How to find African climate unity

National interests naturally differ, hence climate powerhouses and oil states must compromise. Today 55 nations found a common position. Also deals on mini-grids, hydrogen & more

Hello – we hope we’re proving our worth around the Africa Climate Summit this week. Dozens of announcements emanate daily from hundreds of meetings in Nairobi’s convention centre, trumpeting billions of dollars in new investment. We try to filter these for you, cutting out noise and focusing on the essential - concisely.

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Today’s reading time: 5 mins

1.🚁 Something everyone can agree on

African leaders found a common position on climate action today but also showed where their interests differ:

  • The outcome was a compromise of varying levels of enthusiasm around the climate banner.

  • Yet many also reserved a continued commitment to extract hydrocarbons.

On one hand: Climate powerhouses such as Kenya and Ethiopia stressed the urgency of transitioning to a green economy. They also referenced the importance of climate justice and embraced carbon markets:

  • The Tanzanian president said, "The stakes are high."

  • The Sierra Leonean president agreed, "We are running out of time.”

On the other hand: Oil and gas states stressed they would not stop extraction of hydrocarbons with several leaders highlighting natural gas:

  • The Senegalese president said, "Gas is the energy transition for us."

  • The president of the African Development Bank went further: "We must be pragmatic, Africa must use its natural gas."

Hints of tension: The president of Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, asked a junior minister to read out his speech. He duly said: “Nigeria has articulated our unchanging position to advance climate action without jeopardising economic development."

Common ground: All leaders agreed that the global finance system needs to change. They called for sovereign debt write-offs, criticised unfair borrowing terms and questioned risk perceptions associated with Africa.

  • The Ghanaian president said, "We are concerned about the access to international funds. The developed world has not made the finances available for climate mitigation commitments."

  • The Africa Union chair said, "This calls for the reform of financial structures, organs and institutions which operate far from Africa."

  • The African Development Bank president concurred, “The global economic architecture has to change and respond to Africa’s needs.”

International support: Non-African leaders in attendance were seemingly — more or less — in agreement:

  • The US climate envoy said, "You cannot talk about a just transition if for some there is no transition at all, if for some people it means burning debt."

  • The EU president said, "We fully support financial institutions reform. It is time to move from words to actions."

  • The UN secretary-general called for, "An international financial system that is able to provide effective debt mechanisms, longer repayment terms, better borrowing terms."

Bottom line: Nothing won greater agreement in the room than the need for agreement among the continent’s leaders:

  • The president of Libya said, "At the end of the summit we will have a united stance."

  • The president of Ethiopia concluded, "Africa has tried its best to speak with one voice."

2. Hydrogen pitches for climate leadership

Making their case at the climate summit, hydrogen companies announced plans to grow production 50-fold by 2040 while lowering costs by 30% and reducing emissions by 80%.

  • Green hydrogen is created through energy-intensive electrolysis powered by renewable energy such as solar and wind, which is plentiful in Africa.

The potential: Green hydrogen is a relatively new and expensive technology. But it has won a growing number of supporters, including in government.

  • "Why hydrogen in Africa? It stands as the sole energy source with the potential to completely replace carbon-based fuels," said Abdesselam Ould Mohamed Saleh, the Mauritanian economy minister.

  • EU President Ursula von der Leyen and Kenyan President William Ruto launched a hydrogen roadmap to develop domestic production, supported by EU investment.

The numbers: Intense interest among political leaders is understandable.

The critics: Support for green hydrogen is far from uniform. Critics have questioned the cost, the effectiveness and the environmental impact.

  • Climate activists allege that the “fossil fuel industry sees hydrogen as a way to keep on drilling and building new infrastructure”.

Industrial might: Richard Kiplagat, chairman of the Africa Hydrogen Task Force, set out a pitch on behalf of the industry this week linked to its Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance, which was formed in 2021.

  • He said, “Green hydrogen allows us to reduce transport costs and produce steel for construction and infrastructure projects in Africa.”

  • “It will create over 24,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs, which will generate $140 million in revenue for the continent and 20 gigawatts of energy for Africa.”

Going big: The industry is presenting the African Climate Summit as a launchpad for a “green hydrogen revolution”. The key is building new infrastructure including:

  • Hydrogen production facilities on the African coastline

  • Desalination plants to address water scarcity associated with green hydrogen production

Drum-roll: Almost every day over the past month has seen new hydrogen projects announced, some days more than one.

Locations: The majority of new hydrogen facilities planned are in southern Africa, including outside the usual suspects:

Long-term benefits: If the green hydrogen revolution comes off, the predicted benefits would be substantial:

  • 280,000 sustainable jobs through local smelting of African bauxite

  • 335 million tonnes of CO2 emission reduction would be equivalent to taking 72 million cars off the road

  • $37 billion added to Africa's economy could fund numerous social programs and infrastructure development.

But is this promethean optimism? “One of those new industries with a seemingly assured future in which African countries and their copious renewable energy resources are well positioned to play a significant role.”

3. Power for the isolated: The mushrooming of mini-grids

Supplied photo: PowerGen

Mini-grid providers will more than double capacity on the continent, according two of the bigger announcements at the Africa Climate Summit:

  • Exhibit 1: PowerGen will finance and operate $800 million of renewable energy assets by 2030, including $300m already identified. From 2030, the Kenyan company will abate over 150 megatons of CO2 emissions annually. To achieve this, PowerGen announced a raise of $100 million in equity, with a first closing in Q4 2023.

  • Exhibit 2: Husk Power Systems announced the “Africa Sunshot'' initiative, with a goal of having 2,500 net-zero mini grids operating in off-grid and weak-grid communities in the region within five years. The American company expects to mobilise $500 million in equity and debt.

The situation now: The sector has been maturing slowly:

Why it matters: On a continent where 600 million people still lack access to reliable electricity, mini grids represent a leapfrog technology.

  • It can drive both economic growth and social well-being.

  • Traditional grid expansion remains a slow and costly endeavour due to geographical constraints, financial limitations and bureaucratic hurdles.

Small size: Grids of 1 kW to 10 MW can be established quickly, bringing electricity to remote areas previously deemed uneconomical.

  • They comprise a mix of solar panels, battery storage and efficient short-haul distribution networks, often operated by local entrepreneurs or communities.

Reality Check: Plenty of challenges remain.

  • Initial setup costs can be substantial and take long to recoup.

  • The necessary public-private collaboration can be cumbersome.

  • Current regulatory frameworks aren’t necessarily fit for purpose.

In a Nutshell: According to the World Bank, Africa could lead a global energy transition by embracing mini-grids, setting an example for other regions facing similar challenges.


$4.5 billion: Pledged by four UAE companies (Masdar, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, Etihad Credit Insurance and AMEA Power) to accelerate clean-energy projects.

$1 billion: From the African Development Bank Group and the Global Center on Adaptation to support youth climate initiatives.

$450 million: The UAE committed to buying $450 million of carbon credits from the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative.

$200 million: Climate Asset Management pledged investment into projects that will produce ACMI credits.

€60 million: Germany’s announced debt swap with Kenya to free up money for renewable energy and sustainable agriculture

£49 million: New funding for UK-backed climate finance and resilience projects

$30 million: Pledged by the United States for climate resilient food security efforts across Africa. A 2022 pledge by the US of $3 billion for developing nations is yet to receive congressional approval.

€24 million: Belgian contribution to climate adaptation projects in 5 African countries.

$20 million: The Democratic Republic of Congo's Rawbank and global energy trader Vitol investment in renewable energy, clean cooking and forest conservation.

€12 million: The EU will commit almost €12 million in grants via Global Gateway, to leverage investments in the Kenyan green hydrogen industry.

4. Q&A: Climate leaders with answers

Tombo Banda is a managing director at CrossBoundary, a mission-driven investment and advisory firm. She leads its Mini-Grid Innovation Lab, Africa’s first R&D fund exclusively focused on testing new business model innovations for mini-grids, designed to close the gap on the more than 600 million Africans who do not have power.

Q: What book on climate change impressed you? A: Wangari Maathai’s autobiography, “Unbowed: One Woman’s Story”. It really shows how one person can make a difference.

Q: Which African country has the best green agenda? A: Rwanda has been a pioneer in a lot of things. They are marching towards electrification goals. They’re incorporating e-mobility into their national policies, and in terms of how they think about the environment, they are my best example.

Q: What’s your earliest personal memory of climate change? A: Deforestation of Zomba mountain, the area around the village where my grandmother was born in Malawi.

Q: What’s the most recent thing you’ve done in your life in response to the climate crisis? A: I have not done enough.

5. Media monitoring

  • Sobering study: Africa may need an almost tenfold increase in climate adaptation funding to $100 billion a year if it’s to buttress its infrastructure, improve weather early warning systems and shield its agriculture from climate change, the Global Center on Adaptation said.

  • Carbon at the summit: African and global media coverage focused on announcements, investments and discussions of the carbon markets at the Africa Climate Summit

  • Critics ready: The summit was also fodder for critics finding the action too small, divisive, and unsatisfactory.

Don’t have time to read 100+ media sources daily? We’ve done it for you ➡️ Check out our full media monitoring here

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