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Africa/Global: Whose Energy?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 17, 2017 (170517)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"We, the undersigned representatives of African civil society, express our deep concern regarding efforts by the European Union and France to hijack the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), an African-owned and African-led initiative endorsed by all 55 African Heads of State to scale up renewable energy on our continent." April 6 statement by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and over 200 civil society networks and groups from 34 African countries.

In light of the threats to the climate coming from the new U.S. administration, it is tempting to look to other leading powers, including those in Europe and Asia, to provide positive examples of international action on climate change. Yet it is also clear that these actions fall short of what is needed. African activists are taking the lead in pointing out these inconsistencies.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin includes documents and links illustrating that point, both on the continent-side statement cited above and on current mobilization in Kenya against plans for a major new coal plant in Lamu.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on energy-related issues, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

NET hearings ongoing in Lamu

Proceedings of court hearings, 11–12 May 2017

deCOALonize: the anti-coal, pro-renewable, pro-community, pro-sustainable development campaign in Kenya

[Excerpts only: for full report with links and photos, see - Direct URL:]

[For additional background see and]

From 11 to 12 May 2017, Kenya's National Environmental Tribunal (NET) held hearings in Lamu County to consider community groups' objections regarding the insufficiency of the proposed Lamu coal plant's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. They visited the site and heard from witnesses pertaining to the proposed site, local community, and its ecosystem.

NET commissioners on site visit to Lamu      

The objections were filed by a handful of residents, Save Lamu, and Natural Justice, in response to the granting of a license for the ESIA by the National Environmental Management Authority. Following this week's site visit, NEMA will hold a second hearing in Nairobi later this month.

Media coverage of hearings (to date)

Mainstream media coverage of the 11–12 May National Environmental Tribunal meetings has been thus far limited to a handful of articles.

A second round of allegations by the County Commissioner Kanyiri accusing anti-coal plant activists of being "used by cartels" appeared in The Star, despite citing no evidence. The Star further reported that Lamu Women Representative Shakila Abdalla pledges to take the matter to High Court (which the community groups already intend to do).

Meanwhile, the Business Daily reported on the anti-coal demonstrations, a silent march through Lamu town, and community views:

Protestors accused the Lamu County government, the National Environment and Management Authority (Nema) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of trying to force the project on them. "We will continue fighting till the end. The project is harmful and that's why it has been rejected in Kitui and other places in this country. We will not allow such kind of a project unless they come up with an alternative and environmental friendly project rather than coal. We are for green energy," Ishaq Abubakar, a resident opposed to the project said.

[continued at]

As the World Cuts Back on Coal, a Growing Appetite in Africa

New coal plants in Africa are largely being paid for by China and developed countries that are turning away from the technology at home. Here's why.

By Jonathan W. Rosen

National Geographic, May 10, 2017

[Excerpts only. For full article see - Direct URL:]

Lamu, Kenya - Few places in the world exude a sense of timelessness as Lamu, an island off of Kenya's northern coast home to the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. Lamu's old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an epicenter of Indian Ocean trade for centuries, is a maze of narrow winding streets that cut through neighborhoods of limestone and coral houses, past elaborately carved mahogany doors and several dozen mosques and churches. Only a handful of motor vehicles are allowed on the island; transportation is mainly the domain of donkeys or men pushing wooden carts thorough the tropical swelter.

Yet Lamu Island's 24,000 residents are faced with what many here call an existential crisis. Some 15 miles north of town, on a sparsely populated seaside area of the mainland formerly used for growing maize, cashews, and sesame, a Kenyan company known as Amu Power is preparing to erect a $2 billion coal power plant, the first of its kind in East Africa.

Financed with Chinese, South African, and Kenyan capital, and built by the stateowned Power Construction Corporation of China, the plant is intended to add 1,050 megawatts of capacity to Kenya's national grid and power operations of an adjacent 32 berth deep-water port. Both are part of an ambitious government plan to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country by 2030.

The project is controversial in part due to the risks it poses to Lamu's delicate marine environment, which many fear will harm its two most vital industries: fishing and tourism. Yet it is also emblematic of Africa's growing appetite for coal, the most polluting form of power generation, which until now has existed in significant quantities only in the continent's most industrialized country, South Africa.

According to data compiled by CoalSwarm, an industry watchdog, more than 100 coalgenerating units with a combined capacity of 42.5 gigawatts are in various stages of planning or development in 11 African countries outside of South Africa—more than eight times the region's existing coal capacity. Nearly all are fueled by foreign investment, and roughly half are being financed by the world's largest coal emitter: China.

This comes at a time when China and India, which accounted for 86 percent of global coal development over the last decade, are putting coal projects on hold at record rates due to existing overcapacity, the lowering cost of renewables, and crippling pollution that is thought to kill more than a million people a year in the case of China alone. Many of the world's more developed countries are also in the process of phasing out the fuel as a power source.

"So many states are now withdrawing coal because of its emissions—because of its environmental destruction," says Walid Ahmed, a member of Save Lamu, a local coalition that's trying to stop the Amu Power project. "So we don't see why they should bring it here."

[for more see]

EU, France accused of hijacking 'Africa-led' clean energy scheme

April 27, 2017

African head of $10bn programme quits, saying French environment minister Ségolène Royal intervened to impose EU-preferred projects

By Megan Darby - Direct URL:

[For May 10 amd May 17 updates from Climate Change News, see and Notably, French environment minister Royal has moved ahead with her own plan for a replacement for the former director.]

A $10bn clean energy programme launched at the Paris climate talks "by Africa, for Africa" is in turmoil after interventions by the EU and France.

Youba Sokona saw the African Renewable Energy Initiative as a chance for Africans to take control of climate finance. In a resignation letter obtained by Climate Home, the top official of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), Youba Sokona, accused donors of a deliberate strategy to "railroad" Africans into rubber-stamping projects selected by Europeans.

Matters came to a head in Conakry, Guinea, on 4 March, where the board approved 19 projects worth €4.8 billion ($5.2bn). By Sokona's account, the Europeans present "managed to effectively force through" the list, overriding "a string of reservations" expressed by some African members.

"There was evident contempt for, and abandonment of, the AREI principles," he wrote.

Youba Sokona (Pic: Flickr/Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Stephan Röhl)

When launched, the AREI was vaunted as a scheme to bring clean power to the continent, on African terms. But many of the projects chosen by European Commission representatives are neither new, renewable nor owned by Africans.

Sokona announced his resignation on the spot and leaves the post at the end of April, with no replacement lined up.

French environment minister Ségolène Royal and EU commissioner for international development Neven Mimica led the non-African delegation at the meeting. Mimica's EU officials chose the projects, but according to Sokona's letter, Royal asked him to present them to the AREI board. He refused, on the basis he had not seen the list until two days earlier.

High-level representatives from Egypt, the African Development Bank – which hosts the AREI staff – and the African Union expressed concerns at the board meeting about bypassing the AREI screening process. But the presidents of former French colonies Chad and Guinea, Idriss Déby and Alpha Condé, aligned with the Europeans in urging members to give the go-ahead, Climate Home understands.

Two officials from Royal's private office acknowledged there had been disagreement, but denied Royal had exerted undue influence. President Condé convened the meeting, they said, and Royal was there to "facilitate".

"Our minister was very keen to help him push forward quickly and efficiently. It was important for everybody to jump-start the initiative… and not have it bogged down by governance issues," said Royal's advisors.

This was an "exceptional process", they added. "The decision was made by the Africans to select the projects as soon as this meeting because they considered that the projects were ready to be moved forward – despite the fact that the governance is not fully set up and finalised."

A spokesperson confirmed that the European Commission had identified 14 of the projects, at the request of the AREI board. Five that had been first presented at UN climate talks in Marrakech were then added to the list. Minutes of the meeting have yet to be published, nearly two months later.

The incident is a fracture in the solidarity that allowed rich and poor countries to reach a climate agreement in Paris. Under the UN deal, many developing countries put forward their first ever pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Those commitments hinge on financial support from the developed world. But where the money comes from and who controls where it goes remain fraught questions.

In this case, donors – which include Canada, the US and Japan as well as EU member states – pledged to "mobilise" $10 billion by 2020. This is to install 10GW of "new and additional" clean power capacity across the continent.

But while the African technical team expected this to mean new climate finance, the developed countries argued for old money to count towards meeting the 10GW goal. In their joint statement from Paris, they said the money would flow "through a variety of mechanisms", including a list of existing finance programmes.

The resulting first tranche comes from various development banks and involves only one euro of public funding to 15 of private investment. Critics say the minimal public input indicates the projects were already commercially viable. That suggests the initiative has relabelled business-as-usual, not driven the access to clean energy Africans need.

The list presented by the EU to Africans includes four large grid infrastructure projects, which support clean and dirty energy alike1. An interconnector planned for west Africa will facilitate "large-scale development" of hydropower and natural gas resources, according to the World Bank.

At least one of the initiatives – the Tendaho geothermal project in Ethiopia – got funding approval before the AREI launched.

This was all agreed by the African board, Royal's advisors stressed. "A lot of these projects, they don't come out of a bag just like that, a lot of them have been in the pipeline for a long time… If it was not for AREI, maybe these projects would still be in limbo."

Western private investors stand to benefit from the deals. For example, the privately-owned 30MW Djermaya solar plant in Chad is being developed by a group of companies headquartered in London, Paris and Toronto. Whatever the side-benefits, Chadians will pay for this clean energy and the profits end up in Westerners' pockets.

This was not the programme Sokona, a Malian with four decades' experience in energy policy and sustainable development, had in mind.

He laid much of the groundwork for AREI unpaid before being officially appointed to lead the independent delivery unit from August 2016. In a video on the AREI homepage, he explains his intention to "reverse the dynamic" whereby aid donors typically set the agenda. Under his vision, African countries would put forward proposals to be screened by African technical experts and approved by African leaders.

"It is not energy per se. It is how to change the life of the people, how to give to them better conditions, better situation and better future.1 The technology is only a pretext to do that," Sokona said in the video.

By January 2017, Sokona's team had identified a pipeline of 442 projects across Africa, but not filtered them through AREI criteria. An AREI report on the list of projects notes the "over-whelming dominance of plans for large regional projects" rather than "transformative" programmes for energy access and capacity building.

At the same time, Royal was taking matters into her own hands. She had assumed the presidency of COP21, the historic 2015 Paris climate summit, after the event. This was a chance to start putting the Paris Agreement into practice. It may also have bolstered her credentials for an (ultimately unsuccessful) bid to lead the UN development programme.

A report presented on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in September 2016 put Royal's name above the AREI logo. It includes more than 20 photos of her touring African countries and glad-handing leaders. In the foreword, she hails the "extraordinary potential" of the initiative. "We… need Africa to be able to make a real difference with its own solutions," she writes.

Yet in the end, Africans were left out of the loop. Hearing of the Conakry row, nearly 200 African civil society organisations signed an open letter objecting to the EU "hijacking" the initiative.

Tasneem Essop, founder of the Energy Democracy Initiative in South Africa, described the European players' behaviour as "absolutely shocking". "[AREI] was one of the most inspirational initiatives emerging from Africa. We were so desperate for this kind of leadership," she told Climate Home.

Far from the focus on community access to clean energy Essop hoped for, the EU list represented "business as usual". And the way it was imposed was all too reminiscent of the history of development finance being dictated by the rich. "We thought we had passed those ways, but this is such an explicit and crude grab, it is mind-boggling that this could have happened now."

Essop argued that the developed world, which bears most responsibility for causing global warming, has a duty to support Africa in clean growth. "They [donors] think it is charity. It is not charity. This is very much part of the obligations under the UN climate convention."

The civil society letter calls on the EU and France to surrender any aspiration to board membership and respect the initiative's autonomy. "AREI must be run by Africans for Africans. Interference in African governance belongs to another era," it says.

Asked how France would rebuild trust in the process, Royal's advisors said: "It is an African-led initiative and it is really for the Africans to discuss this and make sure [the process] is inclusive. What our minister can do is mention this to President Condé and she will work to that effect, as a facilitator."

Stop European Hijacking of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative

Statement by African Civil Society

April 7, 2017 - Direct URL:

We, the undersigned representatives of African civil society, express our deep concern regarding efforts by the European Union and France to hijack the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), an African-owned and African-led initiative endorsed by all 55 African Heads of State to scale up renewable energy on our continent.

AREI ( was launched by the African governments with the support of African citizens during COP21 in Paris, with the goal to provide at least 10 billion watts (10GW) of new and additional renewable energy to Africa's peoples by 2020, and put the continent on course to add at least another 300 GW and achieve universal access to energy for all Africans by 2030. It was supported by $10 billion in pledges for 2015-2020 by developed countries in Paris.

AREI as defined in its framework, principles and work plans is a unique initiative. It is aligned with our values of people-centred approaches, community rights, equity and a bold vision of Africa taking a global lead towards flourishing societies powered by clean, renewable energy.

Since Paris, an Independent Delivery Unit was set up to deliver in accordance with AREI's people-centred principles and approaches. The expectation was that a Board with Heads of State representing each African sub-region would be established, supported by a technical committee involving broad representation and participation by civil society.

AREI's integrity and promise of bringing light and energy to Africa's people is now being gravely threatened by the efforts of the European Union and France for premature, undue approval of 'their' projects and seeming attempts to co-opt the initiative to serve their ends, supported by a small handful of Africans. At a Board Meeting convened in Conakry on 4 March, we understand the European Union and France have:

  • Publicly "announced the preparation of 19 new renewable energy projects, with a total potential investment of €4.8 billion" (EU press release 4 March - – when they are actually claiming to provide a mere 1/16th or €0.3 billion of this amount, not all of which is for "new projects" or even for "renewable energy", and with no clarity whether any of these are "additional'" efforts.
  • Managed to have rammed through the Board for adoption these partly EU-funded projects, despite the express objections from some African countries and institutions, and contrary to the principles of African ownership that would expect project priorities and proposals to stem directly from African countries
  • Ignored and bypassed AREI's own evaluation process in accordance to its criteria ( – developed with African and northern government, civil society and otherstakeholder inputs. These require all projects be assessed in line with AREI social, environmental, gender and other principles and safeguards before any approvals can be made
  • Claiming Board memberships when they seem to have only been invited to the meetings (AREI minutes of the first inaugural board on 29 January - and contrary to the idea there should be one developing and one developed non-African country in the Board.
  • Pushed for the imposition of EU technical experts to supposedly take control of AREI core documents to be consistent with European interests

All the above seems to have caused the Head of the Independent Delivery Unit, a prominent and well- respected African, to declare his resignation.

These actions have been enabled by one or two African states while the interests of the majority of States, and of Africans, have been set aside.

While we acknowledge that the EU has scaled up support for African renewables since COP21 in Paris, these most recent behaviors are completely unacceptable. Recycling existing projects as "new" ones for AREI virtually ensures it will fail to meet its goal of 10 billion watts of "new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020", leaving Africans in the dark.

Listing projects in numerous African countries without their consent means these countries may miss out on genuinely new and additional resources from AREI in the future, undermining the legitimate expectations of those countries and their people.

These carefully staged interferences in Africa's institutions threaten not merely the potential of AREI to deliver new renewable energy, they call into question the independence and sanctity of African governance arrangements, including the African Union.

Based on these concerns, we call on all African States, leaders and people to demand genuinely people- centred renewable energy for Africa, building on the great model set out by AREI and endorsed by all African countries.

We demand:

  1. That the European Union and France step aside and abandon any aspirations to have seats as Board members, and ensure AREI remains African-led and African-owned. AREI must be run by Africans for Africans. Interference in African governance belongs to another era.
  2. Full accountability, transparency and participation must be provided for African states and for civil society in all aspects of AREI. The Initiative cannot and must not become a tool for one or two African States to benefit themselves or their European counterparts.
  3. That any 'endorsement' by the Board of the 19 existing EU projects is indefinitely suspended until a thorough review against AREI Criteria, environmental and social safeguards, prior informed consent by the States and citizens concerned, and active civil society participation are undertaken. It must be for individual African states and people, not the EU, to propose projects to AREI.
  4. That all further funding and projects through AREI be genuinely "new and additional" to ensure the delivery of real outcomes for our people, with no more accounting tricks, and to ensure that developed countries are accountable and meet their financial obligations.
  5. That active participation by all civil society constituencies is ensured at all levels of AREI including its governing bodies, its workplan and project development, and project implementation on the ground.
  6. That African countries immediately take action to put AREI back on track and ensure full independence for the Independent Delivery Unit from donors, the African Development Bank and other third parties, and the reinstatement of its Head

We call for all partners in government, academia, faith-based, labour, gender, environmental, community-based organizations, national coalitions and regional and international networks to join us in championing a truly African-led and peoplecentred approach to renewable energy on our continent. AREI needs to succeed.

We hereby sign on to this statement:

Regional Groups & Networks

Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Kenya [Full list includes almost 200 civil society groups and networks from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Djibouti, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

[Note: an statement of support for the African civil society demands was circulating as this AfricaFocus was prepared. As of today, May 18, the final statement was released and is available here, including a list of 111 signatory organizations from around the world.]

Key excerpts are as follows:

"We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our dismay at the actions of France and the European Commission regarding the governance of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), and to show our support for the demands of African civil society to reverse these developments."

"For all these reasons, we fully support the demands of African civil society to reverse recent developments and put the AREI and its leadership and governance back on track, as outlined in their recent statement."

"The AREI is an African-led initiative that, with proper governance, has the potential to address the energy needs of African peoples and the planet's climate challenges. Only by respecting the initiative's African sovereignty, ensuring projects are aligned with AREI criteria, and providing genuine support can the EU and France help to meet these goals."

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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