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How Ghana can map its energy transition journey by Nafi Chinery

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The good news is that Ghana now has a golden opportunity to develop a comprehensive and context-specific plan for navigating the global energy transition. In response to COP26 and Ghanaian CSOs’ demands for a national energy transition policy, the government launched the National Energy Transition Committee (NETC) in December 2021. The committee is tasked with developing a national policy document on steps the country can take to successfully navigate the global energy transition.

All countries have a vital role and interest in avoiding catastrophic climate impacts and safeguarding a livable planet. Like the citizens of most developing countries, Ghanaians are increasingly affected by climate change, despite bearing little responsibility for the emissions that are causing it.

At the COP26 climate conference last year, governments reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Achieving this will require a colossal and unprecedented shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar — as well as the provision of clean, affordable and reliable energy for the nearly one billion people currently living without it.

The wealthiest countries that have polluted the most should hold the primary responsibility for tackling climate change, both in cutting their emissions first and fastest, and in providing climate finance and support to countries like Ghana. Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo emphasised this responsibility during COP26 when he called for a fair and equitable solution that “recognises the historical imbalances between the high emitters and low emitters.”

To date, however, wealthy countries have under-promised and underdelivered. They have yet to reduce emissions to the extent necessary to avoid warming beyond 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. And, as President Akufo-Addo also mentioned, they have failed to honour their 2010 promise of $100 billion per year to support developing countries’ responses to climate change. Tragically, the consequences will be felt by all for decades to come.

Ghana’s agency in the energy transition

Despite this compound injustice and these broken promises, Ghana’s future ultimately depends on its own leadership and effective planning. Ghana is still a resource-dependent country, with more than a quarter of its export earnings coming from oil and gas alone. Over the past decade, the oil sector has contributed around $6.5 billion of direct revenue to Ghana’s budget. Without a plan to respond to the global energy transition, a significant decline in oil revenues could plunge Ghana into a deep crisis.

In the last decade, the government has allocated $2 billion to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). These investments have financed equity stakes in exploration, development and general operations in oil-producing fields. NRGI’s Risky Bet report shows that, globally, oil and gas projects currently in the pipeline and worth an estimated $400 billion, run the risk of not breaking even.

At a minimum, the government should avoid making bad decisions — those that threaten the country’s economic and fiscal outlook. But Ghana’s record does not inspire confidence. In the last decade, the government has allocated $2 billion to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC). These investments have financed equity stakes in exploration, development and general operations in oil-producing fields. NRGI’s Risky Bet report shows that, globally, oil and gas projects currently in the pipeline and worth an estimated $400 billion, run the risk of not breaking even. Against the backdrop of the global energy transition, GNPC’s ambitions of becoming an operator are risky.

In July 2021, Ghana’s Ministry of Energy and GNPC declared their intention to sink an additional $1.65 billion of public money into shares of Aker Energy’s oil project — yet another “risky bet” given the increasing pace of the global energy transition, which would result in poor returns on such a large-scale investment. Furthermore, such a decision would divert precious capital that the government could invest in more socially beneficial programmes, such as education or cheaper and more diverse energy sources, that could power development in Ghana. Thankfully, after severe criticism from civil society organisations, the public and industry oversight bodies in Ghana, the government paused its investment plans in the Aker shares.

No doubt, Ghana’s economic and fiscal outlook is uncertain. The 2018/19 oil licensing round remains unconcluded and oil production is projected to decline. International companies are redirecting their investments, and projects have been delayed. State oil revenues peaked in 2018, at 10 per cent of total government revenue, and dropped to seven per cent in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and the related global energy crisis now present huge uncertainties for the oil sector, including the prospect of a global recession.

The good news is that Ghana now has a golden opportunity to develop a comprehensive and context-specific plan for navigating the global energy transition. In response to COP26 and Ghanaian CSOs’ demands for a national energy transition policy, the government launched the National Energy Transition Committee (NETC) in December 2021. The committee is tasked with developing a national policy document on steps the country can take to successfully navigate the global energy transition. The NETC is also tasked with conducting a nationwide consultation on Ghana’s energy transition. At the first regional forum organised by the Ministry of Energy on behalf of the NETC, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia said the NETC’s nationwide consultations are key to success: “We need to develop plans and implement options that people can relate to.” He also stressed the importance of equal opportunities for all citizens to enjoy the benefits of the energy transition and ensure social justice in the process.

The transition plans must address Ghana’s growing energy needs. Decisions about energy sources and related services should be based on analysing different solutions over the long term, mindful of the likelihood that many factors (such as the competitiveness of renewables and gas) may change quickly over the coming decade. Accordingly, the NETC should review the role of fossil gas over the course of the transition…

Essential elements for Ghana’s approach

The establishment of the NETC is an important and valuable first step. The following recommendations, if adopted, would put the committee on track to deliver a successful energy transition plan:

  • Include all voices. Ghana’s plan should be inclusive and leave no citizen behind. The plan should address how government will support local economies with relevant training, technology and finances to take advantage of the new opportunities in the transition;
  • Enlist experts. The NETC should engage sector experts working on the energy transition to help ensure that the plan is informed by data and technical analysis;
  • Promote open dialogue. Open and honest engagement between all relevant stakeholders will help build consensus and ownership around a transition pathway that is widely considered by citizens as viable and necessary. A shared understanding of the risks and opportunities of the energy transition is critical to agree on a shared strategy;
  • Plan in harmony and coordination with existing policies. The energy transition plan should harmonise existing policy objectives and remedy the systemic inefficiencies in existing policy implementation;
  • Improve governance of climate finance. The Ministry of Finance should spell out the role of international climate finance in energy transition planning and interrelate the energy transition plan with Ghana’s (conditional) nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Across the board, this requires building the state’s capacity to receive and deploy international climate finance;
  • Take a critical and dynamic approach to energy options. The transition plans must address Ghana’s growing energy needs. Decisions about energy sources and related services should be based on analysing different solutions over the long term, mindful of the likelihood that many factors (such as the competitiveness of renewables and gas) may change quickly over the coming decade. Accordingly, the NETC should review the role of fossil gas over the course of the transition — not assume from the outset that gas will be a constant;
  • Assess implications for existing institutions. Ghana’s energy transition plan should consider the role of existing institutions such as GNPC in light of the long-term, macro pathway, rather than starting with assumptions about their purpose and role. Making the right investment decisions will require transparency and robust risk assessment.

Nafi Chinery is the West Africa (Anglophone) regional manager at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

Strictly Personal

Air Peace, capitalism and national interest, By Dakuku Peterside

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Nigerian corporate influence and that of the West continue to collide. The rationale is straightforward: whereas corporate activity in Europe and America is part of their larger local and foreign policy engagement, privately owned enterprises in Nigeria or commercial interests are not part of Nigeria’s foreign policy ecosystem, neither is there a strong culture of government support for privately owned enterprises’ expansion locally and internationally.

The relationship between Nigerian businesses and foreign policy is important to the national interest. When backing domestic Nigerian companies to compete on a worldwide scale, the government should see it as a lever to drive foreign policy, and national strategic interest, promote trade, enhance national security considerations, and minimize distortion in the domestic market as the foreign airlines were doing, boost GDP, create employment opportunities, and optimize corporate returns for the firms.

Admitted nations do not always interfere directly in their companies’ business and commercial dealings, and there are always exceptions. I can cite two areas of exception: military sales by companies because of their strategic implications and are, therefore, part of foreign and diplomatic policy and processes. The second is where the products or routes of a company have implications for foreign policy. Air Peace falls into the second category in the Lagos – London route.

Two events demonstrate an emerging trend that, if not checked, will disincentivize Nigerian firms from competing in the global marketplace. There are other notable examples, but I am using these two examples because they are very recent and ongoing, and they are typological representations of the need for Nigerian government backing and support for local companies that are playing in a very competitive international market dominated by big foreign companies whose governments are using all forms of foreign policies and diplomacy to support and sustain.

The first is Air Peace. It is the only Nigerian-owned aviation company playing globally and checkmating the dominance of foreign airlines. The most recent advance is the commencement of flights on the Lagos – London route. In Nigeria, foreign airlines are well-established and accustomed to a lack of rivalry, yet a free-market economy depends on the existence of competition. Nigeria has significantly larger airline profits per passenger than other comparable African nations. Insufficient competition has resulted in high ticket costs and poor service quality. It is precisely this jinx that Air Peace is attempting to break.

On March 30, 2024, Air Peace reciprocated the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement, BASA, between Nigeria and the United Kingdom when the local airline began direct flight operations from Lagos to Gatwick Airport in London. This elicited several reactions from foreign airlines backed by their various sovereigns because of their strategic interest. A critical response is the commencement of a price war. Before the Air Peace entry, the price of international flight tickets on the Lagos-London route had soared to as much as N3.5 million for the  economy ticket. However, after Air Peace introduced a return economy class ticket priced at N1.2 million, foreign carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways reduced their fares significantly to remain competitive.

In a price war, there is little the government can do. In an open-market competitive situation such as this, our government must not act in a manner that suggests it is antagonistic to foreign players and competitors. There must be an appearance of a level playing field. However, government owes Air Peace protection against foreign competitors backed by their home governments. This is in the overall interest of the Nigerian consumer of goods and services. Competition history in the airspace works where the Consumer Protection Authority in the host country is active. This is almost absent in Nigeria and it is a reason why foreign airlines have been arbitrary in pricing their tickets. Nigerian consumers are often at the mercy of these foreign firms who lack any vista of patriotism and are more inclined to protect the national interest of their governments and countries.

It would not be too much to expect Nigerian companies playing globally to benefit from the protection of the Nigerian government to limit influence peddling by foreign-owned companies. The success of Air Peace should enable a more competitive and sustainable market, allowing domestic players to grow their network and propel Nigeria to the forefront of international aviation.

The second is Proforce, a Nigerian-owned military hardware manufacturing firm active in Rwanda, Chad, Mali, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan. Despite the growing capacity of Proforce in military hardware manufacturing, Nigeria entered two lopsided arrangements with two UAE firms to supply military equipment worth billions of dollars , respectively. Both deals are backed by the UAE government but executed by UAE firms.

These deals on a more extensive web are not unconnected with UAE’s national strategic interest. In pursuit of its strategic national interest, India is pushing Indian firms to supply military equipment to Nigeria. The Nigerian defence equipment market has seen weaker indigenous competitors driven out due to the combination of local manufacturers’ lack of competitive capacity and government patronage of Asian, European, and US firms in the defence equipment manufacturing sector. This is a misnomer and needs to be corrected.

Not only should our government be the primary customer of this firm if its products meet international standards, but it should also support and protect it from the harsh competitive realities of a challenging but strategic market directly linked to our national military procurement ecosystem. The ability to produce military hardware locally is significant to our defence strategy.

This firm and similar companies playing in this strategic defence area must be considered strategic and have a considerable place in Nigeria’s foreign policy calculations. Protecting Nigeria’s interests is the primary reason for our engagement in global diplomacy. The government must deliberately balance national interest with capacity and competence in military hardware purchases. It will not be too much to ask these foreign firms to partner with local companies so we can embed the technology transfer advantages.

Our government must create an environment that enables our local companies to compete globally and ply their trades in various countries. It should be part of the government’s overall economic, strategic growth agenda to identify areas or sectors in which Nigerian companies have a competitive advantage, especially in the sub-region and across Africa and support the companies in these sectors to advance and grow to dominate in  the African region with a view to competing globally. Government support in the form of incentives such as competitive grants ,tax credit for consumers ,low-interest capital, patronage, G2G business, operational support, and diplomatic lobbying, amongst others, will alter the competitive landscape. Governments  and key government agencies in the west retain the services of lobbying firms in pursuit of its strategic interest.

Nigerian firms’ competitiveness on a global scale can only be enhanced by the support of the Nigerian government. Foreign policy interests should be a key driver of Nigerian trade agreements. How does the Nigerian government support private companies to grow and compete globally? Is it intentionally mapping out growth areas and creating opportunities for Nigerian firms to maximize their potential? Is the government at the domestic level removing bottlenecks and impediments to private company growth, allowing a level playing field for these companies to compete with international companies?

Why is the government patronising foreign firms against local firms if their products are of similar value? Why are Nigerian consumers left to the hands of international companies in some sectors without the government actively supporting the growth of local firms to compete in those sectors? These questions merit honest answers. Nigerian national interest must be the driving factor for our foreign policies, which must cover the private sector, just as is the case with most developed countries. The new global capitalism is not a product of accident or chance; the government has choreographed and shaped it by using foreign policies to support and protect local firms competing globally. Nigeria must learn to do the same to build a strong economy with more jobs.

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Strictly Personal

This is chaos, not governance, and we must stop it, By Tee Ngugi

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The following are stories that have dominated mainstream media in recent times. Fake fertiliser and attempts by powerful politicians to kill the story. A nation of bribes, government ministries and corporations where the vice is so routine that it has the semblance of policy. Irregular spending of billions in Nairobi County.

 

Billions are spent in all countries on domestic and foreign travel. Grabbing of land belonging to state corporations, was a scam reminiscent of the Kanu era when even public toilets would be grabbed. Crisis in the health and education sectors.

 

Tribalism in hiring for state jobs. Return of construction in riparian lands and natural waterways. Relocation of major businesses because of high cost of power and heavy taxation. A tax regime that is so punitive, it squeezes life out of small businesses. Etc, ad nauseam.

 

To be fair, these stories of thievery, mismanagement, negligence, incompetence and greed have been present in all administrations since independence.

 

However, instead of the cynically-named “mama mboga” government reversing this gradual slide towards state failure, it is fuelling it.

 

Alternately, it’s campaigning for 2027 or gallivanting all over the world, evoking the legend of Emperor Nero playing the violin as Rome burned.

 

A government is run based on strict adherence to policies and laws. It appoints the most competent personnel, irrespective of tribe, to run efficient departments which have clear-cut goals.

 

It aligns education to its national vision. Its strategies to achieve food security should be driven by the best brains and guided by innovative policies. It enacts policies that attract investment and incentivize building of businesses. It treats any kind of thievery or negligence as sabotage.

 

Government is not a political party. Government officials should have nothing to do with political party matters. They should be so engaged in their government duties that they literally would not have time for party issues. Government jobs should not be used to reward girlfriends and cronies.

 

Government is exhausting work undertaken because of a passion to transform lives, not for the trappings of power. Government is not endless campaigning to win the next election. To his credit, Mwai Kibaki left party matters alone until he had to run for re-election.

 

We have corrupted the meaning of government. We have parliamentarians beholden to their tribes, not to ideas.

 

We have incompetent and corrupt judges. We have a civil service where you bribe to be served. Police take bribes to allow death traps on our roads. We have urban planners who plan nothing except how to line their pockets. We have regulatory agencies that regulate nothing, including the intake of their fat stomachs.

 

We have advisers who advise on which tenders should go to whom. There is no central organising ethos at the heart of government. There is no sense of national purpose. We have flurries of national activities, policies, legislation, appointments which don’t lead to meaningful growth. We just run on the same spot.

 

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

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