Written by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Africa’s elite are strongly against rich countries remaining solely reliant on fossil fuels, experts and politicians say.
This week, the annual edition of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s Global Shapers Summit in Cape Town brought together nearly 500 students and young leaders from across Africa, South Asia and Latin America to discuss topics ranging from innovation in agriculture to women’s rights.
“I would say what people are taking from this summit is that to move forward, in Africa and in the world, we need to reduce dependency on oil, gas and minerals,” Amal Ghosn, deputy director for policy and government affairs at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, told CNN before the summit kicked off on Monday.
“That means countries and leaders need to become innovative.”
To spark innovation on the continent, the Fund, a New York-based nonprofit, has joined forces with 30 companies, including Alphabet’s Google, Dangote Cement and Max Air — which hopes to become Africa’s first aeronautical airline — and is dedicated to projects in energy, agriculture, finance and technology.
Before her keynote speech, a woman delivering a paper sent the delegates this message: “Imagine a world without water, where we are ever more dependent on water pumps. Are we prepared to deal with the pressure and water distribution challenges? Is it possible that children and adults can no longer remember the lack of water we had to cope with in our lives? Are we ready to let these fears to guide us and paralyze us? #WaterForAll.”
But sustainability will only be achieved by convincing countries to abandon their dependence on fossil fuels, said Emmanuel Nandzie, the fund’s Africa investment director.
“The really clever countries — those of us in Europe that use solar and electric cars — we knew we could do that, but when it comes to Africa’s economies, we realize that fossil fuels are even cheaper and more resourceful,” he said.
“We can’t tell other countries like Angola that they need to do something that is cheaper.”
“Globally, the problem is going to be shared responsibility,” he said. “Oil has been a partner for a long time, but that is a recognition that we’re in a race to address climate change and we need to move as fast as possible to become less dependent on fossil fuels.”
“For young people, there is something very attractive about energy alternatives, they will pay less money. They can now sit and chat and play instead of boiling water. What is encouraging is that this trend is accelerating and I believe that the future is renewable.”
Ghosn added that Africa must overcome “deep fears” of its peoples to move forward with renewable energy in areas such as agriculture, which could see some of its industries become more competitive with other parts of the world.
She also encouraged young people to explore their own ideas.
“To get technology going here on the continent — and technology brings the most competitive elements of the economy — this is where the future is at,” she said.
“So you’re in a uniquely powerful position to actually move Africa toward a more exciting future.”
“In terms of the women’s rights and environmental justice issues, these are not areas that people really think are worth addressing. You have leaders who set targets but what happens over time and the funding to implement these targets needs to change,” she said.