COVID-19 and the ‘Great Reset’: Responding to Energy Transition and Sustainable Development Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa

Theophilus Acheampong* (Corresponding Author), Bridget Okyerebea Menyeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has profoundly impacted economies, disrupted energy markets, and catalysed the pace of the energy transition with more ambitious ‘green growth’ initiatives being announced by several countries and regions. In the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) context, the pandemic has exacerbated the fragility of its economies, causing the region’s first recession in many decades and its largest economic contraction on record. This article
critically analyses what the energy transition means for developing Sub-Saharan Africa’s energy and extractives industry – mining and oil and gas industry – and the attainment of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, and SDG 13 on climate action. We undertake a state-of-play analysis on the attainment of these two SDGs in the sub-region, based on the following timescales: pre-pandemic (2000-2019), during the pandemic (2020-2021), and likely post-pandemic trajectory. Our findings show that fiscal constraints during the pandemic meant that several SSA countries could not implement adaptation and climate resilience measures, which were already struggling for funding prepandemic. Even more so, SSA also faces acute multidimensional energy poverty, made more onerous by the pandemic and prior economic dislocations such as the 2014-2017 commodities price slump. Nevertheless, in the context of the energy transition and attainment of the SDGs,
SSA governments are increasingly prioritising their transition responses premised on using both conventional and renewable energy resources at their disposal. This approach also balances national priorities such as increasing energy access, industrialisation, and economic diversification. In an increasingly decarbonising world, SSA may have offer a higher ‘transition risk premium’ on oil and gas projects due increassing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) pressures, else it would struggle to find investors. The opposite is likely to
be the case for mining, aside known country risk factors. Recognising that transitions can create winners and losers and magnify the struggles of vulnerable groups, policymarkers and industry stakeholders need to ensure that citizens are equipped with new skillsets to take up the new opportunities that the transition presents. Pursuing this requires strong coordination of energy and industrial policies at the Pan-African, regional and country levels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOil, Gas & Energy Law Intelligence
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021


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