"We are combating the demonization of natural gas usage, emphasizing Africa's right to utilize it for development."

NJ Ayuk

EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, AFRICAN ENERGY CHAMBER

March 18, 2024

What are some recent developments at the African Energy Chamber and where have your advocacy efforts been focused?

Over the past eight months, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) has been intensely focused on finance, particularly following COP 28 in Dubai, where there was significant global pressure to end or phase out the use of fossil fuels. However, our primary focus remains on what I refer to as the ‘ground game’ within Africa. This involves addressing energy poverty issues directly in African countries and finding practical solutions that benefit everyday people. We are particularly invested in increasing gas production and ensuring more access to LPG for Africans, particularly for clean cooking. Currently, 900 million Africans lack access to clean cooking technologies, while 600 million lack access to electricity.

We are engaging with stakeholders and businesses, advocating for their voices to be heard. It is essential to understand that to create jobs and opportunities in Africa, we must support and empower businesses. This includes addressing issues such as tax advocacy, incentivizing reforms, and tackling judicial issues to ensure a fair and conducive business environment. We are combating the demonization of natural gas usage, emphasizing Africa's right to utilize it for development. Our advocacy is built on fundamental principles: free market, limited government, individual liberty, and respect for the rule of law. We believe that by upholding these principles, we can foster a prosperous, ambitious, and dynamic African energy industry that benefits all Africans.

Can you provide more details on the MoU you recently signed with the African Petroleum Producers Association (APPO)?

The MoU emphasizes the critical importance of local content development in driving sustainable growth across the continent's petroleum industry. APPO has been instrumental in fostering cooperation among African nations, particularly in emerging and underexplored regions such as Namibia and Mozambique. These collaborations are not only about exploration and production but also about ensuring that the benefits of the industry trickle down to local communities.

The MoU aims to address several key objectives. Firstly, it seeks to create an enabling environment for local content development, emphasizing job creation, capacity building, and SME empowerment. By prioritizing local participation, we aim to shift the paradigm where Africans are often marginalized in their own industry. 

One significant initiative that we are supporting is APPO's proposal for an African Energy Bank. This bank will play a crucial role in financing energy projects across the continent, further driving economic growth and development. 

Our partnership with APPO also prioritizes sustainability and social responsibility. We are committed to advocating for a just transition to sustainable energy production, addressing environmental concerns, and tackling energy poverty. 

How do you view natural gas as a transition fuel for Africa?

We are committed to sustainability and decarbonization, but we also recognize the imperative for industrialization. Instead of Africans migrating to Europe in search of opportunities, we should be creating jobs and industries right here. Natural gas can fuel our industrialization, from petrochemicals to fertilizer production, boosting agriculture and creating employment. It is about giving our youth a chance to compete globally and to have access to education and opportunities. 

How do you perceive the stance of international bodies such as the UN or the IPCC on Africa’s decarbonization?

I believe they are out of touch with Africa and everyday Africans. No nation has ever achieved industrialization solely through wind or solar. When the crisis in Russia and Ukraine emerged, wealthy nations like Germany did not opt for solar panels; they sought coal from countries like South Africa, Tanzania, and Mozambique. This highlights the necessity of baseload energy for development. The IEA’s projection of 65% EV usage by 2030 ignores the reality of energy poverty in Africa. After COP 26 in Glasgow, European countries and the US continued to pursue oil drilling, despite advocating for fossil fuel phase-outs. This hypocrisy undermines their credibility. Africans recognize the need to develop natural resources for industrialization and refuse to adhere to colonial structures that perpetuate poverty. It is our time to grow and industrialize, regardless of Western or wealthy nations' preferences.

The discrepancy between rhetoric and action is stark, highlighting the need for African nations to prioritize their own development agendas.

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