Africa’s Fateful Choice
With Africa reeling from multiple crises this year, the region's governments will have to direct their policy responses not just toward short-term recovery, but also toward long-term sustainability and resilience. Africa simply cannot afford any more investments in the dirty, inefficient, fragile economy of the past.
CAPE TOWN – The International Monetary Fund predicts that COVID-19 could set Sub-Saharan Africa back by a decade in per capita GDP terms, which means that staging a strong recovery from the crisis will be critical. But African leaders must choose wisely among the available policy options. If investments made today merely set the stage for future environmental and economic crises, the region will find itself back where it started.
Africa’s energy sector is at the center of this strategic calculus. Clean, modern energy could fuel the region’s economic growth and accelerate the expansion of electricity into rural areas, because renewables have already become cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Over the past decade, the cost of solar photovoltaics and onshore wind fell by 81% and 46%, respectively. In the African context, energy from new renewable facilities is already less expensive than even energy from coal. And shifting to renewables would allow African countries that are currently dependent on imported fossil fuels to achieve greater energy independence.
Renewables are already the fastest-growing source of jobs in several African countries. A concentrated solar facility recently built in Morocco created more than 1,600 jobs per year during construction, and is now expected to maintain some 200 jobs during its first 25 years of operation – not to mention the hundreds of additional jobs that will be supported indirectly.