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Thanks to a combination of high solar radiation and superlative wind resources, the massive, largely desert zone along north-west Africa’s Atlantic coast has become a focus for huge projects in what is starting to look like a new scramble for Africa. Recent developments include Chariot and Total Eren positioning themselves to take advantage of the emerging business opportunity in the production of green hydrogen in Morocco and Mauritania. This follows close on the footsteps of CWP Global and Xlinks. Others such as Harmattan Energy are looking at the disputed Western Sahara (under a UN mandate). As the number of prospective schemes grows, so too will the pressure to secure land rights and authorisations – a familiar issue for businesses with long track records in securing upstream and mineral rights across the continent.

Mauritania | Morocco | Western Sahara (under UN mandate)
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African Union and European Union leaders met for the sixth EU-AU Summit in Brussels on 17-18 February, co-chaired by European Council president Charles Michel and AU’s Senegalese chairman President Macky Sall. It had been three years in the making – due to Covid and other delays – and, as with previous summits, there was talk of huge financial flows, boundless co-operation and commitments to a future of inclusive development.

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Efforts to mitigate climate change, while electricity supply industries, transport networks and other big consumers of energy are put on a more sustainable, less carbon-intense footing, will rise sharply up the global agenda in 2021, ahead of the next big round of climate talks to be held on 1-12 November in Glasgow. This is likely to involve a rush into green bonds, new project financing and other instruments that could significantly increase the pace of Africa’s shift into a more sustainable energy future.

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The global energy transition is having profound impacts on natural resource producers, from the oil majors who are morphing into energy providers, to mining companies whose priorities are shifting as electric vehicles (EVs), battery storage and other new technologies take hold, and African governments and non-state actors who might profit from these changes but could also find themselves embroiled in new resource wars.

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TotalEnergies’ latest Strategy and Outlook paper, Building a sustainable multi-energy company, offers a heavily-illustrated, if light-on-detail, glimpse of how the corporate giants formally known as ‘oil majors’ may change in the coming decade. The document, presented at a 28 September shareholders meeting, is strong on TotalEnergies’ plan for “reinvention”, from being a bad old oil major to one with a cleverly constructed – and often very valuable – sustainable energy strategy.

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Much of the news flow ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November has been about which global leaders will turn up and what carbon reduction commitments they will make. Many in Africa are more concerned the least-developed continent will be forced to adopt ill-fitting policy straightjackets and forced to choose between rival superpower-led development models, most notably China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (BRI) and the US-led Clean Green Initiative (CGI) and Build Back Better for the World (B3W) programmes.

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We all agree: the future is necessarily based on renewable energy and storage solutions, as economies, corporations and communities work to tackle the climate crisis by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Africa understands the need for this better than most, as vulnerable populations in regions like the Sahel suffer the consequences of global warming on their daily lives and resource distribution.