Just energy transitions as a development priority for Africa

Just Energy Transition is a crucial priority for Africa's development. In August 2023, Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa at UNDP, participated in a dialogue series on Just Energy Transition at the United Nations University with Tshilidzi Marwala, the Rector.

November 1, 2023
Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Power shortage and the lack of clean cooking fuels in Africa:

Eziakonwa emphasized the energy challenges in Africa, where 600 million lack electricity and 970 million lack clean cooking fuel. To achieve universal access to affordable energy in Africa by 2030, 90 million people need to be connected annually, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). She explained UNDP's strategic approach, which encompasses six impact areas that are focused on addressing the root causes of challenges rather than just the symptoms.

"An energy transition is ‘just’ if it is affordable, meaning that it is within relatively easy reach of the end-users, and available, meaning that the supply of energy is adequate and reliable to meet the demand of end-users," said Eziakonwa. 

Africa's Natural Resources and Economic Challenges:

Effective governance of Africa's abundant natural resources is crucial for a Just Energy Transition, both domestically and internationally. However, a significant challenge lies in the disconnect between these resources and enabling shared prosperity. Eziakonwa highlighted the continent's extractive growth, lacking substantial industrialization or manufacturing, perpetuating poverty through the export of raw materials and import of finished goods at a higher cost.

Technological Advancements and Productivity:

Despite rapid technological advancements, Eziakonwa emphasizes that large-scale automation isn't an imminent threat to Africa's current productivity levels. She underscores the need to prioritize enhancing production for job creation and sees potential growth in intra-Africa trade through increased productivity and manufacturing. Eziakonwa views technology as an enabler rather than a labor substitute.

On renewable energy, she notes promising advancements and decreasing costs. Despite concealed expenses, she stresses the importance of global collaboration to subsidize renewable energy costs for Africa, given the continent's potential for significant contributions to global emission reductions. Financial support, capacity building, and advanced technology are deemed imperative.

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

Youth Empowerment:

The next discussion emphasized the significance of youth empowerment, recognizing the young demographic of the African continent and the need to harness their potential. Furthermore, it advocated for more young professionals to prioritize sustainability and development, excel in these fields, and actively contribute to the future trajectory of the planet, underscoring its importance. 


Transparent and accountable governance is essential for sustainable growth amid internal conflicts and geopolitical tensions. Recent UNDP data challenges the notion of dictatorships, indicating a preference for democratic structures among Africans. Eziakonwa emphasizes that the public's interest in governance reflects a desire for genuine stakeholder engagement, not apathy.

Diversification of Fossil Fuels and Energy Sources:

Eziakonwa also underscored the hidden costs tied to fossil fuels, such as geopolitical tensions in oil-rich territories. "Greater emphasis on the broader inclusivity potential of renewable energy is needed to extend its reach to a larger population." She also advocated for a more nuanced investment perspective on Africa, emphasizing the myriad of opportunities and highlighting that risk profiles vary across the continent.

Citizen Engagement and Community Dialogue:

The significance of grassroots involvement in decision-making, particularly in resource-rich areas, was emphasized. Community dialogues were highlighted as crucial platforms for local stakeholders to express concerns and visions, contributing to effective governance.

UNDP has been closely collaborating with the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) for 30 years, serving as a co-organizer and strong partner since its inception. TICAD, focused on advancing Africa's development, mobilizes diverse stakeholders in alignment with global benchmarks like the SDGs. Evolving strategically, TICAD now emphasizes engaging the private sector and positioning Africa as an investment hub.

Eziakonwa (left) and Mr. Tshilidzi Marwala (right)

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa