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70% of Africa’s forest is gone. Without affordable energy it will vanish

Press Release

London, 24 October: Net Zero Watch is today publishing two important new papers on African energy needs and the disastrous implications of energy poverty. Written by Zimbabwean journalist Geoff Hill, the two publications were launched in Parliament yesterday evening.

70% of Africa’s forest has been cut down and the rest is falling fast. In Africa, an area the size of Switzerland is cleared of forest every year, with an estimated 90% of the wood used for cooking or heating.

Linked to this, on a continent that’s home to the Nile, Zambezi and Congo rivers, why do hundreds of millions struggle for water? Even where plumbing exists, often the dams are full but the pipes are dry.

Both problems stem from a lack of electricity: Trees are cut for charcoal and water can’t be pumped to a reservoir. In two powerful new papers, Hill looks at not only the causes, but ways the UK could help.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Hill said:

“With the Internet, people everywhere have the same expectations. Electricity, water on tap and the lifestyle we see on television. There is no room for an ‘us and them’ mentality among donor nations. Expectations are largely equal, no matter where you live.”

Paper 1: Africa’s burning issue: charcoal and the loss of forest (pdf)

“In Africa, an area the size of Switzerland is cleared of forest every year, with an estimated 90% of the wood used for cooking or to heat the home… There is a need for reliable energy, and at a price local people can afford. Without this, the forest will continue to fall and, ultimately, vanish.”

Paper 2: Clean water for Africa: A dream whose time has come (pdf)

“To give Africans a better quality of life, we need to do more than blame the climate. There are solutions, and most of them involve electricity. That’s the key to granting everyone the basic human right of clean water.”


Geoff Hill is a Zimbabwean writer working across Africa. His media career began at the Manica Post in Mutare in 1980 and he has worked on all six continents, including as special reports manager for The Australian. Since 2002 he has been Africa correspondent for The Washington Times, as well as director of the African risk firm, Something of Value Ltd, and is fluent in English, Afrikaans and Shona (Zimbabwe).

Hill has served as deputy chair for the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of Southern Africa, and from 2011 to 2013 he was vice president at the International Association of Genocide Scholars.