Six African countries recently formally launched the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance, with the goal of making their continent a frontrunner in the race to develop green hydrogen, accelerating the transition away from reliance on fossil fuels and toward new energy technologies that provide everyone with access to clean, affordable energy.
In forming the Alliance, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritania intend to foster collaboration on creating a sustainable enabling environment to supercharge green hydrogen development. This includes development of public and regulatory policy, capacity building, financing and certification needs to mobilise green hydrogen production for domestic use and export. Following initial discussions at COP26, the Alliance is now inviting more countries to join in this effort, responding to the opportunities presented by lower cost renewables, fast-developing electrolyser technology, and signals in some major markets that green hydrogen demand is likely to emerge at scale this decade.
The countries formally launched the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance at the first-ever Green Hydrogen Global Assembly in Barcelona, with support from the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, the Green Hydrogen Organisation, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
Green hydrogen, produced with renewable power, has the potential to rapidly decarbonise hard-to-abate industrial sectors such as steel, chemicals, fertilisers, shipping and trucking. Many African countries are well-suited to develop green hydrogen, with strong solar and wind energy potential and large tranches of non-arable land. This could provide Africans with new access to clean energy sources, job opportunities in the zero-emission economy, public health benefits such as cleaner air, domestic wealth creation and export revenues.
For example, South Africa’s goal to deploy 10 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity in the Northern Cape and around 500 kilotons of hydrogen per year by 2030 is forecast to create 20,000 jobs per year by then and 30,000 by 2040. Namibia’s planned US$9.4 billion green hydrogen project is expected to create 15,000 jobs during construction and 3,000 permanent positions – 90% to be filled by Namibians. Projects are also planned in Egypt, Mauritania and Morocco.
However, developing green hydrogen at scale and reducing its production costs will require cooperation and collaboration across governments, businesses, investors, multilateral development banks, civil society, technical and academic experts and others. Governance will also be key, with transparency and accountability central to ensuring the green hydrogen sector avoids the pitfalls that have plagued extractive industries on the continent for so long.
The launch of the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance marks a first important step in driving this development in Africa. The six founding countries intend to make the Alliance a platform for collaborating on workstreams, exploring synergies between green hydrogen projects, sharing lessons learned, and research and development, as well as collaborating with the private sector, development finance institutions and civil society.
UN Climate Change High-Level Champions Nigel Topping and Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin said: “With its huge renewable energy resource wealth and land space, Africa has a chance to become a frontrunner in this burgeoning green hydrogen industry, creating zero-emission jobs, domestic energy supplies and export revenues fit for a decarbonised future. But to get there, we need radical collaboration across the governments, the private sector and civil society to set the right policy and investment frameworks, and we need to secure long-term offtake agreements. The Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance will go a long way in fostering these developments.”
Green Hydrogen Organisation CEO Jonas Moberg said: “Green hydrogen is key to Africa’s shift to green energy. It must provide energy for Africa’s growing population and industrial needs. It will also offer a major export opportunity for the continent. Capacity to govern this key part of the energy transition is needed. We need to learn from each other and coordination is needed across government, industry and civil society.This is why we are delighted to provide a secretariat to the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance.”