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Africa's Energy Transition Needs Cash

Wind farms like this array of turbines near Tangiers, Morocco, present a renewable energy alternative to traditional sources of electricity in Africa.

Africa's transition to cleaner fuels and power generation presents investors with opportunities across the value chain, but more direct financing is needed on projects, the head of a South African independent power producer, said on Thursday.

Brian Dames, chief executive officer of African Rainbow Energy & Power, said the shift to cleaner energy in South Africa for example, meant a massive addition of new generation capacity with strong growth potential.

"South Africa quite simply has to add more than 50,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity. Most of that is going to be renewables," said Dames, speaking on a panel at the Reuters NEXT conference.

Africa's most industrialized nation is going through record power outages this year as its unstable coal-fired power stations, which account for more than 70% of generation capacity of around 58,000 MW, struggle to meet demand.

The South African government aims to curb the share of coal in its power generation to around 38% by 2031, decommissioning old plants, and ramping up wind, solar and gas generation to around 47% during the period, according to a plan presented to parliament by state utility Eskom.

Pretoria has unveiled a five-year $84 billion transition plan to cut carbon emissions and harness other economic opportunities from the energy transition.

"We want to build an African energy champion based on clean energy. We have projects of around 2.8 gigawatts (GW) that we are going to close next year," Dames said, adding that the company was eyeing electricity trading and expanding in other African countries.

However, a key question that remains to be answered on African's energy transition and its capacity to adapt to the impact of climate change, is that of finance.

Despite pledges by developed nations, governments and companies have seen little direct financial inflows into projects in Africa, Dames said, adding that there were still constraints on getting finance to the continent.

Anibor Kragha, executive secretary of the African Refiners and Distributors Association, acknowledged that projects on the continent were struggling to tap available finance for energy transition.

"We need to have a pool of capital designated for decarbonization projects for Africa that can go beyond the commercial banks to the development finance institutions, so that we can actually execute in a meaningful and sustainable manner," Kragha said while speaking on the same panel.

"Any project without financing is just an idea," said Kragha,