Green hydrogen instead of well construction: the new EU-Africa strategy

Brussels You could already see that Africa had gained geopolitical importance on the first official trip to Ursula von der Leyens: the new EU Commission President did not lead it to Washington, but to Addis Ababa. The African Union is located in the Ethiopian capital. The international organization from 55 African countries is to become a key partner of the EU in the future.

The EU wants to move away from classic development policy towards strategic partnerships with accompanying large investments. The financing of nationwide energy and digital infrastructure should lead to state stability and economic prosperity – and thus avoid causes of flight. This follows from the draft of the EU’s Africa strategy, which is to be presented this Monday. The draft of the paper is available to the Handelsblatt.

It’s also about global power poker: “We see geopolitical competition in the world,” said EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, in Brussels last Friday. “Many great powers are also active in Africa.” She cited Russia, India, the Gulf States, the USA and China as examples.

China’s activities in particular are displeasing to Europeans: Although the Chinese financing volume is still far below that of Europeans (according to the latest figures, EUR 222 billion compared to EUR 38 billion), China’s investment strategy is not in the European interest. Beijing does not create jobs on the spot, but brings its own people with it, is not interested in human rights or in negative effects on the environment and climate.

Africa strategy should help implement the Green Deal

Commissioner Urpilainen cites “the global megatrends of climate change and digitization” as further reasons why the EU Commission has rushed to submit its political paper on the new Africa relations as soon as possible after taking office.

The EU wants to be climate neutral by 2050, the climate plans submitted by the member states are not sufficient. And the EU will not be able to meet its energy needs with home-generated renewable energies. So it will be dependent on imports.

Africa offers itself as an energy supplier in this regard: there is a lot of space, highly sun-intensive areas, wind and water. It could also be used to produce hydrogen.

Germany has already announced that cooperation with Africa on green hydrogen will be a priority in the second half of 2020, when Germany holds the EU Council Presidency. In mid-February, Research Minister Anja Karliczek launched a partnership with 15 West African countries.

They are supposed to produce hydrogen and, if possible, also export to Germany. “Africa is a continent of opportunities, and green hydrogen as the oil of tomorrow is one of the greatest opportunities,” Karliczek said. She appeared with the Nigerian Minister of Research Yahouza Sadissou, who spoke of the focus initially on Africa’s own hydrogen needs.

Huge investments and political cooperation are necessary before countries like Niger can become hydrogen exporters. There is an abundance of solar energy in Niger. But the country is a landlocked country and there is no easy access to water. And water is needed for hydrogen production.

If these hurdles are overcome, electricity and hydrogen production could offer the country a perspective in which child labor has been widespread so far, the birth rate is 7.4 children per woman and literacy is lower than in any other country World.

“This strategy is about re-telling the history of Africa,” summarizes Uriplainen.

More: Minister of Research Anja Karliczek and hydrogen expert Robert Schlögl discuss the opportunities and risks of a hydrogen economy in an interview with Handelsblatt – and urge them to hurry.

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