Author NJ Ayuk

Author NJ Ayuk sees an opportunity for developing right now to help end energy poverty in Africa. 

More than 600 million people on the African continent live without electricity. Many more than that experience regular blackouts and brownouts that can leave them in the dark for hours or days. 

But things can change, says NJ Ayuk, the African Energy Chamber executive chairman, an Amazon bestselling author, and the founder of the international firm Centurion Law Group. 

“It’s really about thinking how we use what we have to get what we want,” he said. “And because I have a finance background, I like to think about the problem of energy poverty from the perspective of financial resources.”

In his latest work, Ayuk plans to industrialize Africa by leveraging its natural resources. The book, A Just Transition: Making Energy Poverty History With an Energy Mix, explains how Africa deserves a chance to use fossil fuels to benefit its residents, who create less than 3% of the world’s carbon emissions, before switching to more sustainable resources.

But for that to happen, many things have to change. He argues that more-developed countries need to keep the promises they’ve made to Africa over the years and at the same time, invest more capital in helping Africans pull themselves out of energy poverty. 

“More than 900 million Africans live without access to clean cooking technologies,” NJ Ayuk explained. “Most of them are women. We have to change that. We have got to do more for these people.”

Despite the vast natural resources in Africa, including precious gems and oil and natural gas reserves, the continent still needs improvement. Part of the reason for this, he said, is that Africa has gotten more than its share of bad deals. 

For example, NJ Ayuk pointed to the $100 billion broken promise. At COP15, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, in 2009, a collection of developed countries committed to delivering $100 billion in investments to lesser-developed countries by the year 2020. So far, that money has proved elusive. 

According to a self-analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the developed country's combined investment has been less than $100 billion annually by quite a bit. Instead, climate finance was concentrated on mitigation activities in a few high-emitting (and more-developed) nations. At the same time, governments should have encouraged more private investment in lesser-developed countries than predicted. 

Even worse, most private investment dollars didn’t go where they were most needed. Instead, these investments were concentrated in middle-income countries that had created many incentives to attract foreign money. 

“Equity, in so far as energy transition is concerned, is No. 1,” NJ Ayuk said. “The global North needs to stick to its promises to support the African continent's climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.” 

At the same time, he added, the nations of Africa need to prove they can become more effective managers of foreign capital.

“Any real solution cannot only focus on more-developed countries. It must also consider African governments properly stewarding the continent’s financial resources and harnessing domestic and local capital markets to drive that energy transition,” Ayuk explained. “We need to cut out corruption. We must provide more resources to help people in our societies who have been undervalued, especially African women. As much as I love the movies, there is no Black Panther. There is no Wakanda. No one is coming to save us, so we must do it ourselves. That means making meaningful changes to how we structure deals, incentivize investors, and conduct the business of governing.”

He said that foreign investments and better policies can jump-start Africa’s energy program. That means selling resources and funneling the profits to build reliable electric grids that reach into energy deserts and bring reliable sources of power to communities all throughout the continent. 

This investment will create much-needed jobs, giving young people a better chance at improving their station and allowing rural Africans to experience a higher quality of life. Hospitals can function better with reliable energy, small businesses can become more efficient, and schools can provide fundamentally better education to the next generation

And, importantly, the work toward a more sustainable future can begin in earnest. 


“The third thing about transition is that it's also about the sustainable extraction of our mineral resources and then using the windfall from that extraction to invest in more sustainable forms of energy,” NJ Ayuk stated. “You can’t transition from the dark to the dark. We have to build something first before we can transition. The West has already gone through industrialization. Africa needs to be able to go through its own period of industrialization before we can transition away from fossil fuels.”