African countries used as guinea pigs for energy experiments, Mantashe says ahead of COP27

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Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.
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  • Minister Gwede Mantashe said South Africa and other African nations should be able to determine their own energy transition.
  • He said rich nations were trying to "experiment" with energy transition solutions by imposing them on African states when they provided funding.
  • He said while South Africa needed to transition, it had to ensure that the solution ended "energy poverty" in the country.
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Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said developed economies offering energy transition finance to African economies were using them as "guinea pigs" on which to perform energy experiments.

Mantashe was addressing the Africa Energy Week in Cape Town on Tuesday afternoon. The address comes ahead of a crucial COP27 meeting in Egypt in November, where SA is expected to present the plan for $8.5 billion in concessional loans and grants pledged at COP26 last year to help South Africa decarbonise its economy.

The address also comes after the minister's keynote address to the Africa Oil Week and the 2022 Windaba earlier this month, where he criticised developed economies for trying to determine the terms of the energy transition in African countries.

Mantashe told delegates that advanced economies were looking to impose solutions on African countries for energy even though the African continent contributed less than 5% of global emissions despite having a population of over a billion.

"Developed countries sometimes want to use our individual countries as guinea pigs for experimenting. It's painful, I must say that because when that happens, you get encircled … as a smaller economy, you forced to be a conduit of the ideas of others, you can't think, you can't be original," said Mantashe.

Regarding the return of load shedding at Stage 4 on Tuesday morning, Mantashe said South Africans' frustration could make them lose sight of the progress the country has made in increasing access to electricity, to the point where 87% of the country is electrified in some capacity.

"I can confess here that I left my high school without ever seeing electricity in my home. I never saw it. I was using lampies [lamps] - put a tin and put a twine, light it, and study. That's how we grew up. All of us. And once you have access to electricity, you see the difference in terms of the convenience of living. That's why people become angry when there is load shedding.

"Africans are suffering from energy poverty and this has been the case for too long that we tend to forget that energy poverty is an anomaly. We must turn this anomaly around, Africa must no longer wait. Changing this abnormality requires greater levels of commitment than before," he said.

Referring to veteran journalist and the event's moderator, Eleni Giokos, Mantashe said: "Eleni (Giokos) was talking about Emalahleni. That's where she was born. I said to her, 'Eleni, ten towns in Mpumalanga are in a continuous coal mining area'. Ten of them. For those who are from South Africa and those who want to visit, please check Belfast, check Ermelo, check Hendrina, check Ogies, check Middelburg, check Emalahleni, check Leandra, Kriel, you go to Delmas. All those towns are in one continuous mining region and if you just switch off [from coal], you are not considering the communities that are there".

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