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Africa and Europe in a Net Zero World

24th February 2022

By Prof. Ed Brown (Loughborough University)

Over the 17th and 18th of February African and European leaders met for the sixth European Union – African Union Summit in Brussels. The summit was presented as providing an opportunity to lay the foundations for a renewal of the AU-EU partnership based on a clear understanding of mutual interests and shared responses to global challenges. One outcome of this was a Summit’s Communique that will be complemented by an ambitious EU-Africa Investment Package, focused on addressing global challenges such as climate change and the current health crisis.

Earlier this year, members of the MECS management group attended a meeting organized by the Africa-Europe Foundation (AEF), a consortium entity co-founded by Friends of Europe and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, in partnership with the African Climate Foundation and the ONE Campaign. The meeting brought together diverse African and European stakeholders to discuss their hopes for the summit with particular reference to cooperation over climate and energy (report of the Session is available here). Following the high-level commitments to end the financing of fossil fuel at COP26, much of the discussion in this event focused around the need for Europe and the wider Western world to (a) live up to their previous commitments around the financing of low carbon transitions across the Global South and (b) to play by the same carbon/climate rules that they seem to be requiring of their African partners.

On the latter, Mo Ibrahim, co-founder of the AEF, highlighted how Europe is “wallowing in gas” and yet “refuses to fund gas projects in African countries.” There was a lot of discussion about this point and its significance to the future direction of African/European relations. What was made very clear was that if the advances made in Glasgow are to achieve both meaningful decarbonisation and sustainable African development then dialogues such as the AU/EU summit need to focus strongly on how to operationalise the COP26 outcomes via long-term partnerships built on sustainable costed transition pathways that adequately consider questions of loss and damage and pay equal attention to economic development alongside decarbonisation.

One key issue which came up several times in the January meeting was why so little progress has been made on clean cooking in Africa. Building on their framing of a Clean Cooking Manifesto last year, to which MECS actively contributed, the AEF followed up the January meeting by drafting a Call for African and European leaders to use the momentum from the Summit to massively accelerate Africa’s transition to universal access to clean cooking. This call argued that the “AU-EU Summit provides a unique occasion to make momentous progress on climate protection, health, the environment, and women’s empowerment” and that “ambitious commitments and concrete actions to achieve universal access to clean cooking are the most significant levers to achieving both climate and development goals.”

MECS firmly supports this call to urgent action. Below we share and comment upon the five Immediate actions that it called upon African and European leaders to take in the aftermath of the Summit:

  1. Create and resource governmental clean cooking ‘delivery units’ that can lead and coordinate clean cooking efforts across agencies and departments.

We strongly support this goal and MECS is already engaging closely with a number of governments in supporting their transition towards modern energy cooking services and working to ensure greater integration of cooking within wider energy and climate agendas, MECS believes overcoming the ‘mutual neglect’ (Newell & Daley 2022) that exists between ‘electricity access’ and ‘clean cooking’ is fundamental to unlocking scaled uptake of modern energy cooking. Coordinated international support for governments is absolutely crucial to accelerating clean cooking transitions in Africa, however, we see this not necessarily just in terms of securing stand-alone funding for these delivery units but also as a mechanism for leveraging broader energy and climate funding towards cooking goals. AEF put it well in their earlier Clean Cooking Manifesto (2021) when they identified an immediate action as “build stronger partnerships with the electricity sector to advance electric cooking.” European assistance in this area could focus on supporting African governments in ensuring that the newly announced funding for electricity system transitions is utilised to accelerate the uptake of eCooking.

  1. Integrate clean cooking more effectively into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and national energy planning.

With the growing international commitments to decarbonisation, it is really important that clean cooking solutions are included within the negotiation and agreement of nationally determined contributions and that African countries are supported to ensure that low carbon cooking solutions are made available for all and not just those that can most easily afford to purchase them. This is an important element of “ensuring a just energy transition that leaves no one behind” which was also a central argument of the AEF’s Clean Cooking Manifesto (AEF 2021), which noted that “given technology developments it is now possible to build intrinsic climate and development ambitions as complementary goals”.

  1. Enact favourable and stable fiscal policies to sustain business growth and increase affordability.

This is massively important. As argued in the AEF Call to Action, “given the multiple social, health, environmental, and developmental benefits associated with clean cooking, deploying innovative supply and targeted demand-side subsidies is justified to enable wider access, as has been the case in the off-grid solar sector.” It is not just justified, it is essential to any real vision for scaling modern energy cooking. Lessons could be learned from the electricity sector which has long operated social tariffs that could be adjusted or expanded to support the growth of eCooking (which, for example, has recently occurred through the use of a specific cooking tariff in Uganda (insert link Uganda blog). Finally, there is a strong case for the progressive redeployment of fossil fuel subsidies towards promoting access to cleaner alternatives.

  1. Increase funding to match the magnitude of the clean cooking challenge.

Whilst we thoroughly support the AEF’s assertion that clean cooking must rise up the funding agenda of national government spending priorities and should be targeted specifically by international providers of concessional finance and blended finance solutions, we also think that it is equally important to emphasize the massive amounts of resources that are already invested in the expansion and strengthening of electricity infrastructure that could be deployed for the promotion of eCooking. Tremendous progress could be made if just a small portion of the resourcing of grid extension and enhancement could be directed towards ensuring that grids can support electric cooking and incentivising the use of energy-efficient cooking appliances.

  1. Enable sustainable market conditions that deliver clean and affordable clean cooking solutions.

Electric cooking and other low carbon alternatives are poised to scale. We agree with the AEF that “results-based financing (RBF), including carbon finance and use of carbon offsets – will be critical to addressing the funding needs of enterprises and the affordability gap for consumers” and that further “resources for evidence-based research and evaluation would ensure effective targeting of activities.”

The AEF’s clear call for action was placed in front of African and European leaders during the summit. At the summit the EU revealed plans for a significant expansion in European support for Africa. The new Africa-Europe programme is the first regional plan under the EU’s new big investment strategy, Global Gateway. It will bring together more than EUR 150 billion of European investment into Africa. A significant component of this is being targeted at the energy sector under the EU-Africa Green Energy Initiative which is designed “to support Africa’s green transition in the energy sector by increasing renewable energy capacity; increasing the number of African people gaining access to affordable and reliable energy; promoting sustainable energy uses and supporting market integration and sector reforms.” (European Union, 2022, EU-Africa: Global Gateway Investment Package – Green Energy Initiative).

We join the AEF and other major stakeholders in calling on the leadership of both continents to ensure that this dramatic reinvigoration of European action and funding for African energy systems does not miss the opportunity to take concerted action to finally “ensure the 1 billion Africans that currently lack clean cooking solutions have the means to prepare food in a safe, clean and affordable way”, as highlighted in the Call to action.

One way that this could be done particularly easily is by ensuring that the massive investment in renewables announced at the summit is deployed in such a way that it explicitly delivers a ground-breaking acceleration in the scaling of eCooking across Africa.

“There is so much which can be achieved. We know what the solutions are. The time to act is now“ (AEF Call to action).

For the MECS 40, 60 by 2030 call for action please click here.

Please follow this link for a summary of the MECS advocation of eCooking.

Our new report on the Funding Landscape for Clean Cooking is available here. Please click here to register for the Webinar on this report, which is taking place on 8th of March.


Cover photo: ©lovelyday12 via

Opportunity: Women in Modern Energy Cooking (WMEC) initiative launched