Many African countries have intrinsic potential to be cost-competitive locations for carbon removal. They have massive untapped renewable energy potential, unique geology, and a young, entrepreneurial workforce. Deploying durable removal technologies can drive economic growth, while delivering co-benefits to local communities and serving a global need for cost-effective negative emissions. Enhanced rock weathering, for example, can improve soil health, increase crop yield and reduce input costs for African small-holder farmers – all while durably storing carbon at scale.
Innovators are already seizing this opportunity. A range of projects are being implemented on the continent – from direct air capture to biochar, agroforestry and enhanced rock weathering – demonstrating that the technology exists, and global demand for African projects is there.
While the opportunity is real, more work is needed to grow these projects from pilot to scale, spanning three levers:
- Talent and science: To become a hub for durable removals, Africa also needs to become a hub for climate science and technology. By building out a local workforce and scientific capacity, Africa can create skilled jobs while establishing itself as a destination for world-class removals.
- Investment: To drive the growth of a local value chain, (orders of magnitude) more investment is needed. Capital is available, evidenced by the flurry of recent VC activity in the space. Yet this capital is not being accessed in Africa. To unlock capital we need to draw attention to the massive potential, and develop approaches that help de-risk private sector investment and reduce cost of capital for project developers.
- Policy: Carbon market structures (rules, regulations, markets) are being built in real-time – at both the global and national level. At the global level, we need to ensure that global markets are open to African projects. At the local level we need to ensure that policy frameworks are Article 6 compliant, and balance the needs of government, community and the private sector.
Carbon removal can drive African green growth, and help keep global warming within 1.5 degrees. It’s time to wake the sleeping giant.
Want to learn more? Watch our session on African CDR at COP 28 here.