Dreams of Green Hydrogen

Daniela Gabor and Ndongo Samba Sylla in Boston Review:

Few remember Cheikh Anta Diop—the renowned Senegalese historian and Pan-African political leader—as an early prophet of climate change. Yet we should. Writing in 1985, as the world debated an oil glut that was pushing prices to historic lows, Diop envisioned a green Pan-African future. “Powered by hydrogen,” he wrote, “a supersonic plane would only dump tons of water into the atmosphere, whereas one powered by kerosene pollutes in three minutes what the Fontainebleau forest takes a day to absorb.” Imagine, Diop invited his audience, “a university and an African government putting in place, in five years, a small solar plant, somewhere close to the sea, that would produce renewable energy to split seawater into hydrogen and oxygen, and then experiment with liquifying, storage, transport, and other pilot projects.” Green hydrogen, he believed, could build on Africa’s abundant renewable resources.

Diop hoped that developmental states intent on industrialization would coordinate and ultimately unite politically to create the continent’s green hydrogen revolution. Refusing (neo)colonial tropes of “catching up” Africa, the historian versed in chemistry and physics urged African governments to nurture the local capabilities that would pioneer world-leading green hydrogen technologies and build green industries. He described a future where the continent shared these technologies with the rest of the world, one that broke with centuries of colonial—and then neocolonial—extraction. Diop wanted Africa to export green hydrogen technology rather than hydrogen commodities vulnerable to price volatility and neocolonial extractivism.

More here.