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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).

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Water Management: Morocco’s greatest threat or opportunity? By Jasper Hamann

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Morocco has its work cut out for itself when it comes to water management. While the country is rich in innovative agricultural thinking and houses high-tech institutes and is one of the world’s largest fertilizer producers, many of the country’s farmers continue to depend primarily on rainfall to supply water for agricultural production.

Morocco’s future outlook could be dire if it does not heed warnings about the ever-escalating climate crisis. As the world continues to output massive amounts of carbon and methane, droughts and extreme weather are increasingly becoming a part of daily life.

An Evolving Crisis

The last few years have aptly shown the destructive nature of the climate crisis, as Morocco has faced its worst drought in nearly half a century. While droughts were already common in the North African country, occurring on average every three years, the current trend shows that things are only going to get worse.

The UN’s sustainable development division has pointed to Morocco’s water scarcity as the  “main constraint on expansion” for its vital agricultural sector. While Morocco can have little impact on the evolution of the global climate crisis, local academics, businesses, and government are attempting to step up, and help the country prepare for what is to come.

Government Response

As one of Morocco’s top officials on this dossier, Minister of Equipment and Water Nizar Baraka in May pointed out that Morocco is set to lose 30% of its current water resources by 2050. Baraka has called for the need for the country to invest in water efficiency, and emphasized the need for “hydro-diplomacy,” to establish solid international agreements to prevent future water resources from dwindling water supplies.

Meanwhile, the government is mustering its financial resources to aim to protect Morocco’s water supply, while making satellite data available to better manage the country’s outdated irrigation networks.

In January, the cabinet allocated $260 million for its 2021-2022 water emergency plan, yet such amounts can only provide minor temporary solutions. The country’s Court of Auditors recognized this fact in a report in March, calling for massive structural funding to update irrigation, limit water waste, and protect domestic water resources.

 

 

Funding Solutions

But billions are needed to increase, not just protect, Morocco’s water supply. Minister Baraka recognizes this and has pointed to Morocco’s expansive coastline as a possible asset where futuristic desalination plants would help convert seawater into potable water resources.

Whether desalination will be a viable option for all of Morocco remains to be seen, as experts say this prospect depends on the cost to construct the plants, creating the (sustainable) energy needed to run them, and finding solutions for its waste product, brine.

As is common with Moroccan public projects, the country is not thinking small. Instead, it is constructing the world’s largest desalination plant in Casablanca, the success of which is likely to determine whether Morocco will repeat this strategy elsewhere.

Thought leaders

“Managing water is like managing your bank account,” Dr. Abdelghani Chehbouni, Professor at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), recently told MWN.

The professor is part of several key innovators and thought-leaders working to address Morocco’s growing water crisis. Solutions vary from simple low-tech changes, such as moving towards drip irrigation in Moroccan agriculture, to the ultra-high-tech ideas coming from the country’s foremost knowledge institutes.

UM6P, the country’s top research institute in this area, is building on the potential of AI machine learning, drones, and other innovative technology through its dedicated research institute, the International Water Research Institute (IWRI).

Similarly, the country’s largest company, fertilizer and phosphate giant OCP Group is counting on technology to provide solutions to the growing problem facing Morocco and the rest of the world.

Private Sector

For its own operations, OCP has introduced one of the most far-reaching water conservation initiatives of any large corporation worldwide, aiming to exclusively use non-conventional water sources within a decade while already recycling much of its own water needs. “We’ll use zero fresh water by 2028,” the company has vowed.

OCP’s ambitions go far beyond its own operations, however, as the fertilizer company is investing heavily in domestic and continental initiatives to combat water stress while contributing to major international fora on the topic.

At the 2022 International Water Association’s Forum for Industrial Water Users this past Friday, OCP presented their most recent effort, an e-book to promote sustainable water use for industry.

In many ways, OCP Group’s operations present a microcosm of African water issues. Phosphate mining, transportation, and fertilizer production are water-intensive processes that mirror the growing need for water resources in Africa’s growing industrial sector and agriculture.

OCP’s approach however presents a sense of hope, as it is already applying some of the methods that governments across Africa are likely to depend on in the future.

Future African and Moroccan solutions can already be found in OCP’s current strategy of far-reaching water conservation, intensive use of desalination, and water treatment while generating much of the energy for these processes in a sustainable manner.

As Morocco, Africa, and the rest of the world scramble for solutions to growing water scarcity, Morocco’s efforts are increasingly tailored toward turning a threat into an opportunity and presenting an optimistic technology-driven vision for a sustainable future in an evolving global climate context.

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EAC presidents retire young, keep them busy and tap their knowledge by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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On Tuesday, former Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta handed power to his former deputy, William Ruto, at a colourful ceremony in Nairobi. Uhuru fell out with his deputy in 2018 and didn’t back him in the August 9 elections that Ruto won, allying with former prime minister and rival Raila Odinga instead.

Kenyatta was nevertheless gracious, showing up and doing his duty with a smile, and sitting expressionless through some awkward moments as new Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, standing a few feet from him, shredded his record.

And off he went.

It was easy to miss one little significance of his exit.

At 60 years of age, Kenyatta was the youngest president to step down in Kenya. Both Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki retired just as their walking sticks beckoned.

Relative youthful retirement is a growing East African Community trend. Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila set the record in 2019 when he left the presidential palace at 49, remarkable considering that he in power for 18 years.

Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, who died in June 2020, a few weeks before he was to step down following elections, was also younger than Uhuru, at 56 years.

In Somalia, a likely future EAC member, former president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmaajo), was sent packing at the age of 60, following elections in May after he was defeated by former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Previously, the youngest regular retirement in the EAC — that is, the big man is not chased by mutinous soldiers, rebels emerged from the bush, or angry street protestors — was by Julius Nyerere in Tanzania in 1985 at 64. Hard to believe for a man who left such a huge footprint on his country, Africa, and the world.

The World Health Organisation said in a recent report that life expectancy in Africa had increased by an average 10 years between 2000 and 2019.

The median age of death in Africa in 2000 was 46. By 2019 it was 56. WHO noted that while 56 was lower than the global life expectancy of 64, the 10-year increase was far higher than the overall global increase of five years.

This means by retiring today, well-fed and sufficiently medicated leaders who were on a trajectory to live much longer than the masses, anyway, could be around longer than the previous class.

If we count the leaders who stepped down and weren’t hounded off State House, Nyerere died in 1999 at 79. Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki died in April last year at 90. His predecessor, Moi, died in February 2020 at 95. There is something in Kenya’s soil. Their average age is 88. We add at least 10 years to that; then, the recent retirees will live at least 98.

If they don’t fall into depression, their planes don’t fall out of the sky, or their successors don’t hang them in a tragic turn of events, this means Kenyatta will be around until 2060. Kabila will be roaming DR Congo until 2074.

That’s a long time away. Considering that more youthful future leaders will join them, there is a need for a grand East African scheme to harvest their knowledge of statecraft and keep them meaningfully occupied. Any ideas?

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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