Green transformation in Africa-Europe relations: Linking energy and adaptation with economic transformation – policy recommendations



Framing and tone matter. The EU needs to listen to African needs in all their diversity. The AU and EU could converge around a narrative focused on energy for industrialisation and green economic diversification in Africa. Furthermore, the AU and EU should start discussions on how Europe’s climate neutrality strategy will impact trade and the creation of new value chains, to ensure that these add value and jobs for both continents.


There is a need to demonstrate that green and resilient development pathways are actually top priorities for the EU and for the AU, both on their own agendas and in their partnership. While timelines and sequences of action might differ from country to country, the AU and EU should jointly invest in building capacity to enable countries to produce visions, strategies and plans to avoid being locked into unsustainable development choices. Consistency should be aimed for, between short-term needs and long-term sustainability, both on the social wellbeing and jobs side of the equation and on the environmental pressures and risks side. The focus needs to lie on managing transitions. The Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa provides an interesting example of a step in this direction, provided that implementation is actually occurring, that blocking factors are openly discussed and that objectives on social and environmental performance are attained.


For fossil-fuel dependent countries, a specific focus is needed on what their economic transformation pathway might look like: economic diversification away from oil and gas or coal is extremely important. But what sequence of actions towards other sectors can offer enough jobs and revenue during the phasing down of fossil-related assets? What would be the right sequence of investments for countries that are rich in natural gas resources, but risk investing in infrastructures that may become stranded assets in the future? Although hydrogen might emerge as a substitute for natural gas, how do we see the shared development of a hydrogen industrial supply chain between the two continents? Conflict-affected and fragile countries and regions in particular need specific strategies to align pandemic recovery investment with resilience and low-carbon economic transformation.


On adaptation, this vision and sequence might first necessitate a full assessment of the current costs of climate impacts, though this may not be something that all African countries can measure or compute at present. In this sense, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) could lead the way in helping to quantify those costs and risks, as part of an effort to jointly push progress on a more concrete Global Adaptation Goal. The 2022 Finance in Common Summit, to be held in October in Côte d’Ivoire and organised jointly by AfDB and EIB, will be an opportunity for Europe and Africa to enhance their collaboration to address climate change adaptation in Africa.


The Europe-Africa partnership could increase investment to improve climate adaptive capacity in Africa, in particular with the support of the AfDB and EIB. As raised by the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2021 adaptation gap report,17 an ambitious and well-targeted package of support, with adaptation priorities, could build country-level adaptation capacity in Africa in a variety of ways, such as by freeing up fiscal space for economically vulnerable countries, helping to drive the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that planned fiscal intervention promotes well-defined adaptation objectives.