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    Advancing Africa’s energy transition

    September 25, 2023 - Lin Boqiang


      Continent can ride Chinese partnerships, technologies to leverage renewable resources

      In the face of growing threats from climate change, countries around the world are under mounting pressure to accelerate their energy transition. Collaboration between nations can effectively reduce the costs of the energy transition and exert a positive influence on global climate governance. Over the years, China has established stable and mutually beneficial cooperation relations with various African countries, and there is vast potential for China-Africa cooperation in the energy transition sector.

      Broadly speaking, the cooperation focuses on two main aspects. The first is that the two sides collaborate on clean energy such as wind power and photovoltaics, leveraging Africa's abundant clean energy resources and China's strength in industry chains.

      China has accumulated extensive technical experience in clean energy sectors such as wind and solar power through years of development. With its complete industry chain and sound planning in production capacity, the nation has cost and technology strengths. Through opportunities such as South-South cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and Africa can amplify the advantages of both sides and realize a win-win situation in new energy cooperation.

      New energy cooperation can help Africa alleviate its power supply shortage and contribute to the green development of the continent's energy system. The cooperation can also help Chinese new energy enterprises go global and seek new growth drivers and development paths. Therefore, such cooperation serves the interests of both sides and contributes to the realization of global climate governance goals.

      The second aspect is that the cooperation between China and Africa focuses on the construction of electricity infrastructure to address the issue of inadequate access to electricity and support the continent's economic growth. In sub-Saharan Africa, a significant portion of the population still lacks access to electricity. Apart from the low levels of power generation, a lack of high-quality power grid equipment and inadequacies in electricity infrastructure are major reasons behind the power shortages.

      By cooperating on the construction of power infrastructure, African countries can leverage China's technological expertise and enable the expansion of their production capacity and markets. This collaboration aligns with the principles of the BRI and ushers in new mutual benefits for both China and Africa, effectively promoting global low-carbon transition and development.

      The following policy measures are proposed for China-Africa cooperation in the energy sector. First, it is important to leverage the country's industry chains and technologies to help Chinese energy enterprises go global. The overall competitiveness of industry chains is a significant advantage of China's new energy sector.

      China's new energy technology is known for its competitive costs, higher applicability, and greater stability. Cooperation between China and African countries will significantly help Chinese new energy enterprises to expand their business in the international market.

      Additionally, cooperation with African nations in this area will not only help China fulfill its international responsibilities but also demonstrate its sense of mission and dedication to participating in global climate governance. Meanwhile, it will also promote high-quality development of China-Africa trade.

      Therefore, more favorable policies should be rolled out to utilize opportunities such as South-South cooperation and the BRI, and encourage more Chinese enterprises in the new energy and power grid sectors to prioritize the African market.

      Second, it is important to strengthen long-term cooperation mechanisms to mitigate potential uncertainties and risks. With the heightened strategic planning of Western countries in Africa, China-Africa cooperation in the energy sector faces potential political risks.

      Across-the-board assessment of political risks is needed before advancing cooperation projects to prepare for their potential risks and impacts. Meanwhile, it is important to establish stable and multi-level cooperation mechanisms to guarantee effective communication and coordination.

      Third, the two sides should deepen exchanges in regard to technologies pertaining to the clean energy industry. Currently, the new energy sector is still in an early stage of development in terms of systems, technologies, and markets. Therefore, China and Africa need to strengthen dialogues and exchanges, and jointly draw on experiences in the drafting of policies and regulations.

      Fourth, assisting African countries through training of necessary talents and sharing of skills is also essential. China can invite African countries to participate in training programs to share its experience in energy technology and management. It can also dispatch experts to African countries for technical guidance and knowledge transfer. Technology exchanges and talent development will help advance Africa's energy transition and also contribute to fine-tuning of global standards and regulations in the new energy sector.

      The author is a researcher with Tan Kah Kee Innovation Laboratory and dean of the China Institute for Energy Policy Studies at Xiamen University. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

      The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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