In Sub-Saharan Africa, 567 million people lack access to electricity — that makes up 80% of the global population facing this issue. On top of these struggles, Africa is also experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change, with rising temperatures and extreme weather threatening human health, food and water security.

At the same time, Africa has an abundance of resources, and with the right policies, financing and planning, it has the potential to provide clean energy and economic development. But very few African countries currently have plans in place to use these resources to transition to a reliable, clean energy system. And in many cases, there is little country-specific research to inform development.

New research from WRI established that gaps in research and in coordination are stifling energy transitions in African countries, sparking WRI’s partnership with other major institutions — the African Energy Commission (AFREC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) — to create a platform for developing, sharing and implementing country-level energy transition plans in Africa. Launched at the 2023 UN climate summit (COP28) in Dubai, African Energy Dialogues (AED) is raising the visibility and increasing the influence of African perspectives in the global discourse about African energy transitions. Its purpose is to create actionable recommendations on broadening clean energy use across the continent.

The launch event opened with a keynote address from respected author and economist Dr. Carlos Lopes, who shared his views on the important role AED can play. According to Dr. Lopes, the AED has a unique opportunity to address the diverse challenges of African energy transitions: Tackling energy access as a priority, the role of renewable and non-renewable energy, the role of Africa in the new global economy, and strategies to ensure a just transition.

Lopes said, “The most important message is to be clear that we can no longer discuss development without climate, and we can no longer discuss climate without development. We have to stop seeing these competing with one another."

Dr. Lopes noted that Africa’s economies have developed largely based on Official Development Assistance (ODA) — but that ODA funding has been reducing with time. There is a need to reduce reliance on ODA and retain economic benefit of domestic investments within African countries. Through its Investment and Finance Working Group, AED will develop and share a roadmap of how African countries can move beyond ODA and increase domestic investments in the energy sector, based on real return on investment and a strong economic case.

The African Energy Commission (AFREC)’s Head of Policy and Strategy, Yagouba Traore, called on AED to provide a space for African countries to share information and experience, as well as a platform to amplify African narratives, positions and agendas on the energy transition and importantly, energy access.

Traore said, “We need to work together to mobilize the necessary resources to develop the energy sector. We believe a platform like this can really provide a way to fast track all the elements.” He added, “We support it and invite all stakeholders to join us so we can provide energy and clean cooking fuels and technology to those who don't have them.”

Linus Mofor, Senior Environmental Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), also urged those involved in Africa’s energy transition to be part of the AED. He emphasized the importance of platforms like AED to take ownership of Africa’s transition.

“There has always been a very patronizing approach to Africa. When it comes to the energy transition, Africa will decide, it will do it in its own way and consider all options,” Mofor said.

Mofor also noted that the work of AED can provide evidence to support African countries in charting a path that draws on the African Common Position on Energy Access and Transition and also takes into account African countries’ individual circumstances.

Lanre Shasore, Senior Adviser, Energy Transition Planning, Africa at SEforAll echoed the call for African voices to lead the discussion about their own energy transitions. She described Africa’s journey not as a transition story, but as a growth story and raised a key question for AED: What does a net zero world mean for economies like those in Africa? Shasore also urged AED to provide a platform for nuanced conversation on energy transitions, led by African voices.

Rebekah Shirley, WRI Africa’s Deputy Director agreed that through initiatives like AED, “We’re not only singing from the same hymn book, we’re writing our own hymn.”

Looking ahead, AED will form working groups and task forces on energy transition topics (including investment and finance, enabling policies and regulation, and technologies and infrastructure), support individual countries to develop energy transition pathways, share knowledge and best practice to improve understanding of African countries’ energy systems, and elevate African perspectives in the global debates on energy transitions. AED is actively seeking participation from individuals and organizations based in all African countries and all areas of expertise, including research, policy energy planning, infrastructure, finance and investment.

To find out how to get involved, visit or contact the team.