principles of social justice.’’

Meron Tesfamichael

“The global race to become leaders in renewable energy is about to explode and the African people can benefit from this abundant form of clean, and increasingly cheap form of power. To be able to capitalize on this opportunity, however, African leaders must take a Pan-African approach by working together. Other countries are mobilising resources to push forward support for green industries, the US, EU and China have all announced packages of support in recent months. African leaders would be wise to develop their own, pan-African support plan for accelerating the clean energy revolution.”

Mohamed Adow

"Africa's external debt trap can only be addressed via transformative long-term strategies focused on food sovereignty, renewable energy sovereignty, and a pan-African high value-added industrial policy. This report urges African leaders to acknowledge that our climate, energy, and development policies are inextricably connected, and therefore a comprehensive and coherent pan-African vision by and from Africans is critical for meeting the aspirations of our people and achieving a just, sustainable, and prosperous future for Africa."

Fadhel Kaboub

“This report spells out a bold development vision from Africa, which shows that there are still no truly ‘developed’ countries anywhere. All countries need to be guided by a vision that meets everyone’s needs in a just and sustainable way. This means that wealthy countries need to decrease their energy and material consumption. It also means African countries can take charge of their development agenda with renewable energy and economic policies that genuinely serves the interests of their people, as shown by the African experts in this report.”

Niclas Hällström

“Is a better Africa possible? A question usually met with Afro-pessimism, stereotypical tropes, and ahistorical analysis. Now, with this pathbreaking Report, that is intellectually inspiring, technically robust, and practically feasible, we can find optimism that, as Africans, we can achieve a better life for all. The Report helps us understand how the current challenges and the interconnected multiple crises facing Africa today finds its roots in the historical context of colonialism and extractivism, it explores the structural legacies that continue and presents achievable proposals for an alternative development path for Africa that addresses the nexus between climate, energy and development.

While focusing on Africa, this Report will also contribute immensely to the global discourse on alternative models of development, both in the Global South and North. We need courageous and visionary leadership, matched with the hopes and aspirations of masses of our people to get us on this path to a just, equitable and safe future”

Tasneem Essop

‘‘By securing the first-ever loss and damage fund to support Global South communities driven into destitution by effects of the climate crisis, African leaders attending last year’s COP27 in Egypt demonstrated their profound unity of purpose. We need to see this unified approach in tackling Africa’s developmental challenges for the continent to maximize its possibilities and cement its place in the global arena.”

Ali Mohamed

“A renewables-based energy system presents a transformational opportunity for Africa. IRENA estimates that such a path would result in a GDP 6.5% higher than the current plans. Getting there is a matter of structures, plans and finance but also mindsets. This report offers critical input to the energy and development debate in Africa and the forthcoming Africa Climate Summit.”

Elizabeth Press


A genuine energy transition must move rapidly away from fossil fuel dependence

As a new model of energy provision comes into focus, old vested interests are reasserting themselves. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has intensified the “dash for gas” and European governments and industry are redoubling efforts to extract and export fossil fuels from Africa. These plans carry multiple risks and uncertainties, including potential for substantial stranded assets, especially since Europe has speeded up its decarbonisation journey.

Rather than doubling down on fossil fuels, Africa’s right to development would be better served through renewable systems that can achieve universal access, enable food security and regional industrialisation, while advancing African and global climate goals.

A just energy transition must also ensure the right choices about renewable energy

The transition to a new model of energy provision must also navigate multiple pitfalls.

The mining of mineral inputs, and new energy infrastructure, must meet human rights, social and environmental standards. Scarce material resources must be managed to generate long-term prosperity. Proposed new technologies should be carefully evaluated.

Africans will need to be proactive to ensure the narrative of “just transition” is not appropriated by polluters, and African initiatives are not captured or diverted to meet the interests of donor countries, transnational companies or other foreign interests.

The Spotlight on Energy section of the report includes discussion on these and other topics:

  • Ensuring energy access and sufficiency
  • Designing appropriate energy systems
  • The renewable energy potential
  • Key principles and approaches for the energy vision
  • Equity, process and stakeholder participation
  • Transformative policy approaches
  • Electrification of cooking as a top development priority
  • Renewables vs fossil fuels
  • Good vs bad renewables
  • Renewables, human rights and extraction
  • Countering appropriation of the 'Just Transition' narrative
  • Just transition, labour and a new social contract
  • Development, decarbonisation and degrowth

Who's behind this report?

This report was co-authored by a collective of independent experts, under the leadership of Youba Sokona, including Yacob Mulugetta, Meron Tesfamichael, Fadhel Kaboub, Niclas Hällström, Matthew Stilwell, Mohamed Adow, and Colin Besaans. It builds on more than a decade of collaboration and experience that includes building institutions and formulating major regional and continental level initiatives. The report also builds on prior work and support through WhatNext? The authors thank Tetteh Hormeku for his work which provided inspiration to Part I especially. 


See more info about the authors on the Auhors page.


Work on this report has been funded by a Climate Breakthrough Award and a Rockefeller Brothers Fund grant in support of the Africa Climate, Energy and Development initiative, hosted by Power Shift Africa.