Only by working together can African nations overcome the obstacles to exploiting their abundant renewables resources and producing affordable green hydrogen – for use at home and in a European economy keen to wean itself off Russian gas, an online event has been told.

African nations must work together to overcome the potential hurdles to developing a green hydrogen economy which could feed demand at home and in Europe.

That was the message given by Innocent Uwuijaren, chairman of green hydrogen trade body the Africa Hydrogen Partnership, to an e-conference held by the Africa Solar Industry Association (Afsia) to consider the prospects of establishing production of the sustainable form of the energy carrier on the continent.

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“If Africa will be able to maximize the opportunity ahead of us, the key thing is alliance,” said Uwuijaren. “We need to bond together under an alliance where countries work together under a unified platform and take the opportunity and maximize it in terms of technology, finance aspects, and creating local opportunities for young graduates in the hydrogen economy.”

The event was told obstacles must be overcome to establish a green hydrogen economy in Africa, including gaining access to the technology and sufficient finance, training a skilled workforce, putting in place supporting legislation and policy, raising awareness of the benefits of such an industry, and surmounting political and security risks.

But the rewards could be huge, with Uwuijaren highlighting the plans recently announced by the European Union to source an extra 10 million tons of imported green hydrogen this decade – over and above its previously stated target – to reduce dependency on Russian gas following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

With some industry insiders having called for Africa to also establish industry further down the value chain, rather than simply exporting cheap hydrogen for use overseas, Uwuijaren pointed out African green hydrogen could be kept on the continent for use as an energy storage medium and to feed green fertilizer.

The Africa Hydrogen Partnership representative pointed to the string of hydrogen projects already being planned across the continent, including plans for production facilities in Egypt, Mauritania, and Namibia; for a cluster of projects in a “hydrogen valley” in South Africa; for an ammonia site in Morocco; and a feasibility study being carried out into a green fertilizer plant in Kenya.

Demand

Eric Dabe, senior sales advisor for Belgian mechanical engineer John Cockerill, told the Afsia event fears of a global shortage of gas are already prompting some energy-intensive industries to request electrolyzer capacity to produce green hydrogen as an alternative power source.

The Afsia e-conference was sponsored by the hydrogen unit of Chinese manufacturer Longi Solar, EU entity Get.invest; the Africa Hydrogen Partnership, and Paris-based Oenea Consulting.