Whenever African nations have anything of value Northern nations are there to take it away
Hamza Hamouchene is the North Africa Programme Coordinator at the Transnational Institute based in London, UK
First published in a collection by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation London titled Perspectives on a Global Green New Deal
Where the energy security of the North trumps the human rights and sovereignty of people in the south, where priorities are dictated by the richest and most powerful (states and multinationals), it is of paramount importance to scrutinise the political economy of energy transitions.
Two examples of renewable energy schemes in North Africa show how energy colonialism is reproduced in the form of green colonialism or green grabbing.
The Ouarzazate Solar Plan was launched in 2016 just before the Marrakech climate talks (COP22). It was praised as the largest solar plant in the world and the Moroccan monarchy was declared a champion of renewable energies. The plant was installed on Amazigh agro-pastoralist communities’ land without their approval and consent, a land grab for a supposedly green agenda (a green grab). Second, this mega-project is controlled by private interests and has been built through contracting a huge debt of USD$9 billion from the World Bank, European Investment Bank, and others. This debt is backed by Moroccan government guarantees, which means potentially more public debts for a country already overburdened. Third, the project is not as green as it professes. It is using concentrated thermal power (CSP) that necessitates extensive use of water in order to cool down and clean the panels. In a semi-arid region like Ouarzazate, diverting water use from drinking and agriculture is outrageous
Similarly the Tunur Solar project in Tunisia highlights how patented green technology is extracted while locals struggle to have access to sufficient energy to meet their basic needs. A private venture between British, Maltese and Tunisian entrepreneurs, it aims to develop low cost dispatchable power to Europe. A familiar colonial scheme is being rolled in front of our eyes: the unrestricted flow of cheap natural resources (including solar energy) from the Global South to the rich North while fortress Europe builds walls and fences to prevent human beings – who seek dignified lives – from reaching safe shores.
We must always ask the relevant questions: who owns what? Who does what? Who gets what? Who wins and who loses? And whose interests are being served?
To implement just and truly green new deals, which provide for the future of people and planet, we must take nature back from the clutches of big capital and recast the debate around justice, popular sovereignty of the masses and collective good. The priority must be energy autonomy for local communities and a radical democracy that takes precedence over the logic of a market that considers our land and our livelihoods as commodities to be sold to the highest bidders.