Sustainability Strategy and Asian Investments in African Energy Sector

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Despite Africa’s rich energy resources, energy poverty is still extant with close to 600 million people lacking access to electricity. This constrains many countries in meeting their energy access goals, sets back industrial development, and reduces the continent’s economic growth significantly. On a positive note, energy access has improved in recent years and Africa is at the forefront of distributed energy systems that increase energy access faster, at a lower price, and geographically more widely than conventional grids. These developments are driven by new business models and decreasing technology costs - also for renewables that are on the rise in large tracts across Africa.

At the same time, extractive industries in the energy sector have continued to dominate especially Chinese investment in Africa. Indeed, thirty percent of China’s oil needs presently are from Africa as opposed to the fifteen percent of Africa’s supply for the U.S.; and approximately seventy percent of exports from Africa to China consist of crude oil. Nigeria and Angola are two major countries in this regard, while China is actively seeking partnership with Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Gabon for new fields.

While investments in the energy sector has the advantage of growing the economy of African nations and improving the livelihood of their citizens, such investments also carry with them a lot of challenges (social, economic, human rights, health, etc). Unregulated exploratory activities have contributed significantly to the deprivation of the inhabitants, human rights abuses, loss of biodiversity and disruption of the ecosystem.

Since the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, it became clear that sustainable development and better governance of energy programs and projects is the direction to follow to meet these challenges, as they emphasize that the supply of energy should be more ecologically compatible.

The conference will discuss:

  • The development and influence of Asian investments in the energy sector in African countries and the coupling with Asian development programs, e.g. China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Sustainability challenges in relation to Asia’s energy investments in Africa: The handling of economic, social and ecological impacts, and the impact on health, human rights and environment.
  • The regulatory frameworks and dispute resolution for energy investments in Africa.



Wen Xiang, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Olubayo Oluduro, Faculty of Law, Adekunle Ajasin University, and Joanna Lam, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen

Programme and speakers

Click here to see the full programme and list of speakers (PDF).


Time: 28-30 June 2021

18:00-19:00 (CEST), June 28; 9:25-17:30 (CEST), June 29; 9:00-12:10 (CEST), June 30.

Place: Online via Zoom


SHIELD – Study Hub for International Economic Law and Development

iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Centre for Belt and Road Initiative Legal Research, UIBE Law School


The conference is now open for registration. There is no conference fee.

Please note that the conference is part of the International Conference “Asia and Africa in Transition”, University of Copenhagen, 28–30 June 2021.

Kindly register by 25 June 2021 to ensure you get the links in time and can access the conference from the beginning.

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