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  • Writer's pictureKatie Duffy

Catalyzing Change: Abubkar Shuaibu's Quest for Green Energy Revolution in Africa

As a notification chimes on my laptop, my attention shifts from the notes I've been idly reviewing for the past few minutes. It's time. With a straightened posture, I settle into my chair and click into the Microsoft Teams meeting, greeted by the all-too-familiar blue light emanating from my laptop screen. A smile forms on my face as I'm met with a cheerful wave, a playful greeting, and a wide grin.

Having collaborated with Abubkar on previous projects, I've grown accustomed to his vibrant energy. Positivity radiates through the screen as he sits in his brightly adorned office in Abuja, Nigeria. Meanwhile, I find myself in a small East London cafe, the bustling street sounds outside providing a backdrop to our conversation.

Abubakar Shuaibu, the visionary behind Green Energy Mission Africa (GEM), a nonprofit based in Abuja, Nigeria, joins our conversation. With a modest team of six, GEM tackles an expansive mission, its influence steadily growing. Rooted in youth empowerment, GEM is dedicated to fostering African youths as catalysts for the continent's energy revolution, with a focus on sustainability and equity.

Their approach revolves around catalyzing change through sustainable growth models, responsible consumption, and the viability of renewable energy initiatives. Abubakar and his team educate, train, and advocate for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Their collaborative efforts extend to local authorities, government ministries, agencies, and NGOs, fostering awareness and enabling tangible projects that drive the energy transition.

Kazaure Town -Creator: Alan Johnston

Originating from Kazaure, a town of approximately 150,000 residents in Jigawa State, Abubakar founded GEM driven by the firsthand impact of climate change on his community. Issues like flooding and drought compound energy accessibility challenges, hindering critical sectors such as agriculture and biodiversity.

As a young individual contemplating the future, the specter of climate change can be daunting, even harrowing. Channeling his concern and frustration, Abubakar embarked on a journey to confront these challenges. GEM emerged as a platform, offering fellow activists an entry point into research, policy, capacity building, and advocacy on local, regional, and global scales.

Abubakar points out that Nigeria serves as a case study for the dire consequences of the ongoing climate crisis. His community epitomizes numerous communities across the Global South, bearing the brunt of climate-related disasters despite contributing proportionally less to the issue. His time as an electronic engineering student exposed Abubakar to the dual challenge of the energy transition and inadequate energy access across Nigeria and the broader continent.

A sense of empowerment stirred among Abubakar and his fellow students, fostering a movement advocating for energy accessibility. This momentum laid the foundation for GEM, which focuses primarily on influencing Nigeria's government to prioritize renewable energy and climate adaptation policies. "Considering our dependence on crude oil exports," Abubakar reflects, "the current decline in oil prices presents an ideal opportunity to transition to a more sustainable income source."

The recent election of President Bola Tinubu in 2022 hasn't clarified Nigeria's stance on the energy transition. Energy priorities within the Nigerian government remain ambiguous, oscillating between acknowledging the long-term need to reduce oil and gas production and concurrently supporting increased domestic consumption and exports. This reliance on the fossil fuel industry echoes a narrative familiar to many Global South nations, risking entrenched emissions-intensive infrastructure, misallocated investments, and unmet climate goals.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Africa need not develop new oil or gas fields to achieve its 2050 net-zero commitments. In fact, as of 2022, the IEA advocates a 41% reduction in oil and 13% reduction in gas production from 2021 levels by 2030, followed by an 82% reduction in oil and 78% reduction in gas by 2050.

To navigate away from this potential crisis, our conversation pivoted to climate justice. Abubakar emphasizes the need for tangible governmental action worldwide, going beyond grassroots lobbying and protests. "While promises have been made, true commitments are scarce," he notes, citing the example of the Glasgow summit (COP26) and the challenging bureaucracy surrounding funding accessibility. Abubakar underscores the importance of financing in the form of grants, not loans, to the Global South. "We didn't contribute to these emissions, yet we bear the brunt daily."

Abubakar's viewpoint resonates with the Loss and Damage Pact established at COP27 in Egypt, culminating after three decades of negotiation. Developed nations, due to their historical role in anthropogenic climate change, are called upon to compensate the Global South for its climate-related losses and damages. This issue remains contentious, with implications reaching far beyond financial considerations.

Despite Africa contributing a mere 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it remains the most vulnerable continent to climate change's repercussions. Developed nations in the Global North have grappled with the concept of Loss and Damage, as acceptance entails acknowledging culpability in the climate crisis and assuming responsibility for its resolution.

Our dialogue unfolds over an hour, unveiling Abubakar's background, aspirations, and messages for fellow activists navigating what may seem like a losing battle. "Great impact in history arises from enduring hardship," he asserts. His mantra strikes a chord, eliciting a bittersweet smile of agreement. It's a perspective shared by environmentalists who persist, feeling as if their voices echo into an abyss of an increasingly bleak future for our planet.

I delve into a topic often avoided by climate activists: climate anxiety. Abubakar's response reflects the struggle many share in confronting an escalating crisis. "Talking about climate anxiety isn't easy," he confesses, acknowledging its paralyzing nature. Yet, he emphasizes that each step in the journey, regardless of its size, deserves celebration. He underscores the significance of focusing on incremental victories, sustaining momentum amid the complexities of this multifaceted crisis.

For Abubakar, the energy transition and renewable energy are intertwined, offering Nigeria and the continent at large an opportunity to bridge their energy gap. Approximately 600 million Africans lack access to energy grids, disproportionately affecting rural communities and hindering their development. While multifaceted solutions exist, individuals like Abubakar tirelessly dedicate themselves to driving positive change.

In closing, the conversation encapsulates Abubakar's steadfast commitment and the urgent need for global action. His vision, rooted in sustainable energy, equity, and climate justice, exemplifies a profound dedication to addressing our world's most pressing challenges.

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