Agriculture Renewable energy potentials in Africa (

Published on August 14th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Investing In Africa Climate Adaptation Also Aids Development

August 14th, 2014 by  

Water gathering in Africa climate (

Water gathering in Africa climate (

The United Nations Environment Programme released a report yesterday that responds to a 2013 report on the potentially crippling costs of climate change in Africa. At an October meeting in Gabarone last year, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment endorsed the Africa Adaptation Gap Report, which identified these costs.

The new report, titled Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa—Targeted Fiscal Stimulus Actions Making a Difference, begins:

African development and economic growth are being strangled by climate change, which poses major challenges to already fragile situations at the household, national, and regional levels.

Keeping Track is the first concise handbook of practical examples of successful low-cost adaptations from sub-Saharan Africa. It captures current and predicted impacts of Africa climate change on livelihoods, agriculture, and human and ecosystem health there. It also serves as a practical action guide.

After decades of development progress, Africa faces population doubling to 2 billion and a 20-50% decline in water availability by 2050. Agriculture is the main employer on the continent: nearly 65% of African livelihoods depend on agriculture. UN Under-Secretary-General/UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner states that droughts, flooding, and sea level rise with climate change may reduce crop yields in some areas by 15—20%. Such a scenario, unaddressed, could seriously threaten Africa’s most vulnerable states.

Steiner also notes an extra benefit of investing in adaptations to climate change in Africa:

By integrating climate change adaptation strategies in national development policies, governments can provide transitional pathways to green growth and protect and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Africans…. The KTAA report clearly demonstrates how investment in adaptation actions can… actually stimulate local economies through more efficient use of natural capital, job creation, and increased household incomes.

Impacts of Africa climate change (

The first part of the report is analytical, revealing water scarcity, agricultural production, deforestation, and energy sources and uses currently affecting and predicted to impact African livelihoods, agriculture, and human and ecosystem health. It presents impacts by region, country, and city.

The second half presents low-cost climate adaptation solutions for these purposes:

  • Improve ecosystem health,
  • Build community capacity in sustainable management,
  • Improve agricultural productivity, and
  • Store water in innovative ways.

These solutions include buffer strips, on-site water conservation, use of native species, change in cropping systems, landscape-scale management, protection of water resources, use of natural infrastructure, and incorporation of local knowledge into agro-ecological production systems.

Some examples:

  • A local aquatic ecosystems project in Togo improved access to water for human use, agriculture, and livestock by 488%
  • National legislation in Seychelles revised school building codes and enabled rainwater catchment systems
  • Forest Ecosystems Projects in Rwanda and Uganda, and an
  • Agricultural Ecosystems Project in Zambia

Renewable energy potentials in Africa (

The report also finds that harnessing renewable energy sources like geothermal and hydropower would dramatically increase industrial development and improve services such as education and medical care. They would thus lead to substantial growth despite Africa climate change. The maps below show the location and intensity of solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower potential available on the African continent.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • Adc

    African development and economic growth are being strangled by climate change,

    And population increase.

    • JamesWimberley

      The answer is to educate girls. Mobile phones and the London Rubber Company will do the rest.

      • Adc

        Education educates: it does not empower. Traditional male power trumps education. Mobile phones are everywhere. Many traditionalists call family planning ”genocide.”

        • Mint

          And many people use overpopulation propaganda like your own to not give a shit about Africa and foreign aid. The number of people dying from this apathy is far worse than any genocide in history.

          Education has proven to reduce population growth time and time again across the planet. It’ll work again in Africa.

          • Adc

            People are dying in post-colonial Africa because of the catastrophic incompetence of Africans with respect to establishing fair and equitable governance in their own lands. Corruption is the mass murderer – not the West. One moment it is the cry of independence and no neo-colonialism the next minute it is bleating for help from the very rich ruling classes who have stolen hundreds of billions from their own people. The ruling classes of black Africa treat their own people as slaves. Millions are in servitude. All the doing of Africans – nothing to do with the West.

          • Offgridman

            You are looking at current conditions and assuming that this is how it has always been some reading of history might be enlightening.
            Original African style slavery was short term to resolve debts with understood conditions of fair treatment. The greed and cruel lifelong indenture was learned from the colonial influence that was actually more from their North than West over the past two hundred years.
            Africa will resolve their issues with African methods and people but it will take time to over come and relearn to be themselves after the past two centuries of being treated as children. It is ridiculous and impossible to assume that these changes can happen in just the generation or two since the ending of colonialism. Give it a century or at least half of one before you criticize the behavior of a whole continent full of very different people’s from the perspective of your own bias.

          • Mint

            By your logic, we should just let the homeless here die and not give them a penny because you and I aren’t at fault.

            I didn’t say the West is to blame. I said it has apathy, and I’m right. Props to the exceptions, though, like the Scandinavian countries, and people like Buffet and Gates.

          • Adc

            I would be happy see taxes raised to provide revenue to provide homes for all who are homeless. But I do not think it is worth spending money that ends up with the occupants of gated communities filled with elites who treat their own people like slaves.

            Your logic seems to be that aid is used for the purpose that you are told it is intended for. I have worked in development, I can assure you that it is not.

            There are development activists in Ghana campaigning for a STOP to ALL aid as it is corrupting so many people and making it impossible to develop civil society.

            Currently in Sierra Leone incapacity to deal with ebola is partly due to massive theft and corruption in UK aid programs to develop medical capacity.

          • Mint

            A common myth:

            Corruption is not an excuse to avoid aid. Even if half of aid goes to the elite, and it does not get near that level on average, it’s still an extremely effective use of goodwill (far more so than paying for clean energy) in terms of lives saved per dollar or any other quality of life metric you can think of.

            Money will always go to elites. That’s the way the world works. Even if you give money directly to the poor, they will consume goods and services (like healthcare), and a small amount of that money goes to wages for the middle and lower classes with everything else filtering upwards, who have no need to consume more and thus accumulate wealth instead. But it still helps.

          • Adc
          • Mint

            Go and add all that up. You’re not even gonna get 5% of total aid, and you’ll be lucky to get even 1%.

            Yes, it’s a myth.

          • Adc

            Including corrupt overheads, more like 40%.

          • Mint

            Nice to see you pulling numbers out of your ass to promote less aid for the starving. Good job.

            I’ll trust that Gates and Buffet are smart enough to put their own money to good use well before I give a shit what you think.

  • JamesWimberley

    Short takes:

    1. Africans will struggle to stay alive as a result of climate disruption caused by others. Thanks, USA, Europe, China.
    2. They are are on their own. There will be be no significant increase in concessional aid, in spite of 1.
    3. Africa does now have access to cheap renewable technology and commercial finance to make its own energy transition.

    • Mint

      1. Africans struggle orders of magnitude more from disease, famine, poor water access/quality, poor education, etc.

      2. Even more reason for them to use scarce investment resources to take care of the aforementioned problems first before worrying about being green

      3. Nobody is even close to making renewables as cheap as third world fossil fuels. Peat and coal are far cheaper there than here (both plant construction and fuel).

      If there are isolated circumstances where renewables are cheaper, i.e. getting power to remote areas without a grid, I’m all for it.

      But beyond that, CO2 emission reduction should not be a policy goal for Africa. Even paying 1c/kWh more for green electricity is equivalent to spending well over $1 trillion for each 0.1 deg C cooler weather, using IPCC numbers. They need to put money towards far more important efforts.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Perhaps you could give us the cost of building a new coal plant in Africa along with the cost of new wind and new solar?

        • Mint

          I haven’t been able to find prices in poorer African areas specifically. But I know that you can find $1/W in India:
          4000MW for $4.14B ( )

          In China, coal costs even less:

          You can see from this paper that renewables don’t get the big discount that poorly regulated coal does.

          (I’ve posted these links before for you, but I don’t recall you replying to them. Forgive me if I’m rehashing something you’ve already rebutted.)

          Coal in South Africa is on par with that in the US, but that’s a fairly well developed country with modernish emission standards. The majority of Africa is less developed than India, let far alone China or SA.

          Just think about it: Why would coal be so much more expensive than CCGT? The latter also heats steam to generate electricity, and there’s nothing complicated about burning coal. It’s only because of emissions control to keep our air less deadly (but not completely benign, of course) that, as you have stated, new coal costs more than nuclear.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, overnight capital costs for coal in India at $1/watt and around $0.75/watt in China (your link). That’s overnight and coal takes a long time to build so double it to $1.50 to $2/watt for completed capital cost. Now add in the cost of the fuel for every watt produced.

            Contrast that with solar installed in China at $1/watt. Overnight costs won’t be much less than finished farm cost since there’s so little time needed. And there’s no fuel cost. Ever.

            And it looks like the cost of installed wind in China is about $0.67/watt. As with solar there’s little construction time during which interest accumulates. In fact, a wind turbine can be stood and connected to the grid in about three days. The farm can be connected to the grid one turbine at a time. And there’s no fuel cost. Ever.

            The math gets more complicated when one considers CF. Coal is higher which cuts into its like 2x higher capex + finex cost. But there’s still fuel costs on the top.

          • Mint

            You need 3-4W of solar nameplate to match the energy output of 1W of coal, so CF makes all the “calculations” in your post rather moot. And <5y construction time in these countries paired with low global interest rates don't double cost.

            The bigger issue is that the driver of new generation construction (and economic growth in general, especially in developing countries) is industry, and they mostly want 24/7 power. While I'll admit some solar can help with daytime peaks, the immediate build time of renewables is otherwise meaningless for industry without backup power also there. Build time for renewables+backup is no different than for an FF-only solution, and will obviously cost more up front.

            Developing countries aren't like the US. They lack:
            1. existing FF backup capacity
            2. cheap natural gas and pipelines to fuel CCGT backup
            3. cross-country reliable grids to ameliorate intermittency (most countries aren't big enough for this anyway)
            4. reliable neighboring countries like the EU for imports
            5. regulations forcing coal plants to scrub emissions
            6. resources to incentivize renewable construction

            It's a very different business case for renewables compared to the West or even China.

            Renewables+storage will work there for some applications, like microgrids and minimal residential power for lighting, phones, etc. We'll get lots of heartwarming stories about renewables this way.

            But the big growth in generation, just like we saw as China industrialized, will be via fossil fuels. Hopefully, as economic growth proceeds and the countries stabilize, most the 6 factors above get met.

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