Media Advisory | The Challenge of Energy Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a Public Pathway Approach
May 15, 2023
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May 15, 2023

Contact: Lala Peñaranda | Signal/Whatsapp: +1 301-526-1312 |

The Challenge of Energy Transition in sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a Public Pathway Approach

Representing 15 countries, more than 50 trade union leaders meet in Johannesburg to discuss the region’s most pressing energy issues and develop strategic policy alternatives to the “green structural adjustment”

Johannesburg, South Africa — Leaders from 17 trade union bodies,  including eight national workers’ centres, along with two Global Union Federations, and four allied research centres altogether representing 15 countries will be gathering  in Johannesburg, South Africa, between May 16-18, 2023 for a regional policy meeting on trade union-led strategies for a “public pathway” approach to addressing energy poverty, capacity scarcity, and the challenge of climate change. View the full list of participants here

The 3-day Regional Policy Meeting will bring together unions and policy allies mainly from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and is organised by TUED South, a trade union platform dedicated to building a “Public Pathway” approach to a just energy transition in the Global South. 

The meeting seeks to lay the foundations of a long term political agenda and strategy led by SSA trade unions dedicated to developing  pro-public policy alternatives to the green structural adjustment proposals, such as the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs), being pushed by global neoliberal actors including lending institutions such as IMF and the World Bank. The Regional Policy Meeting will investigate three key areas: financing, technologies, and political strategy. View the meeting program here.

What: Regional Policy Meeting “The Challenge of Energy Transition in sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a Public Pathway Approach”
When: May 16-18th, 2023
Where: Parktonian Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa
Who: 50 trade union representatives and allies from 17 trade union bodies representing 15 countries, primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa. COSATU, SAFTU, NUMSA, NUM, AMCU, SATAWU and NEHAWU will all participate.
Press Contact: Photos from the meeting will be uploaded to this Google folder. Trade union representatives are available for interviews. Please contact Lala Peñaranda (information above) to schedule an interview. 

Additional Information: 

The 3-day, 50-person meeting in Johannesburg comes at a time when there is growing support for a public pathway approach to energy transition and climate protection that can address the failures of the current ineffective and regressive profit-focused policies. This growing support was reflected in the launch of TUED South last October 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. 

The main goals of the meeting are:

  1. Consider ways South unions and their allies can collectively respond to the regressive “green structural adjustment” privatisation agenda embedded in the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) currently being promoted by the rich countries and neoliberal policymakers.  
  1. Further develop alternatives to the JETPs and the that are consistent with the public pathway approach. These alternatives must address SSA realities, principle among them being the lack of generation capacity, persistent and worsening energy poverty, and the “death spiral” of national public companies.
  1. More clearly articulate the “reclaim and restore” approach to the national energy companies; the need to halt the incursions of the IPPs, and to shift towards a direct procurement model as an alternative to power purchase agreements (PPA) 
  1. Begin a process of assessing the potential of different technologies and how these might feature in the public pathway vision of a just energy transition. 


"As the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU),  we believe the energy challenges that South Africa faces cannot be solved by continuing to follow the same neoliberal policies that have failed us in the past. It is essential that we adopt a public pathway approach that prioritises the needs of our people over profit. For too long, the most vulnerable members of our society have been denied access to affordable and sustainable energy, while the wealthy few have reaped the benefits of an exploitative system. It is imperative that African trade unions work together to develop policy alternatives to the green structural adjustment policies that have been imposed on us, and that we organise against the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) that only serve to perpetuate the status quo. It is well past time that we put forward a concrete policy agenda led by African trade unions that can ensure energy is a public good that benefits all of our people." - Solly Phetoe, General Secretary, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) 

“We must work together to develop alternatives that are consistent with a public pathway approach and address the realities of energy poverty, lack of generation capacity, and the "death spiral" of our national public companies. It is crucial that we reclaim and restore control of our national energy companies and halt the incursions of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) that are part of the scheme to unbundle our public power utility (Eskom) and privatise energy provision in our country. This regional policy meeting is a timely opportunity for us to come together and strategize towards a future where energy is a public good that benefits all, not just the wealthy few." - Zwelimzima Vavi, South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU)

“African and Global South unions must lead on international efforts against dead-end just transition policies which have disproportionately served private capital against our public services and deepened neo-colonial power disparities. While recognizing our varying contexts, trade unions in Sub-Saharan Africa face important common challenges and are made stronger by identifying and confronting them with a shared analysis for a public pathway.” —Everline Aketch, Ph.D., Public Services International Sub-regional Secretary for English-Speaking Africa 

“Our objective in Johannesburg is first to coalesce as Global South unions and begin to offer an alternative to the “green structural adjustment” based on the public pathway approach. And second, to lay the groundwork for a platform that allows continued coordination and discussions to sustain this alternative.” —Andy Wijaya, General Secretary of Persatuan Pegawai Indonesia Power (PPIP), Indonesia 

“The Johannesburg Regional Policy meeting of TUED South will allow trade unions from the region to focus on policy solutions for the most pressing issues in our region such as persistent energy poverty, the imposition of privatising JETPs, our need to rebuild public assets, and the growth of extractive industries such as mining. We look forward to developing a strategic policy agenda with global public goods at its centre.” — Ernest Nadome, General Secretary of the Kenya Electrical Trades and Allied Workers Union (KETAWU) 

“The TUED project emerged from trade discussions during the 2012 Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development where some unions wanted to develop an alternative to the neoliberal “green growth” model. After 10 years of developing an independent analysis and seeing the growing trade union support for it, we are excited to bring together trade unionists from developing economies to Johannesburg, South Africa, to strengthen the TUED South platform and develop a policy agenda that can resist “green structural adjustment” and policy colonialism and put forward public energy pathway.” —Irene HongPing Shen, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED)


Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector initiative representing 92 of unions/federations in 26 countries to advance democratic control of energy as a path to halting the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and protecting workers' rights and well-being.