Green Curses and Violent Conflicts: The Security Implications of Renewable Energy Sector Development in Africa

Led by Siri Aas Rustad

Jul 2020 – Dec 2023

Africa is seeing a rise in the production and use of renewable energy from hydro, solar, and wind power as well as from biomass resources. Yet the continent’s track record in natural resource, energy, and environmental management is poor, with many African countries rich in natural resources having paradoxically suffered from the resource curse. Instead of being blessed, resource wealth has instead cursed many Africa countries by bringing about violent conflict, autocratic rule, and entrenched poverty.
The enormous increase in renewable energy in Africa in recent years, and the projections for these sectors’ continued growth in the near future as part of poverty alleviation strategies, has not been accompanied by a parallel increase in research on the consequences of this energy revolution. The development of renewable energy projects and sectors pose a set of unique challenges for African states that have not been adequately explored in research, mostly urgently the potential for these sectors and the mineral value chains that support them to trigger violent conflict.

This 3-year mixed-method, interdisciplinary project, led by PRIO, will improve knowledge about 1) the state of renewable energy in Africa; 2) the pathways by which renewable energy conflicts occur; and 3) the types of mechanisms required to prevent and resolve them. We will provide the first cross-continent mapping of knowledge and data on renewable energy sectors and mineral value chains, and of relevant legal and voluntary governance initiatives regulating these sectors. We will generate evidence-based policy recommendations about how to avoid and prevent renewable energy conflicts through a systematic, cross-country analysis of existing evidence as well as through in-depth study of “green curse” dynamics in Uganda. The project will identify paths to violent conflict useful for actors in renewable energy sectors, and propose new violence-preventing institutional solutions in these sectors.

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