AFCON: Africa Climate community wants Total to stop greenwashing continent through sports sponsorships
Nelson Chidiebere, Port Harcourt
As the African Cup of Nations(AFCON) draws to a close Today (Sunday) with a final match between Nigeria and host Ivory Coast, African climate players are calling out TotalEnergies to stop what they described as ‘greenwashing African Sport and pay up for its damage to the climate.
The activists in a statement said that Total Energies recorded a $23.2 billion profit in 2023, marking a four percent increase from the previous year, which is the highest return in the company’s history, but instead of spending its billions to pay just compensation to victims of its destructive activities in Africa, clean up its mess and invest in clean and sustainable forms of energy, has been engaging in greenwashing over the last month, by sponsoring the Africa Cup of Nations.
They criticised the French Company saying by such sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations, it is a textbook case of taking away someone’s land and giving them food rations every harvest season.
They maintained that the oil and gas giant seizing football for its greenwashing campaign amounts to modern-day deception and an insult to Africans.
According to them, Instead of heeding scientific calls to decarbonise the continent, the corporations continued to gas Africa and use massive profits to buy a social license to pollute dozens of communities.
They further stated that the Irony of the greenwashing is that this year’s tournament was a testament to the vagaries of the climate crisis for which Total and other oil majors are most responsible, pointing out that the 2023 AfCON had to be pushed to 2024 due to adverse weather effects.
They argued that while the winners of AFCON 2024 will pocket US$6.34 million, a significant increase from the US$5 million awarded in 2021, the reward, a handsome one, is a pittance compared to the damage brought on the continent by climate change, which will undeniably continue to affect sports and athletics development.
They regretted that yet Total continued to disregard its bigger responsibility to Africa, which is to stop its oil and gas operations that destroy the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor people and, in effect, future sports stars.
Speaking, Mohamed Adow, Founder and Director of Power Shift Africa, said: “TotalEnergies’ sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations is a textbook case of taking away someone’s land and, in return, giving them food rations every harvest season.”
He sees it as a form of thuggery and validates the thievery of the continent’s resources by Western companies. Adow also points out that wherever Total has been on the continent, it has left a horrid imprint of population displacements, human rights violations, and climate change.
He believes that inviting Total to the football extravaganza is to invite a stranger to the party to mock the continent.
On her part, Loraine Chiponda, Africa Movement of Movements Building Space, believes that TotalEnergies’ sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations is an example of the harm that oil and gas has done to Africa.
She points out that Total started to put up an LNG plant in the Ivorian region of Grand Lahou in 2016, which now faces an imminent threat from rising waters and increased storms.
She also mentions the harm that fossil fuel extraction has done to the Niger Delta. Chiponda hopes that the end of the tournament will mark the end of Total’s greenwashing agenda in Africa and the beginning of the company’s exit from the continent. Chiponda is critical of Total’s actions and believes that the company’s sponsorship of the tournament is an attempt to divert attention from its destructive activities.
According to Zaki Mamdoo, StopEACOP Campaign Coordinator, TotalEnergies’ extractive projects are designed to rob Africa of its mineral wealth and service the energy needs of countries abroad.
Mamdoo noted that the projects are leaving communities to shoulder the entirety of the environmental and social costs while lining the pockets of a national and multinational elite. Mamdoo also sees Total’s sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations as an attempt to scrub itself of the real impact it has on the continent and its communities. Based on Mamdoo’s statements, the impact of TotalEnergies’ extractive projects on African communities is negative, as they are being exploited for their resources without receiving adequate compensation or protection.
While, Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), said: “It is a shame that AfCON accepted sponsorship from TotalEnergies in total disregard of the horrors unleashed on Ugandan communities by EACOP and its related projects. The people’s patience has stretched into injury time and it is time for the ultimate penalty: Kick out this dangerous polluter. TotalEnergies must not be allowed to play with the future of our peoples and the planet.”
Cynthia Moyo, Greenpeace Africa’s Climate and Energy Campaigner, said:
“Fossil fuels – the lifeblood of climate-wrecking companies like TotalEnergies – are poisoning the lungs of African athletes and soccer fans. But Total continues to displace communities for new oil drilling and spew toxins before shipping massive profits back to Europe. And yet they have been allowed to be title sponsors of AFCON. This is unacceptable. Total is turning AFCON from a celebration of African unity into a grotesque.”