Six African countries launched the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance last week, aiming to make their continent a front runner in the race to develop green hydrogen.

Founding members Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritania said they intend to foster collaboration on creating a sustainable enabling environment to supercharge green hydrogen development.

The founders said: “This includes development of public and regulatory policy, capacity building, financing and certification needs to mobilise green hydrogen production for domestic use and export.”

Other countries studying green hydrogen potential include Angola and Algeria.

The initiative began with initial discussions at last year’s COP26 event and alliance members will now invite more countries to join, “responding to the opportunities presented by lower-cost renewables, fast-developing electrolyser technology and signals in some major markets that green hydrogen demand is likely to emerge at scale this decade”.

The countries formally launched the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance at the first Green Hydrogen Global Assembly in Barcelona, with support from the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions, the Green Hydrogen Organisation, the African Development Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Green hydrogen — produced with renewable power — is described as offering the potential to rapidly decarbonise hard-to-abate industrial sectors such as steel, chemicals, fertilisers, shipping and trucking.

Many African countries are well-suited to develop green hydrogen, with strong solar and wind energy potential and large tranches of non-arable land.

All founder members have projects under study, including South Africa’s goal to deploy 10 gigawatts of electrolysis capacity in the Northern Cape province and about 500 kilotonnes of hydrogen per year by 2030.

Namibia took a preliminary step of taking advantage of its exceptional conditions for large-scale solar power generation last November by selecting Hyphen Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between German renewables group Enertrag and private investment group Nicholas Holdings, as preferred bidder for a solar farm and green hydrogen project in Tsau Khaeb in the south-west of the country.

The project backers are already talking about a planned $9.4 billion green hydrogen project.

However, the alliance said: “Developing green hydrogen at scale and reducing its production costs will require co-operation and collaboration across governments, businesses, investors, multilateral development banks, civil society, technical and academic experts and others.

“Governance will also be key, with transparency and accountability central to ensuring the green hydrogen sector avoids the pitfalls that have plagued extractive industries on the continent for so long.”

In a joint statement, UN climate change high-level champions Nigel Topping and Mahmoud Mohieldin said: “With its huge renewable energy resource wealth and land space, Africa has a chance to become a front runner in this burgeoning green hydrogen industry, creating zero-emission jobs, domestic energy supplies and export revenues fit for a decarbonised future.”

“But to get there, we need radical collaboration across the governments, the private sector and civil society to set the right policy and investment frameworks, and we need to secure long-term offtake agreements. The Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance will go a long way in fostering these developments.”

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