The European Union (EU) is actively exploring prospects in Africa to back clean jet fuel projects through its Global Gateway infrastructure fund. This initiative is in anticipation of a surge in demand for eco-friendly air travel. The EU has committed to directing half of its €300 billion ($324 billion) infrastructure plan towards Africa, positioning it as a competitor to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The Global Gateway fund has already extended support to diverse projects in Africa, including renewable energy facilities, green hydrogen initiatives, vaccines, and education programs. Now, the focus is pivoting towards sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). SAFs are alternative low-carbon fuels for the aviation sector and can be sourced from various materials, including crops.
To foster the growth of SAF in Africa, the EU intends to launch a capacity-building project worth €4 million by December 31. This project will aid SAF feasibility studies and certification efforts in 11 African countries and India. The aviation industry currently contributes over 2% of global energy-related emissions.
To tackle this, the EU is enacting emissions reduction goals that will necessitate increased utilization of SAF by airlines. This commitment is projected to push global demand for SAF to 450 billion liters annually by 2050, according to the International Air Transport Association.
This demand, coupled with Africa’s vast untapped agricultural land, is making the continent an appealing hub for SAF projects. It’s crucial to note that there is currently no SAF production within Africa. Establishing dependable feedstock supply chains faces challenges due to issues like inadequate infrastructure, limited refining capacity, and insufficient regulations, all of which could potentially impede projects and escalate costs.
Allan Kilavuka, CEO of Kenya Airways, underscored, “The most effective approach to lower the cost of SAF in Africa and ensure sustainable production is through local manufacturing.”
Despite these challenges, companies like Italy’s Eni, South Africa’s Sasol, Germany’s Linde, and Denmark’s Topsoe are persisting with investments in African SAF and biofuels.
Franklin Omondi, environmental manager at the African Civil Aviation Commission, expressed the organization’s aspiration to initiate SAF production in at least two African countries within a few years, with a possibility of a third. South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia are among the potential contenders for these initiatives.