More than half of Africans do not have access to electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa, 63% of the rural population is deprived of it. On the continent, electricity costs three times more than in Europe or the United States, which partly explains the delay in industrialization. Due to a shortage of electricity, Africa's economic growth decelerates by 2-4 percentage points annually. Conversely, complete electrification of the continent, according to estimates, will increase its annual economic growth rate by 10-15% over a period of fifteen years.
Over the last four years Chinese banks have invested an average of $ 5 billion annually in energy projects, making Beijing the main electricity producer in the region.
Investments are increasing as the New Silk Road infrastructure is created. This titanic project, which involves the construction of ports, roads and railways and the creation of special economic zones around the world, cannot function without energy.
However, instead of financing green projects, China mainly invests in initiatives that involve the use of fossil fuels and pollute the environment.
Why? Because these investments serve its economic interests and allow the Chinese to export their coal and their technology. Paradoxically, Beijing - the world's largest investor in environmental projects - is simultaneously recognized as the most contaminated city on the planet.
China's economy is still heavily dependent on coal, but by investing heavily in solar, wind and hydro power, Beijing has become the main producer of clean energy in the world.
With increasing concern about ecoproduction, China, meanwhile, increasingly pollutes the air of its African partners.
Currently, a quarter of all coal-fired power plants in the world (outside the Celestial Empire) are being built or funded by Chinese companies. Most of the coal used to generate electricity will come from or is coming from China.
China's industry, the world's largest producer of coal, suffers from overcapacity. At home, the Chinese reduce the use of coal in the sense that it is too polluting the environment, so it will be used on African power plants.
The latest report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis points to a similar contradiction between Beijing's policy and the environmental risks associated with the concept of the New Silk Road.
The report said that China had already allocated more than $ 21 billion to finance the activities of coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 30 gigawatts.
Recently, in South Africa, the China's Development Bank signed an agreement on the provision of $ 4 billion for the construction of two large coal-fired power plants: Kusile and Medupi. In Zimbabwe, four coal-fired plants are being built on Chinese loans worth $ 2 billion. Zimbabwe, which spends $ 5 million a week on electricity imports from South Africa and Mozambique, certainly needs this help, but it could be even more environmentally friendly.
At the same time, the Chinese export their environmentally friendly technologies: solar panels, wind installations, hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. However, the generation of energy so necessary for economic growth is mainly due to non-renewable sources.
Africa receives three quarters of its energy at the expense of fossil fuels, the use of which is accompanied by the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
However, since 2009, China, highlighting the priorities of its cooperation with Africa, systematically emphasizes the importance of renewable energy sources. As early as in 2009, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao initiated the implementation of the plan "One hundred clean power plants for Africa". And during the Energy Forum, which was held in September 2018 within the framework of the China-Africa summit, the country promised to increase the number of investments in renewable energy. Though the Chinese pretend being diligent students at international summits and boast of being the world's largest investor in renewable energy, these achievements have little to do with their activities on the African continent.
We know how difficult it is to find the way back. As soon as a country becomes dependent on fossil fuels for electricity production, ensuring the transition to renewable energy sources becomes even more complicated and expensive tasks. Europe understands this in some ways. In addition, investing enormous amounts in the green economy, the Chinese industry is still heavily dependent on coal, and its companies are emitting the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world.
The analysis showed that the costs of most of the African heat energy projects are more expensive than their counterparts, since coal mining in Africa or its import need to create an infrastructure from scratch, which, moreover, determines the long-term structural dependence of the economy.
One-third of the continental factories under construction are Sino-African joint ventures that are becoming increasingly profitable for Beijing and involve exports of coal to Africa.
Most Chinese players are state actors. While the China Development Bank and Eximbank are issuing loans, the State Grid Corporation of China takes care of the infrastructure, and the State Power Investment Corporation and Huadian Corporation respond for electricity generation.
Thus, the Chinese government is directly involved in these activities, and it is up to them to look for other ways to do business environmentally friendly.
If China really wants to become one of the world's leaders in combating global warming and fulfill its commitments at international summits, it needs to act within the framework of environmental policy in Africa as well. Today, China remains the only country capable of building green networks and investing in the future of the continent.