Chinedu Ugoma stands near a gas flare belonging to the Agip
Oil company in Idu Ogba in Nigeria's oil-rich delta region.
Photo George Osodi, File/AP.
Africa is courting a new type of investor: polluters who
need to buy some environmental goodwill.
Nigeria is proposing a solar-powered university. Ivory Coast
wants to turn crop waste into fuel. And Senegal is offering a
With such proposals, some of the world's least-developed
countries are wooing investors with a carrot that could be
more attractive than monetary profit - carbon credits in
demand by pollution-heavy industries in the West.
Both sides are taking part in a financial matchmaking this
week at the Africa Carbon forum in Senegal's capital. The
United Nations and international climate regulators are
trying to pair investors and projects as they tag Africa as
the next frontier for clean energy.
Countries abiding by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol agree to
participate in an international market in carbon "credits"
that allow them to offset carbon dioxide emissions by
investing in projects that reduce emissions elsewhere.
"There are relatively few projects to limit the growth of
emissions in Africa. ... An event like this is an opportunity
to change things," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of
the UN Convention on Climate Change.
The World Bank issued a report on Wednesday saying Africa has
the potential to become a goldmine for the type of clean
energy projects that produce carbon credits traded under the
Projects like those being proposed by Nigeria, Ivory Coast
and Senegal are designed to attract investors who might
otherwise steer clear of investing in volatile African
countries, but are willing to take on higher risk given
increasingly saturated carbon-trading markets in Asia and
But the push for carbon trading in Africa also brings a
continent that emits a tiny amount of global greenhouse gases
into an ongoing global debate over how much industrialized
nations should be able to buy their way out of cutting
The carbon-trading system "allows industrialized countries to
delay the necessary action needed to tackle climate change,"
said Tom Picken, a campaigner with the British environmental
group Friends of the Earth. He said some projects that earn
carbon credits have ended up damaging the environment, for
example tree plantations that lowered local water tables.
In Nigeria, oil companies have been approved to receive
carbon credits for projects to end gas flaring, even though
any such flaring has long been banned by the Nigerian
Still, brokers of carbon credits say that the system brings
investment to clean-energy projects that might otherwise
Tom Morton, of J.P. Morgan's carbon-credit arm, said their
funding was key to helping a Ugandan maker of fuel-efficient
wood stoves expand its factory and turn a profit on the
And the UN's de Boer argues that the carbon trading gives
growing African economies an opportunity to avoid the
mistakes of the West and meet increasing demands for energy
in a way that doesn't contribute to climate change.
"Although Africa is tiny in terms of its contributing to the
problem, it can potentially make a huge contribution to the
solution," de Boer said.