African lives matter too, energy policy decisions should consider their needs

African lives matter too, energy policy decisions should consider their needs
  • Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans’ ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas.
  • OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent’s oil and gas industry to thrive.
  • African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, “I can’t breathe.”

 

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NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber

|As African oil and gas countries struggle with Covid-19’s devastating impact on demand, two international groups seem to be celebrating it.

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Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) described the low oil prices caused by the pandemic as a “golden opportunity” for governments to phase-out fossil fuel support and usher in an era of renewable energy sources.

“Subsidising fossil fuels is an inefficient use of public money and serves to worsen greenhouse emissions and air pollution,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a joint OECD-IEA statement. “While our foremost concern today must be to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, we should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet.”

It’s time to get the knees off their necks.

I would argue that the OECD and IEA don’t necessarily know what’s best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.

Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.

Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans’ ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas. Although police violence against people of color is at the center of the protests — a response to the horrific death of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — the protests also point to social and economic disparities between the races in America.

While I don’t want to exploit the death of George Floyd, I do see parallels between the racial disparities in America and the struggles of Africans whose lives could be improved through oil and gas. I always see a common pattern of ignoring black and African voices.

Too often in America, the value of black lives was not given proper consideration until George Floyd’s death forced the topic to the forefront and rightly so. And on the global stage, OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent’s oil and gas industry to thrive. I would advise these organizations not to ignore the needs of poor people in African countries.

As it stands, African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, “I can’t breathe.”

 

NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.