By Seyi Gesinde
There is no question at all that the subject of climate change and the many ramifications around it are very high on the critical priorities of our time. More importantly, for many in Africa and the developing world, the narrative might well mean a new international understanding that deprives the global south of a fair chance at industrialization, sustainable growth, and development.
It is becoming clearer what Africa and the developing countries need to explain as this global dialogue is shaping, namely that the crisis is not just an issue of climate change alone but also a clear urgent danger of an outright developmental freeze in the ugly muddiness of poverty.
This is where Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has now become the apostle of billions of people in Africa and other developing countries, having made significant contributions to Africa’s climate and energy transition, influencing leaders to create sustainable energy policies while promoting renewable energy potential in Africa.
He has also worked on integrating climate change adaptation strategies into national plans, especially in Nigeria, where he anchored the country’s energy transition plans. His commitment to growth has seen him actively engaged by international climate change organisations, where he has advocated for Africa’s interests in global climate negotiations, the latest being at the recently concluded 10th anniversary of the Financial Times (FT) Africa Summit held in London on Tuesday, October 17, 2023.
In his speech as a Special Guest and Keynote Speaker, he posited that Africa can be the world’s first green industrial hub because of its vast potential for renewable energy, the youngest and fastest-growing workforce, and an abundance of critical minerals. He affirmed that Africa is set on the path of achieving the climate-positive growth plan if given fair and equitable access to markets, investments with the right tenor, and suitably structured, patient, and blended capital.
Speaking on the topic “How Africa is Navigating the Energy Transition” to an audience of international business leaders, policymakers, and speakers from Africa and around the world at the well-attended summit, Prof. Osinbajo said, “Take, for example, converting our (Africa’s) bauxite to aluminium; we have 25% of the world’s bauxite. If that is done using renewable energy, we will save the world about 335 million metric tonnes of CO2, create 280,000 jobs, and earn about $37 billion just by keeping that production within Africa and using renewable energy. This is how far he pushes for Africa’s liberation, showcasing its potential even to salvage the global economy.
Similarly, he advanced the need for Western powers to support Africa in making gas a transition fuel, especially in terms of funding. He has always put this forward, noting that Africa struggled with energy poverty, with millions lacking access to power and 1 in 4 deaths of women in rural areas caused by pollution from the use of firewood.
He argues that “every passing day, the pathway out of fossil fuel dependency seems clearer. Renewable energy is becoming consistently cheaper than fossil-fuel-generated energy, and grid-level storage is rapidly improving and becoming cheaper. Consequently, the point he is emphasising is that “in the short to medium term, it is not one or the other, gas as a transition fuel, but its replacement with renewable energy given the climate positive growth plan and global net zero targets is now both an economic and climate imperative.”
As Nigeria’s Vice President from 2015 to 2023, Prof. Osinbajo was a prominent figure driving the much-needed climate and energy transition in the country, and through his leadership, investment in renewable energy was increased, leading to economic opportunities as well as environmental benefits. With his influence and expertise, Prof. Osinbajo led awareness and education, driving the push for clean and sustainable energy. He was instrumental in Nigeria’s adoption of the Paris Agreement as a key signatory, with which the country became committed to reducing its carbon emissions, enhancing climate resilience, and promoting sustainable development.
This landmark decision has set the stage for other African nations to follow suit, creating a collective effort to combat climate change and its adverse impacts. He has also spearheaded campaigns to attract private sector investments in clean energy projects to drive economic growth, job creation, and environmental sustainability with investment in Nigeria’s vast renewable energy potential—solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.
No wonder, not long after he left office, he was engaged by key organisations driving and powering energy initiatives globally, such as the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), which appointed him as its Global Advisor to assist GEAPP’s mission of accelerating clean energy deployment in developing countries. Only recently was he appointed chairman of the Board of Directors of the Climate Action Platform for Africa (CAP-A), a public benefit organisation working to unlock Africa’s potential as a global hub for climate action.
Overall, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s impact on driving climate and energy transitions in Africa is profound and far-reaching. His visionary leadership, unwavering commitment, and proactive approach have positioned Africa as a key player in the global fight against climate change. Through his efforts, the continent is poised to embrace sustainable development practices, promote clean energy solutions, and create a more prosperous and resilient future for its people.
One of the key aspects of Prof. Osinbajo’s impact on Africa is his emphasis on renewable energy sources. He understands that transitioning from fossil fuels to clean and sustainable energy alternatives is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. Under his leadership, Nigeria has made significant progress in expanding its renewable energy capacity, particularly in solar and wind energy.
He championed the importance of international cooperation in tackling climate change while actively participating in global climate conferences, where he advocated for increased funding and support for African countries to implement climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. His efforts have helped to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by Africa and the need for collective action to address them.
One of Prof. Osinbajo’s notable initiatives is the Nigeria Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (REEEP), which aims to increase access to electricity through renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change. This has materialised in the establishment of solar power plants, wind farms, and mini-grids in various regions of the country, providing clean and reliable electricity to communities that were previously underserved.
The former VP’s focus on sustainable development is evident in his Green Alternative initiative. This initiative seeks to promote sustainable agriculture and reduce the environmental impact of farming practices. By encouraging the adoption of climate-smart and eco-friendly agricultural techniques, such as organic farming and agroforestry, Prof. Osinbajo aims to enhance food security while minimising the ecological footprint of the agricultural sector.
Under the leadership of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Africa has witnessed remarkable progress in driving climate and energy transitions. Several successful projects and achievements stand as shining examples of his impactful initiatives, one of which is the Renewable Energy Micro-Utility (REMU) project, a groundbreaking project aimed at providing clean and sustainable energy to rural communities across Africa.
Another remarkable achievement is the expansion of solar power infrastructure. Prof. Osinbajo has championed the installation of solar panels in public buildings, schools, and hospitals, increasing access to clean energy sources and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. These efforts not only contribute to combating climate change but also create job opportunities, stimulate economic growth, and foster sustainable development.
Furthermore, Prof. Osinbajo’s leadership has fostered partnerships with international organisations focused on renewable energy and climate action. Collaborative initiatives such as the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) have received significant support and funding, enabling the implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects across the continent. This has positioned Africa as a leader in the global energy transition and has attracted investments and expertise from around the world.
As we can see, Prof. Osinbajo’s impact extends beyond Nigeria, as he has actively engaged with other African countries to promote regional collaboration in tackling climate change and advancing clean energy solutions. Through platforms like the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), he has advocated for collective action and knowledge sharing to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Beyond Africa, it is also global, as through strategic partnerships with organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, and AfDB, Prof. Osinbajo has been able to tap into their expertise, resources, and networks to implement impactful initiatives across the continent. Similarly, he established strong bilateral relationships with nations such as Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands, which already excelled in climate and energy transition, to learn from their experiences and leverage their best practices.
Additionally, despite the challenges such as the lack of infrastructure for sustainable energy and high upfront costs associated with renewable energy projects, Prof. Osinbajo’s determination, strategic vision, and commitment have been instrumental in overcoming these hurdles in Africa, as he demonstrated a strong and forward-thinking vision to champion numerous initiatives to drive the transition towards clean and renewable energy sources across the continent.
He has called for the adoption of innovative technologies and practices that can optimize energy use, reduce waste, and improve overall energy efficiency.
One of the key lessons we can take away from Prof. Osinbajo’s approach is the importance of collaboration. He has actively engaged with various stakeholders, including government agencies, international organisations, private sector entities, and civil society groups, to form partnerships and drive collective action.
Another important lesson from Prof. Osinbajo’s approach is the emphasis on innovation and technology. Under his leadership, there has been a focus on supporting research and development in renewable energy, promoting the adoption of clean technologies, and creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and startups in the green sector. This emphasis on innovation has not only helped to drive the transition but has also opened up new economic opportunities and job creation.
It is good to note that Prof. Osinbajo‘s visionary leadership and commitment to sustainable development have paved the way for significant advancements in renewable energy, environmental conservation, and climate change mitigation across the continent.
Truly, as he said at FT’s summit in London, through innovative policies, collaborations, and investments, Prof. Osinbajo has demonstrated that Africa can play a leading role in the global transition to clean energy and a greener future. So, as we reflect on his achievements, let us be inspired to take action and contribute to the ongoing efforts in driving climate and energy transition for a sustainable Africa and a better world.
Gesinde is an award-winning journalist, social commentator, and political scientist.