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How many jobs can African climate ventures realistically generate?

The UN says 395 million — that would require a lift bigger than anything funded now

Hello – an increasing number of job-seekers are paying attention to Africa’s green economy. Great hopes are placed on “climate-positive growth”. 

African leaders too are embracing the idea that what’s good for the planet can also bring prosperity. The proof will be in the job market. 

There is no better way of ending poverty than by way of employment. Yet can the green parts of Africa’s economy deliver on salaries?

Two big geopolitical trends intersect here: Africa’s population explosion… and the planet’s rapidly changing climate. Can the response to the latter help to cope with the former?

Today’s reading time: 6 mins

LOGISTICS UPDATE | Thursday 21 March

🪨 Join: The Carbon Markets Clinic and Debate in Nairobi (March 25)

🌿 Report: How climate change impacts food security in Tanzania

💧 Job: SunCulture is looking for a Head of Public Affairs in Nairobi


📚  Other report: Energy transition modelling research in Africa

♻️  Apply: Village Capital’s call for green-tech startups (until May 10)

🔑  Other job: Engie seeks an Admin & Procurement Manager in Lagos

1.🚁 Heli view: How the climate sector can fulfil its jobs promise 

At least $30 billion of climate finance arrives on the continent per year. You'd think that will result in plenty of new jobs. But does it? 

  • The question was debated by insiders on LinkedIn this week, for example here

Why it matters: At the opening of last year's Africa Climate Summit, heads of state routinely praised their biggest asset: “Our young people”. 

  • What many said more quietly -- public support for turning forests into carbon sinks rather than development zones depends on creating green jobs for those young people in the process. 

So we asked experts: How many green jobs will there be? No comprehensive study to "size, situate and catalyse green livelihoods” exists, so well-connected insiders tell us. 

  • Apparently nobody has a detailed answer to perhaps the key question in Africa's green economy.

What we do know: Last year, UNEP published a top-down Africa report that suggested, "Restoring nature can unlock a business value of $10 trillion and create 395 million jobs by 2030."

  • But while the report mentions jobs, its focus is on GDP growth. 

  • There is no detailed breakdown of employment potential.  

Measuring by sector: We’ve collected published sources (and some unpublished ones) to aggregate jobs forecasts for the main sectors in the green economy (likely a first).

Carbon markets: Included here are nature-based solutions, conservation and biodiversity. 

  • The Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) envisages 30 million jobs by 2030. 

Renewable energy: Including solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, mini grids and battery storage. 

  • Sustainable Energy for All, an NGO, forecasts up to 14m jobs by 2030.

Electric vehicles: No numbers for the whole continent, but forerider South Africa may see an employment boost of 650,000, according to a report last month. 

Green industrialisation: This includes minerals, hydrogen and construction.

  • Local smelting (instead of exporting) of bauxite could create 280,000 jobs, and 215,000 jobs from iron ore, according to Cap-A

  • Green hydrogen may create up to 4.2 million jobs by 2050, says an industry body.

Waste management: Including the circular economy, UNICEF targets 1 million jobs by 2030.

Reality check: These forecasts add up to about 50 million new jobs. Really? The total number of formal jobs in Africa is currently 70-80 million.

Significant challenges: The funding of ventures that could create 50m new jobs is hard enough. But even more remains to be done in preparation for such employment growth.

Lack of skills: Most employer surveys say improvements in education and training are needed as a stepping stone. 

  • Focusing on female talent is a potential shortcut. Women hold only 25% of leadership roles and 26% of middle and lower management roles in African renewables.

Lack of awareness: Too few in the labour force understand what the green economy is and why it offers opportunities, say search firms. 

  • To mitigate this, new communication channels and job boards are needed.

Barriers to entry: Some climate-related sectors appear insular or closed to outsiders and job-changers. 

  • Green Rising is often contacted by highly qualified professionals who say they cannot break through green jargon and narrow job qualifications. 

2. Cheat sheet: Five countries with lots of renewable energy jobs

(i) South Africa is investing in wind and solar power, with a potential for 1.8 million green jobs by 2030, mainly in urban centres.

(ii) Morocco is also investing in renewables, including solar, wind and hydro, with projections suggesting up to 482,000 new jobs in the next 20 years.

(iii) Nigeria has great renewables potential, with solar home system schemes potentially creating 250,000 jobs while providing electricity for 25 million Nigerians.

(iv) Rwanda's ambitious renewables targets, supported by the Rwanda Green Fund, have already created 137,500 jobs and improved energy access for 57,500 households.

(v) Kenya leads in renewables in East Africa, with abundant geothermal, wind and solar. Lake Turkana Wind Power supplies 20% of its electricity – yet created only 320 local jobs.

… has been approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from its Resilience and Sustainability Facility for Cote d’Ivoire. It is highly exposed to climate change through rising temperatures and sea levels as well as rain pattern changes. Economic vulnerabilities to climate change are mostly due to the country’s heavy reliance on agriculture, and the concentration of industrial and service activity in coastal areas.

4. Network corner

Climate Fund Managers, a Dutch investor, and Microsoft put $18 million into Konexa to launch Nigeria’s first private renewable energy trading platform.

5. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers

Kenneth Ukpabia is the CEO of Orbit Electric. The two-year-old company supports electric last-mile logistics in Nigeria.

Q: What set you on your path? The Nigerian government removed fuel subsidies, and petrol prices skyrocketed. That inspired me to start an EV company.

Q: Are many others doing what you do? A: Two-wheeler competition is still low. More than 250 million Nigerians need mobility solutions. We stand out as we focus on selling delivery bikes. And we’ll soon reduce our price from $1,300 to $1,000.

Q: Will Nigeria be an EV mecca? A: We’re still at an infant stage, trying to create awareness about sustainable transport. 

Q: Do misconceptions hinder progress? A: People complain about high EV capital costs. They overlook the long-term benefits of not having to buy fossil fuel. 

Q: Is the government helping? A: Charging infrastructure is built by the private sector. But the government is finalising laws to reduce taxes in order to promote EV adoption. And federal states have acquired EVs to aid in public transport. 

Q: Is it easy importing ebike parts from Asia and assembling them in Nigeria? A: Delivery is always smooth. China is cheap and has good quality. And India is coming up. 

6. Media monitoring

  • Northern neighbour: The European Investment Bank seeks green opportunities in Africa.

  • Critical minerals: The Saudi bet on African minerals for their green transition.

  • Research: The World Bank releases $40 million for climate research in six African countries.

  • Climate adaptation: IBM will invest $45 million in a climate-focused social impact.

  • Reforestation: An African tree-planting project seven times the size of Manhattan.

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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Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.

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