Kenya Wants Africa to Sell Green Solutions at COP, Not Seek Aid

At a summit in Nairobi this week, Kenya’s President William Ruto is encouraging African leaders to offer the continent’s abundant sun, wind and green mineral sources as energy solutions at the UN climate conference COP28.

(Bloomberg) —

As leaders convene in Nairobi for Africa’s first climate summit, Kenya’s president William Ruto is making it clear how he wants the world’s least developed continent to approach this year’s crucial United Nations climate summit.  

While African nations still rightfully bemoan the fact they contribute very little greenhouse gas emissions and disproportionately suffer the consequences of global warming, Ruto wants the continent to put itself forward as a potential source of green energy.

Read More: Africa Offers Global Warming Solution in 1st Climate Declaration

The Kenyan president has been increasingly presenting himself as Africa’s climate champion. In addition to convening the inaugural summit, Ruto, 56, has spent his first year in office extolling Kenya’s green credentials — 92% of its power comes from renewable sources — and urging other African leaders to forsake fossil fuels. He’s also called for reform of the global financial system to provide the money needed to fund climate resilience and low-carbon development, and this year has begun campaigning for Africa to get more money from carbon markets.

“We bear the brunt of the crisis despite contributing the least to global warming, but we have chosen to lead by putting forward solutions that also support development across our continent,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter, on the opening day of the summit on Monday. “Africa has ample renewable energy potential and resources to green its own consumption and meaningfully contribute to decarbonization of the global economy.”

To be sure it won’t be as easy for other African nations to follow Ruto’s path. Kenya is blessed with ample geothermal resources and it has few significant fossil fuel reserves, unlike the oil-dependent economies of Nigeria and Angola and emerging gas producers, Mozambique and Senegal. Macky Sall, Senegal’s president, and Muhammadu Buhari, who stepped down as Nigeria’s president this year, have both insisted on the right of Africa to develop its hydrocarbon deposits.

Read More: Africa’s Headed for a Climate Showdown With Rich Nations

Nevertheless, Ruto’s calls have struck a chord on a continent that has the wind and solar potential to supply its own power needs many times over and a significant number of the green minerals needed for the global energy transition.  

An early draft of the planned declaration from the summit sets ambitious targets for ramping up renewable energy production and urging a green pathway for the economic development of the continent, which may one day supply Europe with green hydrogen and its derivatives.

Read More: Germany Backs Kenya Hydrogen in Raft of African Climate Pledges

“This could be a new departure for relationships between developed and developing economies,” said Dileimy Orozco, a senior policy adviser at E3G, an independent climate think tank. “This could signal the intent of African leaders to be shapers rather than takers of the global financial system.”

Read More: Netherlands Pushes for Foothold in Southern African Hydrogen

While Ruto may be pushing African nations to look towards energy partnerships, rather than just handouts, the continent is woefully short of the climate finance it needs. This tension has led to continuous debates between richer and poorer nations at UN climate talks, and the argument is likely to be stirred up again at COP28 climate talks in Dubai later this year.

A study released by the Global Center on Adaptation on Tuesday estimates that the continent needs as much as a tenfold increase in climate adaptation funding to $100 billion a year to buttress its infrastructure and protect its agriculture against climate change.

Read More: Africa Needs Over $100 Billion a Year for Climate Adaptation

Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Jinapor, acknowledged that Africa needs to transition toward greener energy and public transportation systems, but not every country is financially prepared. “All of those cost money,” he said.

To date, developed economies have never fully honored their pledge to provide the developing world with $100 billion in climate finance a year by 2020 — a promise made at a COP meeting in Copenhagen in 2009.

Initially wealthy countries responsible for the most historical emissions were asked to contribute. Now, Jinapor said, the pool of contributors should be wider and should include China, the world’s biggest source of climate-warming gases. 

“They should be doing more, but not just China,” he said. “BRICS, all of them I believe, should have a role to play in mobilizing the needed financing to back and promote climate action, particularly climate action as it exclusively relates to Africa,” Jinapor said in reference to the grouping of large emerging market economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Still, world leaders — especially in Europe — are hoping Africa takes this moment to industrialize in a fashion that doesn’t harm the climate. Germany and the Netherlands have been plowing money into developing green hydrogen on the continent, as Europe looks to diversify its sources of energy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Barbel Kofler, state secretary to Germany’s economic cooperation minister, said it’s a positive sign that Africa — a continent so badly suffering from climate change already — is showing serious initiative in offering solutions to the global warming crisis.

 “That is something new and that hopefully will push the COP in a positive direction,” she said. 

More stories like this are available on

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.