NAIROBI – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UN Secretary General António Guterres joined more than 20 African leaders at the Africa Climate Summit on Tuesday. 

The only Western leader to attend the summit, von der Leyen used a keynote address to call for closer ties between the EU and Africa. 

“Today I am here not only to listen to you but also to bring Europe’s offer to be your ally at COP28, and to work together on all issues on the agenda,” she said.

She added that Europe wants to be Africa’s “partner” in closing its clean energy investment gap, pointing out that half of Europe’s €300bn ($322bn) foreign investment plan, called Global Gateway, will be directed to African countries. 

“We are not only interested in extracting resources,” von der Leyen said. “We want to partner with you to create local value chains in Africa. We want to share European technology with you. We want to invest in skills for local workers.”

Later on Tuesday, von der Leyen joined Kenyan President William Ruto to launch Kenya’s Green Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, which is being supported by Global Gateway.

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By GlobalData

The Roadmap sets out Kenya’s ambitions to develop its green hydrogen industry. It focuses on domestic market development and growth, exports, and includes specific objectives related to emission reduction, job creation and direct investments.

The EU is committing almost €12m in grants to leverage public and private investments in the Kenyan green hydrogen industry. Overall, it has said it will invest €3.4bn in climate and nature projects in Kenya via Global Gateway, from developing its renewable energy industry to building sustainable agricultural value chains.

“The green hydrogen economy will enhance food security including expansion of green production of Kenyan tea, coffee, horticulture, floriculture and grains,” said President Ruto at the summit. “It will also facilitate decarbonisation of our industries and indeed the economy.”

Among the 30,000 delegates believed to have attended the Africa Climate Summit on Tuesday were leaders (heads of state) from 20 African nations including presidents Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan), Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia), Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), Macky Sall (Senegal) and Mohamed Al-Menfi (Libya).

The attendance of more leaders than initially expected meant that proceedings were delayed by more than three hours on Tuesday as each leader was given time in the main conference hall to address summit delegates. 

The Africa Climate Summit reaches its climax on Wednesday with an expected joint declaration that establishes a common position for African nations in future global climate discussions such as COP28 in Dubai. 

Also in attendance at the summit on Tuesday was UN Secretary General António Guterres, who struck an optimistic note in his speech.

“I am convinced that Africa can be at the heart of a renewable future,” said Guterres. “From the Greater Horn of Africa, where over 85% of electricity generation comes from renewables, including massive hydropower projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, to wind and solar projects in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, to Mozambique, which gets nearly 100% of its energy from green and sustainable sources.”

Later, at a briefing for journalists, Guterres called for reform of the UN Security Council, where Africa lacks a permanent seat, as well as reform of global financial institutions.

“Today, I renewed my call for the world to step up climate action to avoid the worst effects of climate change, keep global promises to provide essential support and help Africa make a just and equitable transition to renewable energy,” he said.