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Africa’s sleeping green giant is waking up

Long a climate minnow, Nigeria is at last catching up with its peers on the continent… and never short of bluster, it hopes to dwarf them

Hello – this week we resolve a mystery. Given its size and dynamism, why has Nigeria long been absent from Africa’s green economy? And why is that changing now… and how? 

It is a country of superlatives. Nigeria ranks top in Africa in so many areas (oil production and film-making as well as corruption and insurgency). That made its absence in the climate space all the more notable. And its takeoff now intriguing.

Today’s reading time: 4 mins



🌐 The Incorporated Society of Planters launches in Abuja (May 24)

🌐 Renewable energy project finance & modelling (May 28)

🖥️ Webinar: Digital solutions for renewable energy growth (May 8)


💼 UNICEF seeks health facility solar electrification specialist (Uganda)

💼 Commonwealth national climate finance adviser vacancy (Moz)

💼 WFP seeks resilience & impact evaluation consultant (Chad)

1.🚁 Heli view: Nigeria’s green economy takes off – at last

The ambition is remarkable. The Nigerian government has announced plans to plant 2 billion trees.

  • That’s more trees than the rest of the world together plants in a year.

Tonal change: Showing off a focus on climate, Nigeria sent the largest African delegation to COP28 in December. 

  • Its 1,411 delegates were only trumped by missions from Brazil and China. 

New boss: The focus on climate is led by President Bola Tinubu, who was elected a year ago.

  • He personally announced the launch of Nigeria’s first 100 electric buses. 

Stark contrast: Nigeria had long lagged other green economies in Africa, failing to invest in cleantech. 

  • In the Environment Performance Index (EPI), Nigeria ranked 168 out of 180 countries.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, it was 41st out of 46 countries on environment and sustainability.

Energy gap: The failure to build a green economy is especially evident in access to electricity. 

  • Kenya used a high rate of renewables (95%) to push grid connections to above 80% of the population.

  • But Nigeria still only gets 28% of its power from renewables. And 90 million of its people (45%) lack grid power. 

  • The country has the highest number of people worldwide without access to electricity, and the gap widened in the past decade. Population growth beat electrification.

Unexpected blindspot: Failing to see the potential of the green economy in the past decade was odd for Nigeria. Its dynamic business community leads the continent in many other sectors.  

  • Nigeria had Africa’s largest economy last year (though only 17th by GDP per capita). 

  • It was also the continent’s largest oil producer as well as the most prolific film-maker. 

  • Its startup ecosystem has produced more unicorns than the rest of the continent together. 

Catching up: Belatedly now Nigerian business and politics are applying the same determination to succeed in the green economy. 

Early fruits: Business has started to embrace the green economy now that foreign money is coming.  

  • In collaboration with the Chinese government, over $5.8 billion has been invested in adding 3 Gigawatt (or 25% to current grid capacity). 

  • A collaboration between the World Bank, AfDB and the Africa Growing Together Fund is supplying $550 million in new funding.

Head scratching: So why did Nigeria’s green economy take so long to take off? Three reasons: 

  • Oil: The dominance of hydrocarbons  – and related private interests – hindered energy diversification.

  • Politics: Instability and corruption undermined the transition, deterring investors and delaying regulations

  • Size: Everything is slower in a country with 230 million people that produces 32 million tonnes of waste annually, making it the world’s seventh biggest polluter.

Changing winds: That the green economy seems to accelerate now is mainly due to politics.

Future ambitions: Nigeria is already thinking ahead of its peers on the continent. 

  • Ifeoma Malo, CEO of the Clean Tech Hub in Abuja, hopes that Nigeria, using its manpower, can lead in technical assistance in the green economy.

Realism needed: The country still has a long road ahead. But few peers have its track record of winning. 

2. Cheat sheet: Five Nigerian climate tech companies on the rise

(i) Clean Technology Hub: A pioneering hybrid for the research, demonstration and incubation of clean and green ideas and technologies in Africa and their validation for commercial-stage development. 

(ii) Arnergy Solar: Cleantech company offering modular, scalable energy solutions. Serving domestic and commercial customers with proprietary cloud-based energy management systems.

(iii) Kaltani: Plastic recycling and waste management company focused on the global plastic epidemic by utilising systematic and scalable steps to reduce pollution and solid waste.

(iv) Oando Clean Energy: Renewable energy subsidiary of Oando Energy Resources, an industry giant. Investing in climate-friendly and bankable energy solutions across Africa.

(v) RecyclePoints: Waste recycling venture focused on consumers with a point-based incentive model to collect sachets, bottles, cans, newspapers and corrugated cartons.

3. Number of the week

… is the amount of money that the electricity crisis in South Africa has cost the nation so far. In response, Standard Bank has announced an investment of $100 million in alternate energy generation.

4. Network corner

👉 Max and Spiro formed a strategic partnership aimed at catalysing innovation in electric mobility. 

👉 The Africa Finance Corporation joined the mega-project aiming to transport green energy from Morocco to England. 

👉 Ethiopia's Kubik secures $5.2 million in funding to expand low-carbon construction technology.

5. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers

Abiero Origa is a Manufacturing Manager at Dodai, a Japanese company in Ethiopia assembling and selling electric motorcycles

Q. Ethiopia plans to ban the import of fuel motorbikes – how is that going? A: The public is very supportive. Unlike in Kenya where public transport has been a big player in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, here in Ethiopia it is individuals that most embrace electric mobility. 

Q. Ethiopia achieved its 10-year EV import plan in just 2 years – how? A: Making EVs duty-free helped. Also, the country has plenty of cheap and renewable energy. 

Q. What stands between here and further mass adoption? A: Implementation of charging infrastructure. In Ethiopia, the government is setting up fast chargers in Addis Ababa. However, across the region the relevant stakeholders are yet to address this properly. 

Q. How can you bring down vehicle prices for consumers? A: Acquiring input materials locally will bring down production costs and hence prices.

Q. What about competition? A: That too can bring down prices! Standardisation of spare parts makes them more commonly used and hence cheaper, especially with smaller components such as stands and carriers.

6. Media monitoring

  • Renewables: Cape Town plans $213 million for mini-grid upgrades.

  • H2 application: Namibia prepares for converting locomotives to hydrogen.

  • Mobility: Rwandan national park employs electric motorcycles for wildlife monitoring.

  • Health: Climate change is expanding malaria into new regions.

  • Agriculture: TradeMark Africa invests $2.1 million to boost Tanzania's horticulture industry.

  • Transmission: France pledges support for Morocco's power link to Western Sahara.

  • Cars: South Africa anticipates the arrival of three new Chinese SUV models.

🗃️  Report: Research and Markets forecasts SA solar energy market

🗃️  Report: FSD Africa assesses Kenyan county green finance

🗃️  Report: UN Economic Commission for Africa updates for 2024

Don’t have time to read 100+ media sources every day? We’ve done the reading for you. Check out our full media monitoring here  

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