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UN cancels African energy financing initiative over role of scammer


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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is reviewing its private sector partners after learning of NJ Ayuk’s criminal record

A UN agency has canceled an initiative to mobilize African private energy investments, including for gas projects, after air-conditioned Home revealed that one of its coalition partners was run by a convicted fraudster and suspected money launderer.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) has scrapped its flagship Team Energy Africa initiative after reviewing the involvement of the African Chamber of Energy, a trade group headed by oil and gas lobbyist NJ Ayuk.

In 2007, lawyer born in Cameroon Ayuk pleaded guilty to US fraud after impersonate a congressman to obtain visas for Cameroonian compatriots. In 2015, he was investigated by the central bank of Ghana on suspicion of laundering $2.5 million.

“After reviewing its relationship with some of the private sector partners in Team Energy Africa, the ECA has decided to cancel the initiative with immediate effect,” the commission’s climate director, Jean-Paul Adam, said in a brief statement Thursday by the night.

He added that Uneca remains committed to working with the private sector to improve access to energy through renewables across the continent and that the commission “will review the best mechanism to allow this to happen.”

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Team Energy Africa, a coalition of African investors and institutions, was created earlier this year to mobilize $500 billion of private sector investment in 250 GW of “clean” energy across Africa by 2030.

The group was due to launch a dashboard at Cop27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, to show how African energy investments are being used. While the focus was on renewable energy deployment, it left room for some gas investments. Gas projects in Senegal were to be part of the presentation.

‘Gas drinks gas’

Ayuk had argued strongly that African countries should engage in gas extraction to stimulate Africa’s development. He arrived at the Cop27 climate summit with the motto: “Gas drinks gas”.

Uneca has defended a role for gas in the transition to clean energy in “very specific cases”.

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Africa lags behind in wind and solar power deployment, while hundreds of millions of people are without electricity. Only 2% of global investments in renewable energy in the last two decades were made on the continent, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

One of the fiercest debates at Cop27 concerns whether fossil gas is part of the solution to energy poverty or a trap that African leaders should avoid.

For some developing countries with existing resources and infrastructure, gas “will play an important role in their transition to a net-zero future,” Uneca Executive Secretary Antonio Pedro said. “For everyone else, developing new fossil fuel infrastructure would result in billions in stranded assets and debt for future generations.”

Ayuk has not yet responded directly to Climate Home’s request for comment. In an article posted on the African Chamber of Energy website, Ayuk made unfounded personal attacks on the messenger. He did not address his criminal record or money laundering allegations.


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