Partnerships Key To Ensuring Africa’s ‘Just Transition’ Is Successful

Published 1 year ago
Shameel sitting down

Shameel Joosub, CEO of the Vodacom Group, outlines the tensions between Africa’s development realities and the necessity of Just Transition, while highlighting corporate’s role in transforming to a green economy.

South Africa’s overreliance on coal has cemented the country as a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Africa. Over 80% of South Africa’s electricity comes from coal. This has a negative impact on the environment, and the exposure to other pollutants and toxic chemicals emitted by coal plants is also harmful to human health and linked to illnesses like asthma, bronchitis and even lung cancer.

Combine these realities with the rolling blackouts that have plagued the country for well over a decade and it is imperative that changes are made. How do we successfully move away from coal without negatively impacting the many businesses, communities and individuals who depend on the energy sector for their livelihoods? By prioritising a ‘Just Transition’.


Ensuring a just transition that fully considers affected stakeholders demands dialogue. Dialogue between the workforce, unions, policymakers, businesses, supply chains, government, and communities. These parties must all be engaged to guarantee that the transition to a green economy happens with human rights in mind. Furthermore, it is critical that marginalized and under-represented groups of society – the youth, women, the informal sector and people with disabilities – participate in these discussions.

Considering Africa’s development realities

In the African context, a just transition must be grounded in the continent’s development reality. Given the fact that global warming disproportionately affects poverty stricken communities and countries with lower levels of GDP, it is equally imperative that our dependency on energy sources that have a negative impact on our environment is reduced at an accelerated pace.

Balancing the need for a speedy transition with the need to execute this shift justly requires global, national and local collaboration. These partnerships must develop solutions that address the challenges faced by countries that are currently more focused on poverty alleviation and job creation than decarbonising their economies. Job losses are not a natural consequence of climate policies, but the consequence of meagre investment, limited social legislation and a lack of planning around the implementation of policies. If executed correctly, Africa’s move to a more sustainable future has potential to create decent jobs and improve the quality of life by preserving our natural resources and lowering our impact on the planet. So much so that the transition to clean energy is expected to create as much as 10.3 million net new jobs globally by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum. And there is also potential for existing blue collar workers to be upskilled and hired in other work.

Several African countries have already made steps in the right direction. At COP26 in 2021, a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) was formed between South Africa, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. As part of this partnership, $8.5 billon in financing is being channelled to support a just and equitable energy transition in South Africa. More recently, France and Germany have promised an additional €300 million each in concessional financing to help South Africa accelerate the decarbonisation of our economy.


In the DRC, Tanzania and Mozambique, governments acknowledge the importance of a just transition and progress is happening. In Mozambique, for example, government has set a goal to provide access to clean power for all citizens by 2030. They plan to do so by leveraging the country’s abundant renewable energy sources. But when cyclone Idai partly destroyed Mozambique’s Mavuzi and Chicamba hydropower plants, these efforts were hampered. Fortunately Germany, France and Sweden stepped in to help finance the rehabilitation of the country’s important renewable infrastructure.

Balancing climate action and social imperatives on a continent with vast inequality is a significant challenge but solvable if decisive action is taken. Yes, African countries should have a right to use their

natural resources to uplift economies and boost development, but this must be done sustainably. While financing is important, it is essential that developed and other high emitting nations, who are disproportionality responsible for climate change, contribute to the historic COP27 loss and damage fund. In addition, these nations should also provide access to technology, education, social support and skills and help Africa develop new economic opportunities and create jobs.

The role of corporates in the just transition

There is a global call for businesses to create net-zero plans and set science-based targets in line with a 1.5 degree pathway. A just transition is an imperative part of these plans.


To understand the role that corporates could play, Vodacom most recently collaborated with Eskom to pilot a solution where the private sector would be encouraged to help solve the country’s intermittent power challenges. This partnership is also about making a transition of the South African power infrastructure to include more renewable energy sources. At COP27, Vodafone Egypt and the Egyptian New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) signed a memorandum of understanding to initiate discussions on the potential use of renewable electricity generated by the Authority’s projects to feed its network.

In other countries of operation, Vodacom is working to help local economies and empower surrounding communities by providing telecommunications and other technology services. Mini and microgrid solutions not only provide clean power for Vodacom’s operations but also for the community who can purchase surplus energy through M-Pesa. This gives local communities access to electricity, which otherwise would not be available; the knock-on effect of which is the creation of new businesses and job opportunities.

As a technology and innovation business, Vodacom can connect government and industry with the technology they need to improve efficiencies and productivity and positively effect change in communities disproportionally affected by climate change.

The just transition will not happen by itself. It requires plans and policies and active engagement from all groups of society. It demands that we all become agents of change, especially those that are more fortunate to influence and effect change. We recognise that this will not be easy, however our futures are at stake and so we must respond appropriately. I had the privilege of attending COP27 in Egypt last year and was encouraged by the discussions that were had and the commitments that came out of the event both from governments and the private sector. For me, these conversations underpin the fact that we have to work together to address this global crisis so that we can succeed in ensuring that our move to a greener world is just and equitable for everyone involved


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