Africa in $12bn energy deal as conservationists raise red flag over dams

Jun 01, 2016 12:00 AM

Africa was presented with its largest energy deal ever - a $12 billion package from the Africa Development Bank - as some leaders fought off pressure from environmentalists concerned about the threat of an impending construction boom of power dams, reiterating their position that the continent was simply tired of being in the dark.

Under the new deal, which was announced during the ADB's annual meeting in Lusaka last week, which ran under the theme Energy and Climate Change, the bank will spend $12 billion over five years. In addition, the bank will leverage at least $40 billion from other private sector players, such as sovereign wealth funds, private equity funds and pension funds, to invest in the energy sector as it tries to meet one of the key components in its High Five development agenda.

The High Five agenda includes: Light up Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life.

But with the threat of drastic weather changes such as droughts and floods, some conservationists say the construction of power dams will add to a problem that is already getting out of hand, inflicting devastating impact on Africa's poor.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, and an ardent environmentalist, cautioned African governments to think of the poor and how they bare the deepest impact of climate change. She said the development of sources of energy in Africa that are not clean, such as coal, will go further to increase the problem of climate change.

Some African leaders did not fall for this vibe.

"I am an environmentalist," Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, said at a panel of discussion over the new energy deal, before adding: "But I will not keep the environment clean at the expense of keeping poverty in Africa."

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