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20 Jun 2023

Africa facing human rights challenges in its mineral extraction and renewable energy installation

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The energy transition is gathering pace around the world – and Africa will play a significant role due to its richness in transition minerals and rapidly increasing renewable energy adoption. Pressure is on the continent for a fast transition to clean energy and for the rapid delivery of its vast transition mineral wealth, which is urgently needed for the world’s clean energy supply chains.

However, a new report reveals Africa is facing serious human rights challenges in its mineral extraction and renewable energy installation. Published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, the report looks at how local communities are bearing the brunt of this, with land rights being ignored, the erosion of Indigenous rights and attacks on human rights defenders raising the alarm about harmful business practices. This is generating conflict and resistance, which threatens to not only slow down the energy transition, but also increase the costs for companies.

The research underlines the urgent need for existing business models to be transformed if we are to achieve a successful energy transition. It outlines three core Just Energy Transition Principles – shared prosperity, respect for human rights and social protection, and fair negotiation – which are essential to generating public support and delivering benefit to communities, workers and companies.

The report was published by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, who have spent the past decade engaging with local communities and tracking human rights concerns by communities affected by transition mineral mining or renewable energy installation.

A spokesperson for the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre said: “Africa is at the crosshairs of both the climate crisis and the boom in renewable energy-related development. But as investment in renewable energy in Africa has expanded, so too have the human rights risks to local communities and Indigenous peoples. During our engagement with them, we have heard disturbing accounts of harm to local communities. These include companies ignoring land rights and failing to obtain free, prior and informed consent from those affected by their mining activities.

“If the world – and Africa – is to achieve a successful energy transition, we urgently need a transformation. Companies and their investors can build a fast and fair energy transition if they take steps to put respect for human rights at the core of their business models. This means structuring investments to ensure workers and communities share in the wealth generated from clean energy on their land, implementing human rights due diligence and social protection, as well as ensuring respectful negotiations with communities throughout the project.”

Advance copies of the report will be available upon request.

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Notes to editors: 

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is an international NGO that tracks the human rights impacts (positive and negative) of more than 10,000 companies across nearly 200 countries. We seek responses from companies when concerns are raised by civil society.