- Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says African nations should not be coerced into taking missteps by being pressured to rapidly abandon fossil fuels
- Mantashe’s speech was the first he has made since SA secured a R131 billion deal to phase-out coal at the ongoing COP26 conference
- Mantashe also criticised global agreements to move away from fossil fuels as "hollow"
Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has called on African nations to urgently form a united front to resist global pressure to rapidly abandon fossil fuels.
Addressing the African Energy Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Mantashe said there had been a preoccupation with Africa to move away from its rich oil and gas resources, yet the continent is one of the least polluting.
"This is a sign of unsettlement by the rich countries, where we are converted into conduits of ideas of developed economies," he said.
"Our continent collectively, and her individual countries is made to bear the brunt for heavy polluters. We are being pressured, even compelled, to move away from all forms of fossil fuels, including resources such as gas, which have been regarded as key resource for industrialization … I think Africa must get together to develop a strategy to deal with this reality. Africa must seize the moment, we must indeed position Africa oil and gas at the forefront of global energy growth."
Mantashe’s speech was the first he has made since South Africa secured a R131 billion coal phase out deal United States, Germany, Britain and France at the UN Climate Change Conference known as COP26, which is ongoing in Glasgow.
The cutting of financing for coal, oil and even gas – as is the case amongst the world’s largest lenders – is a mistake, Mantashe said. The development of Africa should be piloted by the continent itself, and it should not be "coerced to take missteps", he said.
In this aim, countries should work to establish an African finance arm to raise capital for investments in oil and gas on the continent. Mantashe further suggested intra-African trade of fossil fuels should be prioritised.
"As we move from what we know, to the unknown. We navigate that transition pragmatically and systematically," he said. "We don't jump, we don’t swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other."
Mantashe also criticised global agreements to move away from fossil fuels as "hollow" as countries shift deadlines to shut coal, oil and gas industries. Others have backtracked, he said.
"We've noticed with interest that when Britain, when China when India, when Australia ran into [an] energy crisis, they all appealed to coal generation to give them more energy. You will notice that, but when they talk to us they say stop using coal immediately. That is the issue that we must discuss without fear."
The minister, whose speech was well-received by the applauding audience at the oil and gas -oriented conference, said South Africa’s energy policy committed the country to transitioning to a low carbon economy, with use of a combination of technologies. That, he noted, includes coal. Nuclear too, must remain under consideration if the country is to reach "net zero" , or carbon neutrality, in a manner that fosters national economic growth through development and industrialisation, Mantashe said.