A Path Across the Rift: Informing African Energy Transitions by Unearthing Critical Questions and Data Needs

September 2023

Sub-Saharan Africa is uniquely positioned in the transition to a clean energy economy, as the region with the fastest-growing energy demand and lowest rate of access to reliable, clean, and affordable energy. Despite the substantial opportunity to improve lives and economies, there are flaws in the way we think and talk about energy in the region.

This brief identifies common misconceptions and gaps in research which need to be addressed for policy makers and investors to move forward with energy planning. Common myths of a uniform African continent and simplistic ideas of Africa’s abundant natural resources should be replaced by country-specific energy plans, informed by place-specific evidence from the granular level right up to the supporting ecosystem of infrastructure, policy, and finance.

Key Findings:

  • The low-carbon opportunity is widely recognized within Africa, but there is still an urgent need to develop clear visions for the future of Africa’s energy systems and what it will take to deliver them.
  • The body of analysis on African energy transitions has been growing but struggles to influence decision-making, due in part to limited contextualization, a gap between science and policy, and limited or no ownership to deliver real action.
  • The debate on African energy transitions among both local and international stakeholders has become increasingly polarized, narrowing the space for fact-based discussions on key topics, such as the role of fossil fuels.
  • Decisions on African energy transitions today need to be informed by clear and objective analysis, ideally undertaken at the country level.
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